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KC Reparations Coalition, community advocates engage in town hall

KC Reparations town hall
Posted at 10:26 PM, Jun 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 23:26:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Citians are getting a glimpse at what reparations could look like in the city.

When conversations come up about reparatory justice, it's not just about money.

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Reparations Coalition held a town hall, where advocates said that efforts to change the name of Troost Avenue are a part of that.

"To know that line is still there makes me uncomfortable," said Imani Lewis, a social studies teacher.

It's just one example of fighting the past that residents on the east and west of Troost Avenue know far too well.

"My family grew up on the opposite side of Troost," Lewis said. "When you see that line and cross and go over into Rock Hill and those different areas, you see a huge difference in the housing."

Lewis has a background in restorative justice and Black studies, and said this gap is part of why Kansas City is in the conversation about reparations.

"When I put on my application that I'm African American for college, they want to offer me more money," Lewis said. "Thank you for that part of my education, but when I will receive money for the land my ancestors worked hard for? Someone's blood was spilt somewhere on KC grounds, MO grounds... the US period."

Advocates say KCMO can look to Evanston, Illinois — the first US city to fund Black reparations — as an example of how to move forward.

"It worked because we have a city that was committed to the liberation and repair of the Black community for specific harms in Evanston," said Robin Rue Simmons, a former council member in Evanston.

Simmons was one of five panelists to get a question about taxpayers possibly being on the hook for this.

"What harm will reparations do to caucasian Americans do if awarded?" an attendee asked at the town hall.

Lewis said reparations are the start of closing that gap.

"Living right now feels like the hunger games. I feel like I'm not exactly in section 12, but I'm in section 8," Lewis said. "And I'm halfway there, but I'm not all the way there because I'll never be seen equal."

As far as who should be on the receiving end, Lewis thinks it should be for all Black people.

"When we start segregating it then what's the point?" she said.

Kansas City is not the only city to have these conversations.

Amherst, Massachusetts, followed the lead of Evanston with a $2 million reparations fund.

Asheville, North Carolina, has a fund of $2.1 million.

In KCMO, this proposal is still in its beginning stages, so the amount or the form it will take, and where the money is coming from are unknown.

The next step is waiting for the commission's preliminary report, which will be issued within a year of their first meeting.