October 18th, 2023
There were several significant developments at the Community Reparations Commission meeting this past Monday, October 16, 2023.
- The first was the announced resignation of Christine Edwards as the project manager for the reparations process. Ms. Edwards and her firm Civility Localized were hired by the City last year, after the departure of the initial project manager hired by the City in 2022. The Commission was only informed of Ms. Edwards’ departure earlier in the day, and it was unclear whether the City intended to consult with them on who might replace her or how the process would be managed going forward.
- The second important (and related) development was a decision by the Commission to seek an extension in the timeline for completion of their work. When the Commission was formed in 2022, the City laid out an initial timeline that envisioned a final report and dissolution of the Commission by April of 2024. City Director of Equity and Inclusion Brenda Mills erroneously suggested in a Citizen-Times article that this timeline was stipulated in the original City and County Reparations Resolutions: “The original reparations resolutions approved by the City Council and County Commission, in addition to establishing the Reparations Commission, provided an initial timeline for its work.” This is inaccurate. The City Resolution called for the establishment of the Commission within a year (whereas it took almost two), but did not lay out any timeline for the duration of the Commission’s process. The County Resolution simply stated that the County would appoint members to and participate in the Commission.
- Since the Commission was seated in April 2023, it has now seen the departure of two successive project managers, the departure of the County’s original Chief Equity Officer, and will soon see the departure of Ms. Mills, who is retiring in January. The Commission has had to grapple with substantial delays for many of their data requests of both the City and County. Until recently, there has been almost no community engagement by either government, and plans for a more substantive effort are only now being considered.
- In light of all this, the Commission’s request for an extension of their arbitrarily assigned timeline makes perfect sense. The request will now go to both the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission for approval. We’ll be sure to let you know when that happens, and how you can support the Commission and their critical work.
- One final development: Reparations Commission Co-Chair Dewana Little has spearheaded a draft proposal that seeks a more formalized partnership between select members of the Commission and the RJC. This is a direct response to shortcomings observed in the City and County’s engagement with the Commission and the broader community. Specifically, the proposal outlines two major initiatives:
- Streaming IFA Work Sessions:
- Given the City and County’s hesitancy to allocate resources for this, the RJC is stepping in to ensure that these work sessions are streamed online. This move aims to democratize access to these discussions, allowing community members who cannot attend in person—or who do not feel comfortable doing so—the opportunity to participate remotely.
- Community Engagement Circuit:
- The RJC plans to organize and facilitate a series of community engagement events, which the Commissioners are invited to attend. These will not just be typical town halls but carefully designed spaces aimed at fostering genuine dialogue and social cohesion. The City and County have considered these types of engagements too cumbersome to organize; however, we believe that these interactions are crucial for breaking down barriers and encouraging a more cohesive and collaborative community.
- Streaming IFA Work Sessions:
October 4th, 2023
On October 3rd, we invited RJC supporters to join us in putting a critical question to our City and County governments: Are they still committed to reparations explicitly for Black people? RJC supporters were quick to answer our call to action, generating over 3,000 emails to City and County leadership. Because of that, both governments made (almost identical) public statements last night and today. You can find both statements in their entirety below this update. We appreciate that the City and County responded to all of us so quickly, and we deeply appreciate our supporters for stepping up, getting us that speedy response.
You’re probably wondering what they had to say, and more specifically, whether they answered our critical question and reaffirmed their commitment to reparations for Black people. The answer isn’t as crystal clear as we had hoped for, but it’s a start.
October 3rd, 2023
- Lawyers representing Asheville and Buncombe County have been telling the Community Reparations Commission (CRC) that they shouldn’t direct recommended resources and programming specifically at Black people.
- This completely contradicts the Reparations Resolutions that both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County passed in 2020, which specifically promised reparations to Black people in this region because of the well-documented harms local government had perpetuated.
- The City and County need to reaffirm their commitment to reparations for Black people. If Black people remain the intended beneficiaries of reparations, they need to make a definitive public statement that affirms that.
Click here for an email template you can use – it only takes a few minutes to add your voice to ours.
- This call to action has successfully concluded, but you can read more about it here.
September 21st, 2023
Here is the latest news on the Asheville / Buncombe County Reparations process and the RJC Reparations Are Due campaign:
- The Community Reparations Commission (CRC) met on Monday, September 18th, 2023. They discussed a range of topics, including how to better define their scope of work and clarify what is meant by “local reparations.” They also discussed whether it made sense to advocate for an extension of the deadline for their work. Commissioner Keith Young pointed out that there was no timeline for the Commission specified in the Reparations Resolutions passed by City and County in 2020; the two-year stipulation was added in later on. Some Commissioners felt that it was important that the work of the Commission conclude by April of 2024; others felt that an extension would allow them to do a more comprehensive job, and would also allow for more extensive community engagement, which has been extremely limited so far. The issue did not come to a vote, but will be further discussed at the next meeting. You can watch a recording of the September meeting here. The CRC typically meets on the third Monday of each month. You can check the schedule here. You can read more about the CRC on the City’s website here.
- The five CRC Impact Focus Area (IFA) groups continue to meet once or twice each month, and it is within these groups that concrete reparations proposals are taking shape and moving toward finalization. Each group has a distinct focus: criminal justice, economic development, education, health and wellness, and housing. All of their meetings are open to the public and the calendar can be found here.
- The RJC Reparations Are Due campaign passed an important threshold earlier this month, with 2000 folks signed onto The Pledge.
- The next step in the campaign is to keep the folks who signed the pledge up-to-date on the latest happenings in our local reparations process, so they can stand ready to take action when the work of the Community Reparations Commission could be reinforced by our support. Our primary tactic for meeting this goal is the Community Connector program. Community Connectors are folks who have signed The Pledge and are committed to staying in touch with five other Pledge signers. We’re having our first Community Connector Orientation on Zoom next Thursday, September 28th, at 5 pm. We’ll explain what Community Connectors do and provide the support needed to get started. If you are interested, would like more information, and/or would like to join this effort, you can sign up for this call here.