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Asheville City Council Paves Way For Reparations For City's Black Community

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville city council Tuesday evening unanimously approved a resolution supporting reparations for the city’s Black community.  Details of what shape those will take will come over the next year.  

A commission will be created over the next year to make “short, medium, and long-term recommendations.”  Councilman Keith Young helped craft the resolution.  "The blood capital that we have banked to spend today to fight for significant change came predominantly not from our allies, but from black men, women, and children who died," said Young as the resolution was introduced.  Supporters, including the Racial Justice Coalition, pushed for the resolution to be added to Tuesday's agenda. 


Over the next year, a 'community reparations commission' will be created 'to to make short, medium and long term recommendations that will make significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic racism.'  Among the specific issues mentioned in the resolution that the commission would have budgetary authority to tackle are increasing minority homeownership and business ownership, as well closing gaps in health care, education, employment and pay.   Councilwoman Shaneika Smith says that shows the resolution is more than just flowery language.  "This would mean any report generated by a commission or anyone tasked within the Asheville city staff will come back with tangible programs that have real line-item monetary resources," Smith said during Tuesday's meeting.

Such goals are similar to what the group Black AVL Demands outlined in June at the end of a week protests following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.  The group called for 50% of the city police budget to be diverted to Asheville’s Black community, including grants for Black businesses and entrepreneurs and money toward the city school system to close its racial achievement gap, which is the worst in North Carolina.  City council put off finalizing a budget for the next fiscal year until September to address those concerns.  Black AVL Demands also called for the removal of Confederate monuments in downtown Asheville.  Both Asheville city council and Buncombe County commissioners approved the removal of two monuments (the second of which was taken away Tuesday), while creating a task force to determine the future of the Vance Monument, the 65-foot high obelisk named in honor of North Carolina's Civil War governor and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction who fought against civil rights for Black Americans.

The reparations resolution approved Tuesday also contains a formal apology from the city of Asheville for its participation in ‘the enslavement of Black People’ and for enforcing ‘segregation and its accompany discriminatory policies.’  It also apologizes for the city's urban renewal programfrom the 1960's the decimated Black communities in Asheville, particularly the South Side neighborhood.

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.
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