New York announces members of historic reparations commission

Albany, New York - New York leaders have announced the members of the state's newly formed reparations commission!

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs legislation to create a state reparations commission on December 19, 2023.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs legislation to create a state reparations commission on December 19, 2023.  © MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

New York Governor Kathy Hochul in December signed legislation to create a body tasked with researching the Empire State's legacy of slavery and anti-Black racism, and developing policy proposals to address ongoing harms.

The bill – A7691/S1163A – dictated that three commissioners were to be named by the governor, three by Senate President Pro Tempore Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and three by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

In the weeks since the bill signing, reparations advocates and community groups across the state have eagerly anticipated the announcement of the appointments.

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The three lawmakers delivered on the final day of Black History Month.

"As Americans, we have a solemn responsibility to reckon with our history and that includes understanding the painful legacy of slavery in New York," Hochul said in a statement on Thursday. "We have assembled an extraordinary group of highly-qualified individuals to serve on the new Commission, and will review their final recommendations."

So, who are the official members of the New York State reparations commission?

Who are the New York reparations commission members?

People attend a press conference and signing of legislation to create a New York State reparations commission on December 19, 2023.
People attend a press conference and signing of legislation to create a New York State reparations commission on December 19, 2023.  © MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The appointed members of the New York State reparations commission include:

  • Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies;

  • Timothy R. Hogues, commissioner for the Department of Civil Service and president of the Civil Service Commission;

  • Linda Brown-Robinson, immediate past president of the Syracuse Onondaga NAACP;

  • Darrick Hamilton, Ph.D., Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School;

  • Linda Tarrant-Reid, author, historian, freelance journalist, photographer, and community activist;

  • Seanelle Hawkins, president and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester;

  • Dr. Ron Daniels, founder and president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century;

  • Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College; and

  • Rev. Dr. Deborah D. Jenkins, founding pastor of Faith @ Work Christian Church, Co-op City.

Dr. Daniels responded in a press release: "The New York Task Force has an opportunity to educate the people of this state and the nation that the harms, the injuries inflicted on people of African through enslavement and its legacies were not just 'down south,' they also occurred 'up south' where the wealth of the 'empire' state was built of enslaved labor."

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"Moreover, even after slavery was abolished, its harmful legacies persisted and persist right up until the present, hampering the full development of Black people in this state," he continued.

"New York has the opportunity and obligation of leading the nation in repairing these injuries through the enactment of comprehensive reparations."

New York grassroots groups respond to reparations commission appointments

New York University students and youth activists with Get Free rally for a New York State reparations commission.
New York University students and youth activists with Get Free rally for a New York State reparations commission.  © Get Free/Courtesy of Anthony Torres

The highly anticipated announcements have also generated strong interest among community groups that played a critical role in the commission's enactment.

Trevor Smith, co-founder and CEO of BLIS Collective and a lead organizer of the New Yorkers for Reparations coalition, said in a statement: "Today marks another pivotal moment in our march toward true justice and liberation for Black people, in New York, and across the nation."

"We are deeply encouraged about the diverse expertise, profound experience, and strong commitment to reparations demonstrated by the appointed commissioners, and invite them to be in conversation with New Yorkers for Reparations for the duration of the commission," he added.

Nicole Carty, executive director of Get Free, agreed, noting that pursuit of reparative justice enjoys strong support among young New Yorkers.

"Our generation fully backs this reparations commission so they can provide us with a roadmap to making freedom and equality real in New York," Carty said.

"Gen Z and Millennials across race and place demanded our elected leaders take urgent action on reparations because we know that the lies and laws created to dehumanize, exploit, and control Black people are a threat to dignity and freedom for all."

Now that members have been appointed, the New York State reparations commission is expected to begin its work by June 2024.

Cover photo: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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