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Asheville City Council Will Vote Tuesday On Reparations Resolution

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville city council at its next meeting Tuesday will vote on a resolution that calls for reparations for Asheville's Black community.  The move comes after a strong push from the Racial Justice Coalition, which sought to get the matter on the council agenda for Tuesday.

The resolution (read it here) calls for a commission to be created to establish in the next year "to make short, medium and long term recommendations that will make significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic racism."  It requests for the city manager to establish a process "to develop short, medium and long-term recommendations to specifically address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community."  It also demands that the city apologizes for its participation in slavery, enforcing segregation, and carrying out an 'urban renewal' program that devastated Black communities.

“It’s asking you to look at the facts, and seeing this happened, this many people died, this much money was taken out of the Black community, and it would equal this much today," Rob Thomas, Racial Justice Coalition community liaison, said. "We are asking people to do what is right. It comes down to justice.”

The Racial Justice Coalition this week asked supporters to call city council members to have them put reparations on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. Thomas says their specific demands from the city and county is land and money to pay back for decades of economic and social inequities.

“What I don’t want them to do is figure this out for us, I want them to work with the Black community and figure it out with us. I don’t want this done behind closed doors where they come out with all the ideas and answers. This should be a participatory process,” Thomas said.

Members of the RJC were among the leaders of the protests in June that lasted a full week in Pack Square following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police.  Those protests concluded with a call from the group Black AVL Demands for 50% of the Asheville police budget be directed to the city's Black community, as well as the removal of the Vance Monument in Pack Square. 

Asheville city council put off until September approving a new city budget in response while it considers changes to the police budget, while also approving the removal of two Confederate monuments and a task force to determine the Vance Monument's future.  Buncombe County commissioners approved that latter resolution as well, and on Friday, the first of those monuments was removed.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.