CITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER TASK FORCE FOCUSED ON REPARATIONS FOR BLACK PHILADELPHIA DESCENDANTS HARMED BY LEGACY AND HISTORY OF SLAVERY
Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) and Kendra Brooks (At-Large) on Thursday introduced a resolution to establish the Philadelphia Reparations Task Force. The resolution will be voted at Council’s next Meeting on June 22. The Reparations Task Force will study and develop reparations proposals for Black Philadelphian Descendants of Enslaved Africans in the United States. This action is the culmination of months of hard work between Council, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), and the community.
“On the eve of Juneteenth, City Council is taking a major step to address the lingering chokehold the institution of slavery has on modern-day Philadelphia,” Councilmember Gauthier said. “We can trace a direct line between the institution of slavery and gun violence, poverty, gentrification, and many other crises that disproportionately impact the Black Philadelphian Descendants of Enslaved Africans. That’s why I am proud to establish the Philadelphia Reparations Task Force, so we determine once and for all what the City must do to eliminate extraordinary racial disparities.”
By establishing the Reparations Task Force, the City of Philadelphia follows the lead of California, New Jersey, Amherst, MA, Wilmington, DE, Chicago and Detroit. As the birthplace of the United States, Philadelphia has an obligation to thoroughly examine its role in enabling the nation’s original sin of slavery, as well as rectify the harms this shameful institution continues to inflict on the Black community.
“Every day we can see the ongoing impact of slavery and racist policies on the people of Philadelphia,” Councilmember Brooks said. “Despite the heroic efforts of Black leaders and the astounding resilience of Black communities, Black children still get far fewer resources and opportunities than white children, and Black families still suffer from poverty, violence, and other dangerous conditions at far higher rates than white families. As a practitioner of restorative justice, I believe that we cannot escape this cycle of poverty and violence without addressing the original cause of harm. We owe it to the people of Philadelphia, the largest portion of whom are Black, to examine reparations as a way to make up for hundreds of years of exploitation and move toward the equality that was promised to Black people long ago.”
Reparations may be needed to mitigate the extraordinary economic, educational, housing, and healthcare disparities between Black Philadelphians, especially those descended from Enslaved Africans, and the general population. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Philadelphians had a poverty rate more than twice that of non-Hispanic, white Philadelphians. At the same time, 2.5% of the city’s businesses are Black-owned, even though more than 40% of the city’s population is Black.
“N’COBRA PHL is excited to continue the work of our ancestors who advocated and organized for reparations for Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States,” said Breanna Moore, Co-Chair of N’COBRA PHL. “This task force is the dream of Callie House, Queen Mother Moore, and Imari Obadele. We stand on their shoulders, and countless ancestors and elders. We are ready to do the work needed to repair the lives of Black Philadelphians.”
COUNCILMEMBER PHILLIPS OFFERS LEGISLATION TO BAN THE WEARING OF SKI MASKS IN PHILADELPHIA
Everyone is familiar with the images on the nightly news: Young men, wearing black, stretchy ski masks, committing shootings and gun violence on the streets of Philadelphia. Now, under legislation introduced this week in Council, the wearing of those ski masks would be prohibited.
Councilmember Anthony Phillips (9th District) offered the legislation, which would prohibit the wearing of the masks, also known as balaclavas or Sheisty masks, in certain public places, including schools, recreation centers, day care centers, parks, and city-owned buildings, or on any mode of public transportation. The city could also impose a $2,000 fine on anyone who wears one in the commission of a crime.
The legislation includes exceptions for people wearing holiday costumes, observing religious holidays, wearing safety equipment as part of their job, taking part in theatrical productions, and playing winter sports.
“We cannot ignore this problem any longer,” Phillips said in floor remarks accompanying his legislation. “There is no reasonable justification to wear these masks, and people in communities have the right to feel safe.”
It was not clear Thursday if the legislation can be voted on and approved prior to Council’s final session before the Summer. A hearing must be scheduled and held, and the bill must be read and voted on twice in meetings before proceeding to the mayor for consideration. If not before the break, the legislation can be brought up for consideration in September on Council’s return.
RESOLUTIONS INTRODUCED TO URGE CITY’S UTILITY COMPANIES TO DO MORE TO EDUCATE AND ASSIST HOMEOWNERS, CONSUMERS ON HOW TO SAVE ON ENERGY BILLS
The resolutions, introduced by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) for Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), call on PECO, PGW and the Philadelphia Water Department to develop comprehensive plans to reduce energy costs for consumers and improve energy efficiency. They also urge the utilities to make more information about energy use and costs available to property owners.
RESOLUTION CALLS FOR HEARING ON EXTENDING THE SUBWAY UP THE ROOSEVELT BOULEVARD INTO NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA
The resolution, offered by Councilmember Mike Driscoll (6th District), comes on the heels of the catastrophic tanker crash on I-95 in the Northeast on Sunday that caused a fiery blaze, a collapsed bridge, and the closing of the heavily-traveled interstate highway for an undetermined period of time.
The idea of extending the subway up into the Northeast along the Roosevelt Boulevard has been debated for some time in public transportation circles, but the shutdown of I-95 has brought fresh urgency to the idea.
PA Governor Josh Shapiro announced midweek that contractors and the building trades would work around the clock to create a temporary, drivable bridge over the accident site, while workers begin building a new permanent bridge at the site. No timetable or price has yet been made available. An estimated 160,000 vehicles travel over that portion of I-95 on a daily basis.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Councilmember Johnson Urges Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame to Induct Phillies Icon Dick Allen. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) introduced his resolution recounting the tremendous career of slugger Dick Allen, whom Johnson called “the Phillies’ first African American superstar”. Allen was a 7-time MLB All Star, an MVP in the American League for the Chicago White Sox, and an iconic player in Philadelphia in the 1960s, when his prodigious home run blasts would soar out of Connie Mack Stadium, disappearing into the North Philadelphia night. Mr. Allen came up one vote short of induction to Cooperstown in the last round of voting, and he will not be eligible again until 2026. Dickie Noles, a former Phillies pitcher and teammate of Allen’s, gave moving remarks during public testimony in support of Johnson’s resolution. “The Hall of Fame will be a better place when Dick Allen is inducted into it,” Noles concluded.
Council to Hold Hearing to Consider the Use of Drones in Law Enforcement. The resolution, offered by Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District) on Council President Clarke’s behalf, will examine the increasing use of drone technology in law enforcement around the country, and to consider its potential use here in Philadelphia.
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 22, 2023 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Room 400 and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.