City Council plans to create reparations commission

Resolution creating commission sponsored by black West Side aldermen

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The Chicago City Council's Committee on Health & Human Relations voted unanimously on June 12 to approve a resolution that calls for the creation of a Chicago Descendants of Enslaved Africans Reparations Commission.

While the original plan called for it to be a separate commission, after some discussions, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), a South Side alderman who chairs the committee and introduced the resolution creating the reparations commission, agreed to have the commission function as a subcommittee of the health committee.

All of the African American aldermen in the City Council, including West Side aldermen Michael Scott (24th), Walter Burnett (27th), Jason Ervin (28th), Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Emma Mitts  (37th).

The resolution creating the reparations commissions is sponsored by all

The reparations commission would address the effects of racism, segregation and modern-day structural racism in order to figure out the best ways of redressing those societal harms. The commission may also explore a range of specific issues, such as education funding and contract opportunities for black-owned businesses. In addition, the commission will hold public hearings to discuss the implementation of proposed measures designed to address those past harms.

The vote sends the resolution to the full city council, which is meeting virtually on June 17. So far, it's unclear how many members the reparations commission will have.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and the 100th anniversary the Chicago race riots that happened from July 27 through Aug. 3, 1919. The riots erupted after Eugene Williams, an African American youth, was stoned to death after accidentally swimming into the white portion of the segregated 29th Street beach.

"More than 30 percent of African American families live below the poverty line in Chicago, compared to less than 10 percent for white families," the resolution states. "The unemployment rate for African-Americans in Chicago is approximately 20 percent and for whites, it is less than 5 percent. The median family income for African Americans is $36,720, compared to $81,702 for white families and $47,308 for Latino families."

The resolution also mentioned higher infant mortality rates, lower high school graduation rates, as well police abuse.

"African Americans have been disproportionately incarcerated and been victims of torture and police abuse," it read. "Although African Americans account for 31 percent of Chicago's population, they account for 80 percent of the victims of gunshot wounds and deaths for the past 10 years. During this last decade, the City of Chicago has paid out nearly $1 billion in wrongful death lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department where primarily citizens of African descent were the victims."


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