One of the most important things members of the KC Reparations Coalition want Kansas Citians of all races to know is that reparation is not just about repairing and addressing the injuries to Black people that occurred during slavery.
“People associate the reparations movement with what was done to us in slavery and that’s the core of it because we are owed for centuries of unpaid labor,” says Mickey Dean, an active member of the KC Reparations Commission. “But even after slavery ended, this country really had an opportunity to make things right. But then there was Jim Crow and from that point on, Black people have got the short end of the stick. We’re talking about repairing the damage that has happened to Black people up to this point.”
The coalition has spent almost two years identifying discriminatory damages that have affected African Americans in Kansas Citians from slavery through the present. They identified an extensive list of identified discriminatory practices in Kansas City in five core areas: housing, education, healthcare, economic development, and criminal justice.
A summary of their findings is included in an ordinance the Kansas City Council will consider this month. If approved, the ordinance will establish a Reparations Advisory Commission to formally advise the mayor on an approach to reparations — “including strategies and opportunities to seek public and/or private dollars to fund pilot programs.”
The ordinance, which Commissioner Melissa Robinson will introduce, also calls for the city to issue an apology and make amends for its “participation in and sanctioning of the enslavement of Black people” and for its “historical enforcement of segregation and its accompanying discriminatory practices against the Black citizens of Kansas City.”
The resolution also says the city will encourage other organizations in Kansas City that have “advanced and benefited from racial inequity to join the city in its apologies and develop their own procedures for reparatory justice.”
The Commission’s Charge
If approved as proposed, the Reparations Commission will be charged with studying, developing, adopting and implementing a reparations plan for Kansas City’s Black community in the five areas identified by the task force. The plan would include the scope and eligibility for a citywide reparations program.
The proposed 17-member commission, composed of members from the Black community, would be chosen by the mayor and city council. Representatives from the KC Reparations Coalition would be allowed to recommend members for appointment to the commission.
Under the ordinance, the commission will issue a preliminary report of its findings within one year and a final report within 18 months.
Dean says the KC Reparations Coalition is pleased with the ordinance the council is considering.
“We’re probably going to get some pushback from the mayor because he’s already indicated there are some things he didn’t like,” said Dean, “but Melissa is going to introduce it for us and we’ll fight it out from there.”
The KC Reparations Coalition includes representatives from the following organizations: the Black United Front, Reale Justice Network, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Urban Summit and Sankofa for Kansas City.