Posted on November 4, 2021

Detroit Voters OK Launching Reparations Commission

Candice Williams, Detroit News, November 2, 2021

Detroit voters favored launching a reparations commission Tuesday, and a proposal to decriminalize psychedelic plants passed by a wide margin.


More than 80% of voters said yes to Proposal R, which calls for the launching of a reparations commission, while 61% of voters said yes to decriminalizing psychedelic plants.


Proposal R asked whether Michigan’s largest city should form a committee to consider reparations for residents, 77% of whom are Black.

“Timing is everything,” said Keith Williams, chairman of Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus. “It’s the teamwork with (council president pro tem) Mary Sheffield … We teamed together and we had a groundswell of support from different organizations to bring this to fruition. The most important thing is it’s time for reconciliation. It’s time to heal and let’s move the city forward.”

The group will recommend housing and economic development programs “that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit,” according to the ballot language.

The proposal does not require steps beyond the group’s formation, including members and timelines for a decision, or mandate how any guidance would be enacted.

It was spearheaded bySheffield after talks with activists who pushed for the measure amid nationwide calls to compensate descendants of slaves.

Durrel Douglas, 35, said Tuesday he voted in favor of Proposal R to allow the city to explore reparations. Douglas moved from Houston to Detroit last year.

“I think cities like Detroit have to lead the nation in showing that these things are possible and the methods that other cities, other states and eventually the nation can move when it comes to doing what should have been done a long time ago around reparations,” he said.

Other communities across the country have started considering similar moves amid racial reckonings following the Black Lives Matter movement, the death in 2020 of George Floyd, the presidential election and the pandemic’s impact on minorities.

Last spring, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed a successor to legislation introduced by the late-John Conyers, the longest-serving African-American in Congress, to address reparations.

The City Council now will start a framework to select a task force, Sheffield hasaid. She and supporters say the move could lead to short- and long-term recommendations, such as housing grants, from a group that includes residents as well as professionals.