Massachusetts town votes to create $200,000 reparations fund for black residents

A MASSACHUSETTS hamlet voted overwhelmingly to set up a fund to pay reparations to its black residents to atone for slavery, racial injustice and past misdeeds to achieve reconciliation. 

The Amherst Town Council convened on Monday and voted 12-1 in favor of establishing a $210,000 fund that would be used to dole out free cash to its black residents. 

The lone holdout voting against the measure came from At-Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The publication noted that Hanneke’s vote wasn’t against reparations, but that she felt it was too early to do so until the municipality founded an African Heritage Reparations Assembly to help steer the decision making and have more say in pulling the financial strings.

The seminal vote in the New England town required two-thirds majority of council to green light the allocated monies,.

“The Town Council is considering adopting a program for reparations that includes both a reparations fund and a community-wide process of reconciliation and repair for harms against Black people of African heritage,” according to a June 9 memo.

The memo suggested the fund “could be managed like an endowment” with its contributions managed by a “professional investment consultant.”

It also suggested teaming with “other committees or groups” to seed a “process for making expenditures” from its coffers. 

The council collectively wants the fund have longevity and grow to “provide ongoing funding” for the future. 

Town Manager Paul Bockelman explained how the launch of the fund grants the council ability to put forth orders to move money into it and also formally accept contributions into it, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported.

As of 2019, Amherst had a population of 39,000 residents. 

Of the total, just over 5 percent are black, according to the US Census.

The move comes on the heels of other US cities and towns attempting to confront the idea of reparations as a national reckoning has occurred especially following the murder of George Floyd back in Minneapolis last May.

Evanston, Illinois, struck out as the first US city to commit to giving money intended to compensate for a lack of generational wealth and systemic racism.

But the effort fell flat to some who considered the $25,000 to its 12,500 black people in the city to be a pittance.

"When it's all said and done, however much money is raised for reparations… will only be a drop in the bucket for the suffering and the oppression that Black people experienced in this nation," Rev. Michael Nabors, who is the president of the Evanston NAACP said at the time.

"When we talk about that being a drop in the bucket, that's what we're talking about.

"There is no amount of money in the world that can take the place of the pain and the suffering that was caused emotionally, that was caused psychologically.

The conversation has already captured national attention. 

Last year, then candidate Biden expressed his determination to secure heal the past unspeakable horrors of slavery. 

He said at the time "we must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon black people in this country."

Once he took office, Biden publicly came forward saying that he was looking closely at giving black Americans "reparations for slavery.”

Former President Barack Obama resoundly endorsed reparations when he sat down with rockstar Bruce Springsteen earlier this year. 

"If you ask me theoretically 'Are reparations justified?' the answer is yes,” he said. 

"There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part, not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it, but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves."

And while slavery formally was abolished, Obama noted "the systematic oppression and discrimination of black Americans" maintained under Jim Crow segregation laws.

"[It] resulted in families not able to build up wealth, not being able to compete, and that has generational effects,” he said. 

"So if you’re thinking of what’s just, you would look back and you would say the descendants of those who suffered those kinds of terrible cruel often arbitrary injustices deserve some sort of regress, some sort of compensation. A recognition."

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