Boston Task Force Appoints Two 11th Graders and a College Student to Decide How Much Money to Pay Black Community
Melissa Koenig, Daily Mail, February 7, 2023
Among the 10 people who will decide whether to pay members of Boston’s black community are two high schoolers and one college student.
High school juniors Damani Williams and Denilson Fanfan, as well as 22-year-old University of Massachusetts student and Black Lives Matter organizer Carrie Mays, were named to the city’s reparations task force on Tuesday.
It is unclear what expertise the two high schoolers will provide, but a profile of the Jeremiah E Burke High School says it is located in ‘one of Boston’s most historically marginalized areas.’
But Mays had gained local attention for her efforts to rally people to a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston following the death of George Floyd in June 2020. She said the message resonated with her because her family was once stopped by police at gunpoint, causing her personal trauma.
Mays now organizes discussions about racism at her school, and has spoken about the issue at national conferences.
Her social media profiles are also filled with messages supporting Black Lives Matter and spewing her identity politics, with a pinned post on her Facebook profile demanding the ‘white-washed school curriculum teach black history beyond slavery.’
Mays first rose to local prominence in June 2020 when she created a livestream video ahead of a Black Lives Matter protest in the city, encouraging people to join in.
That video was viewed over 3,000 times with more than 100 people sharing it.
She later said she identified with the Black Lives Matter message because and her family were stopped by police in 2019, causing her some personal trauma.
‘Me, my grandmother and my mother was pulling into the driveway from my godmother’s funeral and five cops held us at gunpoint out of mistaken identity because the description of the car was the same one as a robbery that was supposedly nearby,’ she told WGBH in 2020.
‘From then on, I knew that this movement is just the epitome of all of us. And I am Black Lives Matter.’
But, she said she thought the movement needs to be about more than police brutality.
‘I think a lot of people misconstrue the Black Lives Matter movement to only be about police brutality,’ she said. ‘But when we scream Black Lives Matter, we mean in every area of society. And one way we can make black lives matter is through voting.’
By that October, she said, registered 320 black residents to vote in just one weekend.
At school, Mays has also organized discussions about racism and has spoken at national conferences.
A post pinned to her Facebook profile also demands the ‘white-washed school curriculum teach black history beyond slavery.’
Mays is now a member of the Boston Community Action Team and was recently appointed a member of the Civilian Review Board of Police Accountability.
In accepting a position as the first youth member on the Civilian Review Board last month, Mays said: ‘I am so deeply humbled, honored and thankful to be given this revolutionary opportunity.
‘I know my ancestors are proud of me,’ she continued in a statement posted on her Instagram. ‘Boston has not had a police accountability board like this in 100 years. Yes I said 100 years.
‘Historically, youth have always been on the front lines and at the forefront of every political movement in America. From 1963 with the Children’s March of Birmingham which ignited de-segregation across the country, to today with the Black Lives Matters movement led by brave unapologetic black youth.
‘So today marks history. I am history. You are history. We’re all walking manifestations of history. As Ayanna Pressley said, the people closest to the pain should be the closest to the power. So we will do just that.
‘I’m super excited and ready to do the work. Thank you so much community, I love you and I mean that with all my heart.’
In another post last year, in which she shared a poem for Black History Month, Mays wrote: ‘When you realize white supremacy is a personal attack on you and goes beyond the systematic, you realize self-love is an act of resistance.
‘You realize untraditional education is an act of resistance. Knowledge is an act of resistance. LOVE is an act of resistance.’
And when Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced on Tuesday that she would serve on the reparations task force, she wore large earrings reading: ‘Young, gifted and black.’
Also on the panel are basketballers Fanfan and Williams, both of whom are juniors at the Jeremiah E Burke High School.
It is unclear what expertise they might be able to provide, but the Burke High School profile says that it serves students ‘residing in high-poverty, high crime neighborhoods within the Dorchester-Roxbury Grove Hall area.’
The profile goes on to note that the school deals ‘head-on with issues of trust, cultural relevance, respect for traditions and diverse belief systems.
‘Our students rely on teachers that can differentiate their instruction, provide culturally-relevant instruction and to create a trauma-sensitive learning environment.’
