New York gets its own reparations commission as Governor Kathy Hochul signs historic bill

New York, New York - New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a historic bill authorizing the creation of a statewide reparations commission, only the second of its kind in the US.

New York Governor spoke in New York City on Tuesday before she signed a history-making bill authorizing the creation of a statewide reparations commission.
New York Governor spoke in New York City on Tuesday before she signed a history-making bill authorizing the creation of a statewide reparations commission.  © Collage: Screenshot/X/@GovKathyHochul

The Empire State followed in California's footsteps on Tuesday by establishing a body to examine the legacy of enslavement and anti-Black discrimination, and develop policy proposals to address ongoing harms.

The commission will have nine members, with the governor, Assembly speaker, and Senate president pro tempore appointing three each.

Bill A7691/S1163A passed out of the state legislature in June, but it took sustained pressure from a large coalition of racial justice advocates, faith groups, and human rights organizations to bring it to Hochul's desk before an end-of-year expiry date.

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In a letter delivered last week, over 100 signatories urged the Democrat to recognize 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."

On Tuesday in New York City, those efforts bore fruit as the governor officially signed the bill into law alongside state and national politicians like Representative Jamaal Bowmen and civil rights leaders including Reverend Al Sharpton.

"We'll study... how we can right the wrongs of the past," Gov Hochul said. "Understanding each other takes work. But it's essential that we try."

"Today I challenge all New Yorkers to be the patriots and rebuke and not excuse our role in benefitting from the institution of slavery," she added.

"This bill makes it possible to have a conversation, a reasoned debate, about what we want the future to look like. And I can think of nothing more Democratic than that."

"This is a very historic day because it is the beginning of a process to repair damage done," Rev Sharpton said.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill authorizing the creation of a statewide reparations commission in New York on Tuesday.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill authorizing the creation of a statewide reparations commission in New York on Tuesday.  © TAG24 NEWS

Reparations advocates and organizations celebrate historic moment

Reverend Al Sharpton (l.) praised the New York governor for signing the bill into law as he spoke at Tuesday's ceremony.
Reverend Al Sharpton (l.) praised the New York governor for signing the bill into law as he spoke at Tuesday's ceremony.  © Collage: Screenshot/X/@GovKathyHochul & TAG24 NEWS

Nicole Carty, executive director of Get Free, a youth-led movement aimed at reparations, said: "Today marks a pivotal moment in our state’s history as Governor Kathy Hochul took a crucial stride forward, committing New York to address the enduring and harmful impacts of slavery and anti-Black policies that stain our society today."

The magnitude of the occasion was also emphasized by Antar Keith, the chair of the Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force: "We are witnessing today not only Black history, not only New York history, but also American history."

The bill's lead sponsors are Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and state Senator James Sanders Jr.

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Sanders Jr. said the move would "plant a seed of hope, not just for the City of New York and New York State, but for the nation."

The commission's work is expected to begin around six months from today.

Sanders Jr. heralded the importance of the moment: "Let this be a beacon, a call to action for every corner of this country to confront their own histories, to acknowledge the injustices that bind us, and to work together towards a future where reparations are not just a word, but a lived reality for all."

Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot/X/@GovKathyHochul

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