Burlington City Council Votes Unanimously to Pass a Historical Reparations Resolution

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
Contact: Ashley Laporte, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

Burlington City Council Votes Unanimously to Pass a Historical Reparations Resolution to Study Reparations for Vermont’s Role in Chattel Slavery Burlington, Vermont

On Monday, August 10th 2020, the Burlington City Council voted unanimously to pass a Reparations Resolution, instituting a task force to study reparations for the role Vermont played in chattel slavery. The Resolution, introduced by Councilor Perri Freeman (Central) continues the work outlined in the historic Racial Justice Resolution passed in June.

A five-member panel will begin meeting by October 1st, and will meet for one year to form a recommendation for the City on how to proceed with reparations. The group will be funded via the new Racial Justice Fund (established via the Racial Justice Resolution), and will include Tyeastia Green, the city’s first Director of Racial Equity, as well as appointees from Mayor Miro Weinberger, Council President Max Tracy (Ward 2),The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and the Vermont Human Rights Commission.

Burlington’s Reparations Resolution was co-created with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and is the next step in their Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E work which galvanized support for Burlington’s Racial Justice Resolution passed in June. The new Reparations Resolution was informed by H.R. 40, a Congressional bill to establish the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. H.R. 40 states “the commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.”

A similar Reparations bill has been proposed at the state level in Vermont, H.478 and similarly recommends the creation of a task force to consider reparations at a state-wide level. This bill has been sitting in committee since February 2019. The passing of the Burlington Reparations Resolution is historic in that it moves forward the process of Reparations at the City level and has the opportunity to provide a guidepost for similar work at a State and Federal level.

Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Justice For All and Coordinator of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance commented, “This nation has never made an intentional or sustained effort to be a nation reflective of its storybook tales of being a place where the unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are possible for all people.” He said, “ We stand on the shoulders of Belinda, Callie House, Queen Mother Audley Moore “Reparations Ray” Jenkins, and the late Rep. John Conyers, bringing about a reckoning for this crime against humanity and beginning the journey to heal our nation.”

This win in Burlington comes as the state legislature prepares to go back into session at the end of August, and to pass a budget in October. Building on recent wins in Burlington, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance has re-introduced its State Level Priorities to make progress against systemic racism in Vermont. Supporters of the Racial Justice Alliance have been signing up to make comment (or submit comments) during the upcoming state-sponsored public forums on Policing & Public Safety. The Alliance seeks to broaden the conversation from Policing & Public Safety to tackling systemic racism holistically, including making progress against H. 478, the state-level Reparations Bill.

Representative Brian Cina, Racial Justice Alliance Steering Committee Member stated, “In order to dismantle systemic racism, we must recognize its roots in the institution of slavery and we must make amends as a society for the harm that was caused. By passing this Reparations Resolution, Burlington is taking a transformative first step on the city level towards a state and national process of truth, reconciliation, and healing. Now it’s time for the Vermont Legislature to pass H.478.”

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