Boston activists call for $15 billion in reparations from the city

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By Haley Clough 

In a recent news conference, the Boston Peoples Reparations Commission called for $15 billion in reparations to Black Boston residents. The commission, along with the New Democracy Coalition, were both founded by Rev. Kevin Peterson. 

The organization, which has been advocating for reparations since 2018, hopes to divide the $15 billion into three parts: $5 billion going to Black Bostonians and the remaining $10 billion going towards racial education, financial institutions, and crime prevention. 

Boston’s Reparation Task Force outlined three main goals for the organization to follow. The first is to carry out and release a survey that tracks the legacy of slavery in Boston and its lasting impact in modern day. The second is to take into account lived experiences from the Black community in Boston. The final step of their process is to take their findings to the mayor and recommend the best course of action that can be taken as reparation.  

Rev. Peterson said that Boston is a city built on slavery, and that “the city is responsible to pay back the wealth they extracted free of charge from other human beings who died at some point in the labor of this city.” Along with reparations, Rev. Peterson has been a strong proponent of a call to rename Faneuil Hall, which was named after prominent slave trader Peter Faneuil. Although the Boston City Council voted in support of renaming the landmark in October 2023, they don’t have the ability to rename the area. That power lies with the Public Facilities Commission, and since the 10-3 vote by the council, no moves have been made to rename. 

According to NBC Boston, the Fiscal Year 2024 budget for Boston is $4.28 billion, which has caused those in opposition to the coalition’s proposal to argue on the basis of questioning the plausibility that the city can afford such a payment. 

A poll done by the University of Massachusetts Amherst from June of 2023 found that while 57% of Americans believed that descendants of slaves are owed reparations, the verdict of how is unclear. Only 35% said reparations should be in the form of cash compensation, and 42% believed housing assistance should be given.