Amherst reparations group seeks $5,000 to assess disparities

  • Signs near Amherst Town Hall, Oct. 2, remind people that masks are required. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/2/2021 7:03:05 PM

AMHERST — Money that will help an organization complete racial disparity research in advance of establishing a reparations fund for Black residents is being sought from the town.

Michele Miller and Matthew Andrews, who lead the Reparations for Amherst group, recently sent a letter to Town Manager Paul Bockelman asking for $5,000 that would compensate those of African descent who participate in the study.

“We maintain that the data we collect will serve the public good of our community and will be made available for the use of the public,” they write.

In addition, the letter requests that an opinion in November from KP Law, the town’s legal counsel, be extended to answer various questions surrounding economic reparations, which the writers note doesn’t mean “direct financial payments to individuals.”

Those questions include whether it is possible to use cannabis tax revenue from the town’s marijuana dispensaries to establish a Community Development Corp. that would support the Black community and Black-owned businesses, and whether a town-sponsored ad-hoc committee is needed to study what other municipalities are doing for reparations.

“We maintain that the legal opinion, which has already been started, will serve the public good of our community,” Miller and Andrews write.

Bockelman said he has acknowledged receipt of the letter, adding that the topic is complicated and that he will need time to make decisions related to its contents.

In the letter, though, Miller and Andrews cite actions by the Town Council at its Jan. 25 meeting, including addressing structural racism in the goals for the town manager and the likelihood that all councilors will participate in anti-racism training, as reasons for speeding up decisions on how to “engage in a path of remedy” for structural racism in Amherst.

“Money raised will be used to uplift current and past Black residents in Amherst who have been harmed by structural racism, by offsetting economic disparities in areas not limited to housing, income, education, health, enterprise, transportation, and personal development,” the letter reads.

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