Communities across the nation are beginning the process of acknowledging the scope of the injustices done to Black people throughout their histories. Many local and state governments are developing initiatives for reparations to balance the scales.

Here in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu marked the start of Black History Month by announcing the members of a new task force to study reparations, noting the "brutal practice of enslavement" along with policies such as redlining, the busing crisis, exclusion from secure and stable housing, and more. The task force — a multigenerational group of historians, activists and students — is planning on meeting soon to discuss their ideas on how to approach the complexity of reparatory justice. As they do the meticulous work of documentation and reflection over the next year, the city will wait to look with a careful eye at their conclusions.

Addressing systemic racism and the harms caused by slavery is about more than just financial compensation for descendants of enslaved people. Guests on Basic Black said the efforts should also work to address other challenges facing the African American community such as health care access, housing access, psychological harm and the erasure of Black history, among many other issues.

Carrie Mays, a member of Boston's Task Force on Reparations and student at UMass Boston, said reparations should be viewed as a starting point for further conversation and work.

"Reparations is not going to stop police from killing Black men in the streets," Mays said. "Reparations is not going to stop Black women from dying at the highest demographical number when it comes to the medical field. Reparations is not going to stop the mass incarceration machine system that we're seeing today."

Even though slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago, Mays said reparations are important because Black communities are still suffering at the expense of white supremacy, and white communities are still benefitting from privilege.

"You cannot talk about the systemic issues of today without talking about slavery, without talking about colonialism, without talking about how this is a connected timeline," Mays said.

George “Chip” Greenidge, a task force member and founder and director of Greatest MINDS, said he's proud of Mayor Wu for taking on this initiative, which he said has been brewing for quite awhile.

"I really want to push on intergenerational poverty that we've seen in the city. I think there are certain families born and raised here that have been in the cycle of intergenerational poverty," Greenidge said. "How can we help them break through those cycles?"

Overall, there simply won't be enough money to compensate all descendants of slaves, said Traci Griffith, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. That's why compensation will have to come in more creative ways that address harms such as redlining, busing and other inequities.

"I would really strongly urge the task force to look at the multiple ways in which compensation could happen. It isn't necessarily a dollar amount. It really feels as if there's so many other ways in which it can be addressed, and I think they really need to be creative about that," Griffith said.

The Boston Task Force on Reparations has 10 members. It is currently looking for a research partner to aid in studying the lasting impacts of slavery in Boston. A request for proposals will soon be issued.

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