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Black Chicagoans could soon see reparations, following the mayor’s signing of an executive order on Monday to establish a task force dedicated to exploring this initiative.

The Black Reparations Co-Governance Task Force will conduct a thorough investigation into policies that have negatively impacted Black Chicagoans throughout history, from the slavery era to the present. Subsequently, the task force will develop recommendations for reparations, according to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office. The establishment of this task force follows the allocation of $500,000 in the city’s 2024 budget for studying reparations.

Mayor Johnson highlighted the task force during a festive Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony on Monday.

“Like many cities across this country, Chicago still bears the scars of systemic racism and injustices that have been inflicted on our communities,” Johnson stated during the ceremony. “The disinvestment in our communities have been intentional. And of course, that’s why it’s imperative that it is now the time to deliver good on reparations for people of Chicago, particularly Black people.”

Johnson cited instances like highways traversing predominantly Black neighborhoods, gun violence, health disparities, and lack of employment opportunities as evidence of the enduring effects of racist policies on Chicago’s Black community. The mayor offered an apology on behalf of the city for the “historic wrongs committed against Black people in Chicago.”

Chicago joins a growing number of cities across the U.S. exploring reparations programs to address the legacy of slavery and segregation. In 2019, Evanston became the first city in the nation to enact a government-funded reparations program.

Nearly 30% of Chicago residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During the Great Migration—a pivotal movement of people in U.S. history—approximately six million Black people relocated from the South to northern, midwestern, and western cities, including Chicago.

Johnson expressed that moving forward with reparations will enable Chicagoans to “begin to move in the direction of complete liberation.” He added that reparations will benefit “the entire neighborhood in which Black people exist in” by creating inclusive opportunities for the community.

Over the next three months, Johnson will collaborate with the Black Caucus—comprised of City Council members representing predominantly Black communities—to determine the selection process for task force members, as outlined in the executive order. Following its inaugural meeting, the task force will have a year to produce a report encompassing “a series of recommendations that will serve as appropriate remedies and restitution for past injustices and present harm,” as well as identify areas requiring “reparative action,” such as housing and mass incarceration.

“Reparations will be an investment in our neighborhoods and our people. Reparations will unlock the doors for prosperity to fully flow through the neighborhoods that have been disinvested in for decades,” Johnson stated during the Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony. “And as we grapple with the challenges and the hard-fought victories to get to this point, we must never forget our goal: To make sure that reparations become a reality for Black residents of this city.”

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