New York state lawmakers are again looking to create a commission to research the possibility of reparations for African slavery. Assembly Bill A9435––sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, who chairs the Assembly’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus––was passed in the State Assembly last year but did not make it out of the Senate. By re-introducing the bill this year, lawmakers are giving New York another chance to create an 11-member reparations commission that would examine African enslavement in New York City and state.
Commission members would be asked to detail how and why Africans were enslaved in the local area and, according to the bill’s language: “Examine the extent to which the federal and state governments of the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed enslaved Africans to repatriate to their homeland…Examine federal and state laws that discriminated against freed enslaved Africans and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present…Examine other forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed enslaved Africans and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present…Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery…on living African Americans and on society in the United States.”
Solages told the AmNews: “It’s helpful that other states and localities are coming out with their reports or discussing similar commissions; it’s really creating a synergy amongst all of us that this is a topic that is so important to discuss, especially when we talk about the inequality that is happening to Black New Yorkers and Black Americans. It’s why we need to have a discussion about chattel slavery, segregation, mass incarceration and all of the other ills like redlining––how that impacts our community and how we can take the vestiges of these and create positive, moving-forward policies for Black Americans across the country and across New York state.”
The assemblywoman said that those who want to see this bill passed should speak up about the need for reparations for historical Black settlements like Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street, Central Park’s Seneca Village and upstate New York’s Timbuctoo.
New York residents can contact their state legislators and ask them to support Solages’s reparations bill when it is reintroduced. “Now is the time to really express your support and express that we need to be having this conversation within the confines of New York state,” she said. “It’s important that members of the community talk to their local state legislators and tell them that this conversation on reparations is very important to them and that we need to pass legislation supporting a commission on reparations.”