Will Raleigh Join its Progressive Sisters, Asheville and Durham, and Take Action on Reparations?

Will Raleigh Join its Progressive Sisters, Asheville and Durham, and Take Action on Reparations?

Asheville and Durham leaders take decisive action to confront and eliminate the damage of systemic race bias while Raleigh leaders have yet to offer more than token gestures.

On July 14, 2020, the Asheville City Council marked an historic moment by holding a unanimous vote to provide reparations for racial injustice. That night, the Council formally apologized to Black residents for racist practices throughout history including slavery and discriminatory housing practices. They also presented a concrete plan to invest in the community by “increasing minority homeownership”, “increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities”, and implementing “strategies to grow equity and generational wealth”, among many other resolutions to commit to reparations for the black community. Mayor Esther Manheimer also called for the creation of a Community Reparations Commission to provide recommendations and plans for implementation.

Approximately a week later, Durham’s Racial Equity Task Force (RETF), also called for their city to establish a Wealth Equity Fund dedicated to reparation efforts. This task force consisted of 18 residents per request by Mayor Schewel and Mayor Pro Tem Johnson, and was chaired by NC Superior Court Judge and Dean of NCCU School of Law, Elaine O’Neal. Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson has been keeping the rest of the council informed of the task force’s efforts. Task Force Chair O’Neal stated that their work actually began well before the pandemic, which has interrupted their work and kept them from being able to reach out to more community organizations. Nonetheless, the chair acknowledged that the pandemic emphasized the need to address racial inequity. Criminal justice attorney and wealth and economy committee member of RETF, Emily Coward, called for the city to address the systemic racism working with other cities in concerted effort to establish national reparation effort.

Further recommendation from the task force also includes a racial equity fund to meet the challenge of the racial wealth gap that is community-led and accountable to the communities of color in Durham. While recognizing that current state law limits the actions Durham can take, Coward pointed out that Durham is not completely powerless, as the city can call for the wealthy institutions and individuals (Duke University comes to mind) to contribute to the funds. An apt proposal, as the only way to really start equalizing is by the divesting from the wealthy whites in order to return what was long owed to the black communities.  Here is a link to watch the discussion between the task force and the Durham city council on the reparation recommendations Durham City Council Work Session

What is Raleigh doing for reparation of its black residents?

To date, to address systemic racism in Raleigh, the City Council has submitted a letter to the three branches of government in North Carolina, calling for “more transparency, oversight, and power” to be granted to the Police Advisory Board that otherwise has no subpoena power. However, we also recognize that unless issues of healthcare, homelessness, education, and job opportunities are properly addressed, a police oversight committee will only be dealing with one of many critical symptoms of the underlying problem.

In addition to the Wealth Equity Fund, Durham’s RETF also proposed a comprehensive list of recommendations that divides into the following categories of social issues: Wealth/Economy, Criminal Legal System, Health & Environmental Justice, Housing, Education, Public History, and Other Accessible Community Resources. Among the recommendations the Durham RETF specifically suggested include:

    • Collect qualitative and quantitative data to understand and address health, wellness, and environmental justice issues impacted by racial inequity
    • Track and publicize developers for the purpose of public awareness
    • Trace the historical effect on housing prices and rents
    • Track residents of Durham Housing Authority who are relocated for renovations or redevelopment to find out where they are housed, how many return to their community after renovation, and where they end up if they do not return.

Full recommendations by the Durham RETF here. Final Report – Durham Racial Equity Task Force 

Raleigh needs to stop lagging behind other cities and step up. The city needs to implement their own task force to establish reparation efforts here for Raleigh’s Black community – both those who remain and those who have been displaced by generations of gentrification. The issue of gentrification is not new in Raleigh. Look at Raleigh’s gentrification maps over time Raleigh Gentrification Maps. From 1990 to 2000, 6 tracts of lands with a population of 16,239 based on the 1999 census have been gentrified in Raleigh, and three more tracts with a population of 14,594, according to estimated figures for 2009-2013, experienced gentrification from 2000 onwards. South Park, for instance, has seen an increase from nearly 0 up to 17% white homeowners from 2000 to 2012, and these white home buyers typically make 3 times the average income of the longtime residents there.

