Letter urges New York Governor Kathy Hochul to sign historic reparations commission bill

New York, New York - Over 100 racial justice advocates, faith groups, and human rights organizations on Monday urged New York Governor Kathy Hochul to sign legislation creating a state community commission to study reparations.

Get Free and New York University students call on Governor Kathy Hochul to enact a New York State reparations commission during a rally.
Get Free and New York University students call on Governor Kathy Hochul to enact a New York State reparations commission during a rally.  © Get Free/Courtesy of Anthony Torres

A letter boasting 108 signatories – including the New York Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, the December 12th Movement, and Dr. Julius Garvey – was sent to Hochul's office Monday morning by the Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force.

The signatories call on Hochul to sign the historic bill that passed out of the legislature in June, making New York one of the first US states to recommend the establishment of a commission that will look at the ongoing effects of chattel slavery and racial discrimination, as well as come up with concrete ways to address these injustices.

Arguing that New York State's "position as an economic and cultural hub of the world was built and shaped by slavery" and racial discrimination, the letter insists that "repairing the harms of racism is not exclusively a matter of reconciling with our past, but also with our shared present, in order to protect our collective future."

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"Today, historically-deprived communities are suffering the ravages of systemic racism in wealth, education, employment, health, housing, and mass incarceration," it reads.

"As we saw in the May 2022 racist mass shooting in Buffalo, such disparities leave Black New Yorkers particularly vulnerable to white nationalists looking to prey upon disaffected communities."

The bill (S1163A/A7691) must be signed into law by the end of the day on December 31, or it will expire.

New York "on the precipice" of history

The signatories of the letter urged Hochul to take the "opportunity for truth-telling and reparative justice."
The signatories of the letter urged Hochul to take the "opportunity for truth-telling and reparative justice."  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

In a press release published after the letter was sent, signatories called on Hochul to seize the moment.

"We are on the precipice of making not only Black history, but also national history in the State of New York," said Antar Keith, chair of the Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force.

"No matter where we reside on Earth, New Yorkers of all backgrounds won't rest until Governor Hochul signs the New York State reparations bill. All eyes are now on New York, and the world, indeed, is watching."

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Black Veterans Project CEO and co-founder Richard Brookshire added: "The economic and social fabric of New York is built on the legacies of slavery, segregation, systemic discrimination, and divestment from Black communities across our state; generations of intentional harm made worse by an unwillingness to confront anti-Black racism at its root and to redress its manifestations."

"A Reparations Commission provides an opportunity for truth-telling and reparative justice."

Cover photo: Get Free/Courtesy of Anthony Torres

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