City Council apologizes, approves resolution for reparations commission

City Council apologizes, approves resolution for reparations commission
April 21
14:25 2021

The Winston-Salem City Council has approved a resolution calling for federal and state action to establish a commission to study the issue of reparations for Black citizens and apologizing for the city’s participation in urban renewal programs.

The resolution, which passed 7-1 during the City Council meeting on Monday, April 19, is similar to resolutions passed in other N.C. municipalities last year after protests broke out across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd by law enforcement. Asheville, Buncombe County, Carrboro, Durham and Orange County have all passed resolutions relating to reparations for Black/African American citizens. 

Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan Ford said the City Council started talks about reparations in August of 2020. At that time they discussed what other cities were doing. The council had a follow-up conversation last month, before the resolution was tabled for a vote on Monday. 

The resolution includes six different components which include: 

1.Apologizes for participation in slum clearance and urban renewal programs that while providing infrastructure that would allow the city to grow, did so at the expense of multiple successful Black businesses and homes.
2.Calls on the United States Congress to pass H.R. 40, which would establish a federal commission to study and develop a reparations proposal for Black/African Americans, which would examine the legacy of slavery and discrimination in the United States and make recommendations to Congress regarding remedies to address their lingering impacts.
3.Calls on the North Carolina General Assembly to pass similar legislation and complete a parallel process.
4.Calls on the African American Heritage Initiative to develop for publishing on the City’s website, a narrative about the history of the Black/African American churches, businesses, neighborhoods, and cultural institutions that were lost to slum removal and urban renewal projects, such as the Cherry/Marshall Expressway, U.S. Highway 52, and what is now known as Salem Parkway.
5.Directs the City Manager to give, at a minimum, a bi-annual update to the City Council on the progress of work performed pursuant to this resolution.
6.Requests that the City Clerk forward copies of this resolution to the Governor of the State of North Carolina, the City of Winston-Salem Delegation to the North Carolina General Assembly and United States House of Representatives, and the North Carolina Delegation to the United States Senate.

When discussing the resolution, Mayor Pro Tempore Denise “DD” Adams said, “We’re right where we need to be along with other cities in North Carolina, cities across the country, as well as the present conversations being held at our Congress about reparations.” 

Adams said she received a lot of emails over the past few months, but only about five were in opposition of reparations. She said the resolution was the first step to getting Winston-Salem on the right page of history.

“I probably got about five that were against what this is about, and they felt they should not be held accountable for what was done hundreds of years ago. But I beg to differ,” Adams continued. “What we’re doing here is hoping to clear some minds and hearts. And hopefully get Winston-Salem on the right page of history and letting our public citizens, and the world know that we recognize our greatness didn’t just come by itself, our greatness came from sacrifice and work from a people that were not compensated for it.” 

Councilmember Kevin Mundy, who represents the Northwest Ward, said he agreed with everything Adams said. “As a white-counterpart who has benefited from all of the things Mayor Pro-Tempore just talked about, I echo everything she just said. If you read the resolution, this is not just talking about the 50s and 60s, this is talking about centuries of unfair treatment to African Americans and to the Black population,” he said. “It is well past time for us to make an apology.” 

Councilmember John Larson, who represents the South Ward, spoke and voted in support of the resolution, but not until after he let it be known that no one will be receiving any money if the resolution passed. 

“Despite the term that is being used, there is no monetary component of this particular piece of action we’re taking tonight,” Larson said. “We’re in fact leaving that up to state and federal government to untangle and I think that’s where it needs to reside. I think the important thing about tonight is that we’re recognizing a legacy of injustice and inequality that existed not only during the Civil War, but the decades and generations that followed.” 

The lone “No” vote from the council came from Councilmember Robert Clark, who represents the West Ward. Clark said he has a hard time “demonizing” former council members for some of the actions they took, specifically the construction of Highway 52 and urban renewal, which destroyed neighborhoods in East Winston in the 1960s. 

Clark noted that earlier this month, City Council voted to approve rezoning in East Winston to make room for mixed-used properties and future development that could very well take hundreds of apartments away from people in need. 

“I have a hard time demonizing people that sat in our seats in the 60s when we did the identical thing that we’re condemning them for as recently as two weeks ago,” Clark continued. “If it was wrong then, why is it right now?” 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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