KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 14th annual Urban Summit was an opportunity for grassroots organizations and elected leaders in the Kansas City, Missouri, area to learn more about the needs of, and solutions for, the region’s Black community.
Gwendolyn Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, presented findings from her agency’s 2020 Black/White Equality Index which measures gaps between Black and white populations in five categories: health, economy, education, social justice and civic engagement.
This year’s study showed Blacks achieve about 72% of what whites do. Gaps in the economy and social justice categories worsened in 2020.
“For Blacks to arrive, to achieve socio-economic parity with whites, it would take 228 years if we don’t do something extraordinarily different,” Grant pointed out.
Organizers of the summit say reparative justice is the extraordinarily different change needed. Reparations could look like tax breaks for descendants of slaves, direct payments to descendants of slaves, new schools for Black communities, student loan forgiveness for Blacks, improved voting rights and so on.
“The process has to start with the discussion, the data and then programs, initiatives and government support,” explained Ajamu Webster, the chairman of this year’s summit.
The United States has a history of reparations. In the 1980s, it began with giving survivors from World War II Japanese internment camps $20,000 each. Germany also has a reparations program for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.
In June, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas signed a pledge to make reparations in some way to descendants of slaves.
“Dr. [Martin Luther] King talked about the arc of justice is long, but it bends toward justice," Webster said. "So this may be a long arc, but we know where it will bend, it will bend toward justice. Where we stand will determine how we will be viewed historically on that mission."
Summit moderator Dr. Vernon Howard of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City said a radical plan is necessary to realize true change for the “state of Black Kansas City.”