Kia Baker, director of the nonprofit Southeast Raleigh Promise, made this statement for the NY Times article published in April 2019 and reprinted in the N&O in May 2019, “Our black bodies literally have less economic value than the body of a white person. As soon as a white body moves into the same space that I occupied, all of a sudden this place is more valuable”. 

 

“The Neighborhood is Mostly Black, the Home Buyers are Mostly White”   

The N&O  or  The NYT

If the City of Raleigh continues business as usual, the pace of Black community displacement will only continue to accelerate.
Raleigh must join the effort to start prioritizing their future budget and funds toward healing and helping the Black and Latino communities that have suffered the impacts of gentrification and the disproportionate effects of health, economic, and environmental injustice.

Raleigh City Council votes for a more powerful Police Advisory Board

We at Livable Raleigh are very pleased that the Raleigh City Council wants a more powerful Police Advisory Board. On Tuesday, the Council voted unanimously for a letter to be sent to all three branches of state government asking for additional powers. The Council wants authority to provide more transparency, oversight, and power to our community.

The City Council created the Police Advisory Board in February, but because of state laws it has limited abilities. Right now it can review police procedures and contribute to policy development, but it can’t investigate allegations of police abuse or provide oversight.

Councilor Jonathan Melton wrote the letter, and introduced it during the City Council meeting. He said, “The police advisory board is limited in its current authority. It certainly falls short of what some members of the community have asked for, and it falls short of what I campaigned on.”

Two thumbs up for Mr. Melton taking the initiative and following through on a campaign promise. Given all the recent protests against police violence, this is a great opportunity for the people to be heard. Let’s hope the State listens!

Councilor David Cox pledges support for Campaign Zero

After the June 4 City Council Listening Session, Raleigh City Council District B Representative David Cox posted a message on Facebook. Livable Raleigh is sharing it here.

District B Councilor David Cox

Thank you to everyone who participated in the special meeting of City Council. And thank you to the countless numbers who are committed to change and bringing forward a better community and a better America.

It is great to be heard. It is greater when there is action.

One of the key areas of the City’s Strategic Plan is Organizational Excellence. For the past five years I have advocated for a city council committee focused on organizational excellence to review ALL of the city’s policies and procedures on an ongoing basis. I hope we take action to form that committee and begin that important work.

Former President Barack Obama

But we must do more. On Wednesday President Obama challenged all mayors, city councils, and police oversight boards to take a pledge to take the following actions:

  1. REVIEW your police use of force policies.
  2. ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.
  3. REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
  4. REFORM your community’s police use of force policies.

 

On Wednesday I personally took this pledge. I am committed to reviewing eight key policies as recommended by Campaign Zero.

Click on image to view Campaign Zero website.

And there is still more we can do. Let us bring back our citizen-led Citizens Advisory Councils where people could meet together and with the police. Since February we have lost 72 CAC meetings and 72 opportunities to engage with citizens. Eight of our CACs served southeast Raleigh and the Black community. Today we have nothing and we desperately need the voice of citizens.

And there is still more. I challenge our state legislature to take action. I challenge the legislature to make our state more equitable. To name a few, end gerrymandering, and all forms of discrimination that discourage and block people from voting. Treat ALL drug addiction as an illness rather than a crime. And, Allow cities the ability to require affordable housing.

Let us work together to end the disadvantages so many face simply because of the color of their skin.

 

Raleigh is in crisis: What now for our City?

A weekend of protests, and two nights of shattered glass and shattered illusions, leave us searching for answers in Raleigh. But first, let’s search our souls.

Ours is a City so often given to self-congratulation. We are the fastest-growing. We’re hipWe’re SO not like other cities with their poverty and racial issues.

We’ve got it all figured out.

No, we don’t.

♦♦

 

We are two cities in one.

A surging city for whites and the highly educated. A city in crisis for many African-Americans and other people of color, who watch from the sidelines as “the market” rewards the already affluent and gentrifies historic low-income neighborhoods to the point of despair and destruction.

Working-class families, black, brown and white, are getting pushed out — even as they run our grocery stores and collect our garbage in the pandemic.

Easy answers are not at hand. Rather, we are confronted with the ugly truth. George Floyd lived in Minneapolis, and he was killed there by the police. There are George Floyds in every American city, dying every day. Raleigh included.

The only thing that’s clear is that business as usual, Raleigh’s M.O., is not good enough any more, and it never was.

Today, we need the opposite.