High Point City Council approves formation of a reparations committeeBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / September 24, 2021
The High Point City Council approved the creation of a committee that will explore reparations for the communities of High Point.
NAACP High Point branch members have been pushing for the council’s support on a commission that would study disparities and presented an abstract document in August for consideration.
The NAACP’s High Point branch wrote much of the approved resolution, which had already been green lighted by the City of High Point’s Prosperity and Livability Commission.
An excerpt from the resolution states:
“The City of High Point is positioned for a call to action to join other municipalities around the state and country which have taken on the charge of seeking remedies for the long-suffering of Black people.”
The council voted 9-0 to create a “One High Point Commission,” under the stipulations that plans for membership, duties, powers and other details will be discussed in the coming weeks in talks between city staff and NAACP representatives.
The term reparations was intentionally left out of the title, because while supporters said the term was about healing and repair, some councilmembers expressed concern that it would alienate parts of the community.
Local attorney and chairman of the High Point NAACP branch reparations committee, James Mayes, noted that the term “reparations” does not mean they are expecting the city to send out money to descendants of slaves.
“We are asking for a commission. We’re not asking for a check to be mailed out next week,” said Mayes. “There’s a reason why we said, ‘reparations.’ There’s a reason why we listed the history.”
Councilmember Monica Peters posed concern about what type of guidelines would be used to appoint commission members, as well as the “verbiage” used in the resolution.
“I think there are a few more items that need to be tightened up on this resolution. I think if we use that kind of national verbiage that is tearing our country apart, it’s going to tear our community apart,” she said and added that she didn’t believe rehashing the history of slavery was conducive to moving forward.
The High Point branch of the NAACP has been working on a reparations committee for nearly three years before they formally brought it to the council.
According to the resolution, the commission will also be tasked with gathering research on the history of slavery across the state of North Carolina and in the City of High Point; collecting data on disparities in education, healthcare and housing, as well as ordinances and laws that continue to disproportionately affect High Point’s African American population. The commission will then present recommendations to address possible remedies for the community. The resolution also states the commission will address how the City of High Point will offer a formal apology on behalf of African American citizens.
Councilmember Michael Holmes referred to a study from High Point University that revealed that the life expectancy in the city’s poorest neighborhoods is about 70 years, while in other parts of the city it’s about 87 years – nearly a two-decade difference.
“People are being robbed of their lives. That brought me pain. And I felt that pain since I heard that information. So, if there’s anything we can do that can alleviate that kind of struggle and suffering to improve the quality of lives for our fellow man, then we should make every conceivable effort to do so,” said Holmes.
After the meeting, NAACP High Point branch president James Adams noted that he and other NAACP members were still concerned that removing the term ‘reparations’ is going to change the goals and intentions of the committee.
“That is something that we are going to continue to address going forward,” said Adams. “I also wish more people had been present for this historic vote.”