Just one month after the protests following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Asheville City Council approved a resolution calling for reparations for the city's black community. 16 months later, most of the details are still being worked out.
That pace has frustrated many local activists in the city, but organizers of this weekend's 8th annual African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia conference at UNC Asheville want to put the focus back on the need for reparations and practical solutions. The one-day online event Saturday will focus solely on reparations. Dr. Tiece Ruffin, the director of Africana Studies at UNC Asheville, says all the work that has been done in the past 16 months on reparations can't become 'an exercise in futility.' "The purpose of this conference is how do we move beyond what we have already done with resolutions and appropriations and rhetoric," Dr. Ruffin told BPR in an interview, which you can hear in full above.
The conference features several speakers and panel discussions. Dr. Ruffin herself will lead one on education justice, a topic of specific interest to her. She notes Asheville City Schools in 2018-2019 had the worst achievement gap in North Carolina between Black and white students. "We know that in 1887, Black Ashevillians were pivotal in the commencement of Asheville City Schools," Dr. Ruffin says. "However, as we can see the status of Black children and their academic performance in Asheville now, it's a far cry from the promise and aspiration of education that was held in 1887." Registration for the African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia conference can be found here.
UNC Asheville is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio