We Got the Momentum: What’s Next for Detroit Reparations After ‘Yes’ Vote?  

Keith Williams, left, and William Cobbs, right are both local political figures who are both looking forward to seeing the changes from Prop R in Detroit.


It’s Black Detroit’s time now.

Proposal R gained momentum during the November general election with 72,462 voters saying “yes” approving the Detroit City Council to establish a Reparations Task Force to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit. There were almost 18,000 votes against the measure.

On July 21, Detroit City Council unanimously voted to have the ballot question proposed to citizens in the November general election.

The Reparations conversation has been discussed at length by various groups and entities around the city and was presented as legislation in Congress by John Conyers and HR1 at the local level in the City of Evanston, Ill. Since then, an ordinance was passed to help address the housing disparity caused by the racial divide which started as slavery, the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus reported.

Michigan Democratic Black Caucus Chair Keith Williams, who is vocal about his pro-reparations’ stance, told the Michigan Chronicle that the city, and its residents, are headed on the right track in the quest to bring vital issues to the forefront for Black Detroit.

The Reparations plan will be funded by a three percent tax on recreational marijuana and donations, Williams confirmed.

Back in June, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield passed a historic Reparations Resolution.

The effort garnered thousands of signatures and succeeded in creating a committee to oversee the creation and development of a “Reparations Fund.”

“While it will take several lifetimes to fully repair the harm caused by slavery and the systemic oppression of African Americans in this country, the time has passed for us to embark upon this righteous journey,” Sheffield said in a previous statement. “Reparations is not only necessary to level the playing field for those impacted but it is imperative for America to maintain some semblance of moral authority in the world.”

William said that “there is more to come” after the Reparations vote, which he said was just the first step toward reconciliation.

“It’s like you’re building a house – you got to build the foundation first,” Williams said adding that in the next couple of weeks the Detroit City Council is looking to get a committed task force going to set up parameters and processes to move the plan forward.

Williams said with progress inevitably comes some who, naturally, don’t agree.

“A lot of naysayers out there [say this] ain’t going to happen,” he said, adding that he believes in the positive, bright side. “With God all things are possible and … if they picked the right people it’s going to work… we got the momentum. We got to keep this … moving while we got excitement going on in the city of Detroit.”

Native Detroiter William Cobbs, (who ran for governor in 2018) is a Democrat who believes a bit differently. He feels that while the people have spoken on the issue of reparations by voting in favor of it, some of their votes are contradictory because of their choice in re-electing a white mayor.

“Detroit has a white mayor, Pontiac now has a white mayor – for the first time in history Dearborn has an Arab American mayor,” Cobbs said of how Black communities had “lost traction.” “While other ethnic groups are moving forward for the first time in history … we got our eye on the wrong thing.”

Cobbs said that reparations can only truly happen if the right pieces are in place.  He added that he supports the idea of reparations but it’s time for Black people to make the argument from a “position of power.”

“We keep asking for real power without having the power to create the change we want,” he said. “Reparations will never come until we have the ability to apply some pressure and the way you apply pressure is… creating communities that are self-determined.”





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