JERSEY CITY – On Wednesday night, the Jersey City Council passed a resolution endorsing state legislation (S386/A938) to establish a Reparations Task Force in New Jersey.
Jersey City is the tenth location to pass such a resolution, following East Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, Plainfield, Montclair, Newark, Trenton, and Essex and Mercer Counties.
"It is critical that the legislation to create a New Jersey Reparations Task Force move forward," said Jersey City Council President Joyce Watterman. "Black Americans have yet to receive reparations for state sanctioned slavery. It is time that America, and New Jersey, look into the mirror and correct that wrong, and take actions to live up to our ideal as a society truly based on the premise that all of us are created equal. I am proud that our Council is endorsing the state legislation to establish a Reparations Task Force.”
“I know the word reparations evokes strong emotions on all sides, but I can only view this issue from my own personal experiences. My family are Holocaust survivors with 28 out of 35 of my immediate family members being murdered by the Nazis in the gas chamber at Auschwitz. The German government paid reparations to my grandparents, and although it would never correct what happened to my family, it was an important step," said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. "Regarding reparative justice for Black people, there is no question slavery is a terrible stain on our history and there is no question that New Jersey participated in a way that altered lives of future generations. The legislation proposed in the New Jersey Legislature is simply to have a commission and conversation to discuss this issue formally and make recommendations, and I would be a clear hypocrite if I didn’t think our history justified this. I am very gratified that our Council agrees and is endorsing this resolution."
The state legislation (S386/A938) would establish a task force to study New Jersey’s often overlooked and deep history of slavery and its aftermath and make policy recommendations to repair the enduring harm. Generations of structural racism have led to New Jersey today having some of the highest racial disparities in the nation.
"For many years, Black Americans have fought against discrimination unfairly inflicted on us by the hands of those in power. While there have been arrangements made for various other groups of discriminated people in the U.S., the efforts have fallen short when it comes to descendants of formerly enslaved people,” said Jersey City Councilwoman Denise Ridley. “As a daughter of a mother who was very active in civil rights activities in the South, I fully support and encourage the State to explore ways for New Jersey to do its part to assist in righting the wrongs of our past."
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a vibrant multiracial, multifaith coalition are waging a Say the Word: Reparations campaign for passage of the task force legislation, making the point that reparative justice is not something we should run away from. Thousands of people from around the state have contacted their legislators urging them to act. With the legislature not having moved the bill forward even to a hearing, cities, towns and counties around New Jersey are springing into action.
“We are heartened that Jersey City has taken a stand in support of this critical legislation,” said Jean-Pierre Brutus, Senior Counsel in the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “While efforts are being made across the country to shut down the study of history and racism, New Jersey must do better. The fact that ten locations have already passed resolutions supporting the Reparations Task Force legislation reflects that there is an appetite for reparative justice in our state. The list will only grow longer until state legislators heed the call and finally pass this critical bill.”
“We are thrilled that one of New Jersey’s most vibrant cities recognizes the need for a Reparations Task Force in our state,” said Sue Altman, Executive Director at New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “We applaud Councilwoman Ridley and Council President Watterman, as well as Mayor Fulop, on their leadership on this critical issue. Kudos too, to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice for their tireless efforts educating New Jerseyans on the ugly sides of our shared past – a past that includes slavery, racism, redlining and persisting segregation and wealth disparities. “
Members of the public can urge legislators to pass the Reparations Task Force bill by visiting 400YearsNJ.org.
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