African Heritage Reparations Assembly Gathers Info For Final Report
Report On The Meeting Of the African Heritage Reparations Assembly (AHRA), May 22, 2023
This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.
Michele Miller (Chair), Hala Lord, Debora Bridges, Alexis Reed, Irv Rhodes, and Amilcar Shabazz. Absent: Yvonne Mendes
When the African Heritage Reparations Committee (AHRA) was created in the fall of 2021, its charge included three main areas:
1. Develop and recommend to the Town Council a Municipal Reparations Plan that includes both a reparations fund and a community-wide process of reconciliation and repair for harms against Black people. This plan will include:
- A plan for developing ongoing funding streams to repair past harms committed by the Town against Black people.
- An allocation plan including eligibility criteria, which will be determined and approved by the broader Amherst Black community through a census and community feedback process.
- Additional means of repair for anti-Black structural and communal racism, including public events and activities that prioritize truth telling and reconciliation.
2. Coordinate with other groups working toward racial equity in Amherst to ensure collaboration.
3. Engage, as appropriate, community stakeholders such as the Business Improvement District (BID), Chamber of Commerce, faith communities, and other organizations to develop extra-municipal reparations efforts that align with and complement the Town’s Municipal Reparations Plan.
In recent months, the AHRA has worked with the UMass Donahue Institute in developing, administering, and analyzing a community engagement survey on racial relations in Amherst and recently held listening sessions with community stakeholders, such as People of Color United (POCU) at the high school, the Amherst Survival Center, the Black Business Association of Amherst (BBAA), the BID, and the Chamber of Commerce. Those AHRA members who participated in the listening sessions noted the harms suffered by Black Amherst residents resulting from structural racism. AHRA Chair Michele Miller said that the Chamber has an equity task force that has held several well-attended sessions, but their emphasis has not centered specifically on black residents.
AHRA member Hala Lord brought up the possibility of compensation for community members who participated in the listening sessions, citing the frequent requests for Black residents to share their experiences, some quite traumatic, without receiving compensation. Irv Rhodes disagreed, saying that civic participation is an obligation and should not be paid. Members seemed to agree that giving money to an organization, such as POCU, would be preferable to giving to individuals. Miller said she will check with the Town Manager about what kind of compensation is allowed.
The Assembly decided to have a retreat to pull together the information gathered about the status and desires of the Black community in order to complete its report, due on June 30, 2023. Among the important matters still to be determined are the funding stream for reparations, the eligibility criteria for reparations, and the nature of ongoing reconciliation and repair for anti-Black structural racism. The date for the retreat has not yet been determined.
Public Comment Speaks For Needed Repair
In public comment, Lauren Mills said that she grew up in Boston and went to school in Brookline, but never experienced racism until she moved to Amherst. She said her children, too, have experienced racism in school. She urged the town to show it cares about its BIPOC community by devoting funds, such as American Rescue Plan money, “to help youth buffer their experiences with racism and help them prepare for their future.”
Amilcar Shabazz, Jr said he attended the listening session with the BBAA and was moved by the stories he heard from Black business owners. He said he would like the town “to envision what it means for Black businesses to be a part of Amherst—is there a future for them in town?”
The Young vs. Old Basketball tournament will be held on June 11 at Mill River Recreation area in conjunction with the awarding of the Youth Hero awards and youth hero event and a picnic . Nominations for the Youth hero awards are due by May 31. This event is sponsored by the Human Rights Commission, Amherst Recreation, CRESS, Julius Ford-Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Race Amity Day will be celebrated on June 11, at 3 p.m. on Town Hall Steps.
Juneteenth on the Common will be celebrated on Monday, June 19 from noon to 3 p.m.
Amilcar and Dee Shabazz will be the new hosts of WHMP’s program “Black in the Valley,” taking over from Carly Tartakov and Reverend Jacqueline Smith who have done the show for the past 13 years. The show has aired every other Monday morning, but may have a more flexible schedule under the Shabazz’s.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:40 p.m. The next AHRA meeting will be June 5.