St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones Signs Executive Order To Appoint Reparations Commission

A nine-member commission will examine the city’s long history of racial discrimination and propose ways to repair the harm.

St. Louis has joined other state and local governments to explore the possibility of compensating residents, who are descended from slaves, for generations of discrimination and inequality.

Local station KSDK reports that St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed an executive order on Wednesday (Dec. 7) to create a reparations commission.

Commission members will “assess the history of slavery, segregation and other race-based harms in the City of St. Louis; explore the present-day manifestations of that history; and, ultimately, recommend a proposal to begin repairing the harms that have been inflicted," the executive order states, according to KSDK.

The nine-member volunteer commission must include at least one attorney, one clergy member, one public health professional, a professor at a local college, as well as someone between 15 and 18 years old, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They must also reside within the city’s limits. The commission is expected to begin work in 2023.

Jones said residents must recognize that the city’s long history of segregation, exploitation and violence has made St. Louis one of the most divided cities in the nation.

“I look forward to reviewing this commission’s work to chart a course that restores the vitality of Black communities in our city after decades of disinvestment.  We cannot succeed as a city if one half is allowed to fail,” Jones, St. Louis’ first Black woman mayor, said, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Jones is a member of the Mayors Organizing for Reparations and Equity (MORE) Coalition. The list of coalition members include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the organization’s founder and co-chair, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a co-chair, and Durham, N.C. Mayor Elaine O’Neal.

MORE defines reparations as "a process of repairing, healing and restoring a people injured because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights by governments, corporations, institutions and families.”

A model for reparations exists for St. Louis and other municipalities. Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb, in 2021 became the first city to make reparations available to Black residents.

At the state level, California lawmakers have advanced their efforts toward reparations for Black residents. A nine-member Reparations Task Force, created through legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, is expected to release a final report of its recommendations to state lawmakers in 2023.

Meanwhile, New York state lawmakers plan to renew their efforts to pass a bill in 2023 to create a reparations commission.

New York Lawmakers To Renew Reparations Efforts For State Residents Who Descended From Slaves

Attempts to pass federal legislation for reparations have failed repeatedly. In February, a House bill to create a commission to study reparations for Black Americans was gaining steam. But with the GOP preparing to take control of the House for at least the next two years, it appears unlikely to advance.

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