(The Center Square) – The Asheville City Council unanimously has approved $2.1 million in reparations for Black Asheville residents.
The funding will come from the sale of city property. The city plans to spend $200,000 on the planning and community engagement process and about $1.9 million on initial reparations.
The council approved the funding without debate Wednesday so that it could be finalized before Juneteenth. Short for June 19th, Juneteenth is the day when the end of slavery is celebrated.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said the vote was a “monumental moment.”
Asheville made history last July when it voted to grant reparations for slavery to Black people. The council apologized for slavery and segregation and voted to develop a plan and form a commission to provide funding to address racial inequities and disparities.
The city council was scheduled to vote on a resolution in November that would have set aside $1 million for the reparations, but Manheimer said it was removed from the agenda after a request by most of the city council. It was the first meeting after elections, and new council members wanted time to review the plan.
The city sold a property in December for about $3.7 million to White Labs Inc. About $1.6 million was reallocated for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) in March. The remaining $2.1 million was set aside for the reparations plan.
Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell is overseeing the planning and community engagement process. Campbell told the city council she launched a speaker series centered around reparations.
“We truly want to have a better understanding of what has been the policies that either currently exist or have existed in the past that have impacted the lives, particularly of Black people in Asheville,” Campbell said. “We want to identify and understand the current disparities in the needs and what we should really be focusing on.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Asheville’s population is 84% white, 11% Black and 1.7% Asian. Nearly 2% of the population identifies as more than one race, and less than 1% are American Indian or Pacific Islanders.
According to a disparity report conducted by the city in 2018, Black residents are paid less and own fewer homes than white residents in Asheville.
Black workers in Asheville made an annual mean wage of $27,998 between 2012 and 2016. White workers made more than any other racial group in Asheville within the same time, with an annual mean salary of $43,553.
While seven out of 10 white Asheville residents own homes, four out of 10 Black residents are homeowners.
More than four in 10 Americans said the nation still has work to do to give Black people equal rights, according to the Pew Research Center.
Evanston, Illinois, also has passed a law that gives Black residents reparations.