Working with seven other colleagues, these young members will make recommendations in June 2024 ‘for truth, reconciliation and reparations addressing the city of Boston’s involvement with the African slave trade,’ according to recently-passed legislation.
The proposal has already sparked debate about whether monetary reparations should be paid exclusively to black Americans descended from slaves, WGHB reports, or whether it should include black immigrants who may have still suffered impacts of so-called systemic racism.
Boston’s reparations task force will be chaired by attorney Joseph Fester Jr, a former president of the NAACP Boston branch and a current member of the city’s Black Men and Boys Commission.
That commission was established in 2021 to help advise the mayor and city council on ‘issues pertaining to black men and boys,’ according to the city’s website.
It will also comprise business owners and academics, including L’Merchie Frazier, a public historian, visual activist and the executive director of creative and strategic partnerships for SPOKE Arts.
She was previously the director of Education and Interpretation for the Museum of African American History, Boston/Nantucket, and now provides ‘diversity, equity and belonging’ workshops for corporations and municipalities, according to her profile.
It says her work ‘highlights the reparative aesthetic approach to expand the historical narrative, diminishing erasure, responding to trauma, violence and crisis through artistic activities and public art that mirrors community.’
Na’Tisha Mills, the program director at Embrace Boston, a local nonprofit that focuses on equity work, will also serve on the panel.
Recently, she spoke to CBS News about why she thinks reparations are important, saying: ‘At the human level, when you harm somebody, the first thing that you do, typically, if you care and you desire for that relationship to continue, is to apologize.
‘It’s a process of healing,’ she said. ‘It’s a process of reconciling and acknowledging that there has been a harm that has taken place and there’s work to not only say that out loud, but there’s work to undo the harm.’
George ‘Chip’ Greenidge Jr, the founder and director of Greatest MINDS, a nonprofit mentoring organization, and Dr. Kerri Greenidge, an assistant professor of studies in race, colonialism and diaspora at Tufts University, are also on the task force.
According to his profile, George is completing his doctorate at Georgia State University in the departments of Sociology and African American Studies with a concentration in Race and Urban Studies.
His current research focuses on economic development and affordable housing with an emphasis on ‘the impact of displacement/gentrification on urban cities and its residents.’
George has previously served as president of the Boston Empowerment Zone, a federally funded initiative aimed at economic investment in urban areas and last year was named affiliated faculty at Boston University, where he serves as a researcher on the school’s Advisory Board and Center for Antiracist Research.
Harris was a longtime civil rights leader in Boston before joining the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, where he ‘provided the guiding vision behind the Houston/Marshall Plan for Community Justice, which aims to amplify voices and the lived experiences of those most directly affected by decades of deliberate policies and practices of disinvestment in communities of color.’
In announcing the members of the reparations panel on Tuesday, Mayor Michelle Wu said the ten task force members will guide the city’s response to the effects of slavery in the city.
‘For 400 years, the brutal practice of enslavement and recent policies like redlining, the busing crisis and exclusion from city contracting have denied black Americans pathways to build generational wealth, secure stable housing and live freely.
‘Our administration remains committed to tackling long-standing racial inequities, and this task force is the next step in our commitment as a city to advance racial justice and build a Boston for everyone,’ she concluded.
Fester added in a statement: ‘I am honored to be asked by Mayor Wu to chair this Reparation Task Force and serve with such distinguished people.
‘We are looking forward to determining recommendations for how we reckon with Boston’s past while charting a path forward for black people whose ancestors labored without compensation and who were promised the 40 acres and a mule they never received.’
Activists in the city have been calling for reparations for years, beginning in the 1980s.
Supporters of reparations have cited the city’s history of segregated housing as well as a political economy after Emancipation that reduced opportunities for black Bostonians. The result, they said, is a wide wealth gap between white and black families that remains today.
The task force will now examine reparation models and study racial disparities. It will also collect data on ‘historic harms’ to black Bostonians, NBC Boston reports, and hold hearings to gather testimony from black residents about the problems they have faced.
By 2024, the panel will make recommendations for reparations as well as ways to eliminate policies and laws they say continue to cause harm to black Bostonians. It will also recommend how the city will issue a formal apology to the ‘people of Boston for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.’
The task force will be housed within the City of Boston’s Equity & Inclusion Cabinet and will soon issue a request for proposal for a research partner to assist with its mission.