**FILE** D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large) (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large) (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)

Over the past couple of years, state and local governments have either commissioned a reparations task force or secured a form of recompense for African Americans whose descendants experienced chattel slavery.  

With the reintroduction of his legislation, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At large) hopes to guide the District along a similar track. 

McDuffie recently reintroduced the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act. If passed, the legislation would establish a nine-member task force to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans living in the District — and especially those who descended from enslaved people. It would also establish a Reparations Foundation Fund for the payment of reparations. 

McDuffie co-introduced the bill with D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8).

In 2021, McDuffie and Ward 8 Council member White co-introduced a similar bill that was referred to the D.C. Council Committee on Business and Economic Development. A month later, Evanston, Illinois, became the first U.S. city to dole out reparations when legislators overwhelmingly approved a measure that allocates $10 million in payments to African-American residents over the course of a decade. 

Evanston’s reparations bill later received criticism when, by the fall of 2021, it was determined that only 16 people would receive payments. Even with the full funding of the bill, only 400 people would be affected. 

Other cities to take on the cause of reparations over the past couple of years include Asheville, North Carolina; St. Louis; Los Angeles; Tullahassee, Oklahoma; and Denver. Some of these cities are led by mayors who represent Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity (MORE). 

Officials at the local level have taken different routes in repairing the damage of chattel slavery and institutional racism. In Asheville for example, legislators approved reparations in the form of investments in Black areas. In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors voted to appoint a 15-member African-American Reparations Advisory Committee. 

Meanwhile, the more-than-30-year fight to pass reparations legislation continues at the federal level. 

In January, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced H.R. 40, a bill that establishes a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) later introduced accompanying legislation in the Senate. For years, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (NCOBRA) has organized around encouraging the Congressional Black Caucus to help advance the legislation. There have also been questions about whether President Joe Biden (D) will issue an executive order focused on reparations. 

In recent years, McDuffie has focused on addressing the legacy of slavery and racial segregation that has kept African Americans at the bottom of the totem pole in the District. In 2021, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the Child Wealth Building Act, a bill McDuffie introduced that establishes a trust fund for every baby born to a low-income family in the District. 

Earlier this week, McDuffie said that the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act represents an attempt to rectify a situation that’s not of Black people’s doing. 

“If ever we are going to achieve racial equity in this country, it will require official recognition of the role of government-sanctioned slavery, segregation, and other actions in denying wealth-building opportunities to Black Americans,” McDuffie said. 

“We must be intentional in our efforts so that Black Americans might finally be compensated for their ancestors’ labor and for the continuing effects of policies and systems designed to suppress their potential to build wealth,” he continued. “The District of Columbia has one of the largest disparities in wealth between Black and white residents of any city in the United States. Moreover, our city is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. These statistics should convince any reasonable person of the need for this task force.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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  1. It’s time – support officials advancing the reparations conversation/agenda, GET WOKE, establish equity and demand Statehood

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