"This moment was somebody's wildest dream": Detroit's Reparations Task Force to start next month
Detroit now has a reparations task force, tasked with recommending ways to address the effects slavery and systemic racism in the country’s largest majority-Black city.
In 2021, 80% of Detroiters voted to approve a ballot measure calling for the task force. It now has 13 members, four of whom comprise its leadership team.
Lauren Hood is one of the task force's co-chairs.
“What I want people to understand about reparations is that it's a process. It’s a journey, it’s not a destination. The process of harming black and indigenous peoples has transcended multiple generations. That means the process of repair will likely transcend multiple generations, and the benefits awarded should have a value that transcends multiple generations,” Hood said during a Friday press conference.
There is no timeline for the task force, but Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield said the group plans to meet next week and that all of the meetings will be open to the public.
Sheffield helped sponsor the ballot vote.
“This work is not about handouts. It is about quantifying and acknowledging the pain and the suffering of our ancestors and our people. It is about creating generational wealth and creating economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community,” Sheffield said.
The task force will make recommendations to Detroit City Council, who will then vote on whether to implement them.
Reverend JoAnn Watson, a former City Council member, is on the task force.
“Reparations is indeed a significant priority and it's a long term priority for the city of Detroit," Watson said.
"This is the same city where the Nation of Islam was founded largely based on reparations issues. This is the same city where the Shrine of the Black Madonna was founded largely based on reparations priorities. This is the same city where the Republican New Africa was founded largely based on reparations priorities. This is the same city where the Honorable Coleman Alexander Young became the first black mayor practicing reparations,” she said.
During a Friday press conference, Sheffield said she plans on making a recommendation that money be set aside for the task force to do research on reparations in the city from the current budget from fiscal year 2024. Three other councilmembers present committed to approving that budget item.
Sheffield said the task force will be renewed annually and that they’ll be required to provide an annual report.
Hood had a message for skeptics Friday. “For folks that say it will never happen: Just to get to this moment was somebody's wildest dream,” she said. “Can you imagine what freedom look like to a slave? People were like, that's impossible. That would never happen. So anybody who in this moment thinks that reparations are not possible. Look what we've done so far.”
The four executive members, appointed by Sheffield, include co-chairs Keith Williams and Hood, as well as Watson and Dorian Tyus.
The other nine members, whose membership the city council approved on Tuesday, include Allen Venable, Gregory Hicks, Janiz Hazel, Anita Belle, Bernard Parker, Jeffrey Robinson, Maurice Weeks, Cidney Calloway and Camille Collins.