NC reparation efforts focus on ‘generational wealth,’ avoid direct payments

Dawn Paige, a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and fellow member Johnny Morant. Paige said the Asheville reparations measures are beneficial but not “real reparations” because they do not include cash payments and investments for individuals. Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps.

By Anton Delgado and Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez

The approval of reparations for Black residents in Asheville this month is being followed by similar demands in other North Carolina cities.

The historic vote accepted a reparations initiative, part of which aims to provide funding to programs that increase homeownership and business and career opportunities among Black people in Asheville.

“This is an issue that diverse communities across the entire state and country will need to reckon with,” said Keith Young, one of two Black council members and a chief proponent of the measure. “It is my hope that movements like this will spread through not only our state but throughout the entire country because for this to be successful, we need to do it at a local, state and national level.”

Barely a week after the vote in Asheville, a task force asked the Durham City Council to consider similar reparations.

With a modern model in place, political science and public policy experts say it’s likely that other North Carolina communities will follow suit — though some reparations advocates have issues with the model being used.

Analyzing Asheville

In mid-July, the seven members of the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to approve the measure, which stops short of providing direct payments to Black residents.

“It was a moral compass moment,” Young said. “The gravity and the depth of the moment we are in as a nation speaks volumes about the people representing local citizens. No matter what you agree or disagree on, the morality of this issue is what shined bright in that 7-0 vote.”

According to city leaders, the goal of reparations is to help create generational wealth for Black people, who have been disadvantaged throughout American history by disparities in income, education and health care.

As part of the resolution, the approximately 93,000-person city — 12% of which is Black — is calling on the state and federal government to provide funding for the reparations.

“The federal government took an active role in inflicting this harm on Black people, so they should also take an active role in addressing them,” Young said. “If movements like this continue, the government will realize the benefit of giving every citizen a good quality of life and equal opportunities.”

Dawn Paige a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS), said the efforts the Asheville resolution hopes to accomplish, such as increasing Black home and business ownership are good things, Paige said. But she argues that they are not reparations. . Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps

The vote in Asheville comes after months of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

“A lot of issues relating to racism show how much we have not achieved and how far we still have to go in terms of what is going on with Black Lives Matter and the inhuman treatment of minorities in this country,” said Emmanuel Oritsejafor, chair of the political science department at North Carolina Central University — a historically Black institution.

“It may take a local model, like the one in Asheville, to begin to bring the consciousness level back to the mainstream of why it is important to address racism and all forms of dehumanizing behavior.”

Other advocates say the responsibility for reparations lies with the federal government.

“Real reparations” should be cash payments and investments made by the federal government to individuals, said Dawn Paige, a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery. ADOS is a national organization that “seeks to reclaim/restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience.”

“What you have at the state level can never and should never be misconstrued as reparations,” Paige said. “Because there are no real measures that are included that will close the racial wealth gap.”

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In Graham, hundreds of protesters demand removal of Confederate statue, sheriff’s resignation

Photo: Anton L. Delgado

Approximately 700 demonstrators wearing masks, waving flags and carrying signs returned to the Confederate monument in Alamance County during a “March for Justice & Community” on Saturday.

This was the first demonstration at the statue since a controversial protest ban — issued by the Graham City Council and enforced with the help of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office — was lifted by a federal judge.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched down a 1.5-mile route that took them from Burlington to Graham, where they were met by counter-protesters.

Protesters called for removal of the Confederate statue, as well as the resignation of Sheriff Terry Johnson and the end to police brutality.

Justice 4 the Next Generation, Alamance Alliance for Justice and Alamance Agents for Change co-hosted the march, which featured a keynote address from the Rev. Greg Drumwright, a Burlington native and social justice activist.

“Everywhere Black people go, we are guilty,” Drumwright said. “It is time for this Confederate statue and all Confederate statues to come down, so we no longer feel guilty in our own homes.”

A series of speakers took to a stage temporarily set up in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse, to address a range of issues including the importance of voting, the symbolism of the statue, systemic racism in the education system and the continued struggle against police brutality.

The speakers competed with chants from a group of about 25 counter-protesters waving Confederate memorabilia and Trump 2020 flags.

Police formed a barrier between protesters, who were part of social justice groups, and counterprotesters, some of whom belonged to Neo-Confederate groups. (Photo: Anton L. Delgado)

Members of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, a neo-Confederate group, could be heard shouting “all lives matter,” “get out of our city” and “the statue’s never coming down.”

Law enforcement officers from several departments, including Burlington, Graham, Mebane, Gibsonville, Elon University, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, State Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office, were at the protest.

Officers blocked adjacent streets, safeguarded public property — including the statue — and acted as a barrier between the two groups.

Johnson’s arrival at the protest was greeted with chants of “hey hey, ho ho, Sheriff Johnson’s got to go” by protesters and “one more term” by counter-protesters.

Wearing a bulletproof vest, Johnson spoke with both sides and encouraged members of the two groups to disperse after the end of the march’s official programming — roughly three hours after the protest began at noon.

The sheriff declined to comment on the calls for his resignation.

There was no violence during the protest, but at least one male Black Lives Matter activist was taken away in handcuffs by officers from the Gibsonville Police Department.

While this was the first protest in front of the Confederate statue since the lifting of the protest ban, it wasn’t the first protest of the week.

Protesters called for the resignation of Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson (center) because of his racist actions and statements. In 2012, the US Department of Justice found that the sheriff’s department, under Johnson’s command, engaged in racial profiling of Latinx people. (Photo: Anton L. Delgado)

On Thursday, Kennedy Boston, a sophomore at Elon University who was at Saturday’s march, co-organized a sit-in by the Sheriff’s Office — a five-minute walk from the statue.

On Friday, Graham Mayor Jerry Peterman declared an indefinite state of emergency for the city’s downtown area, which is where the Confederate monument is located. During the march, protesters were still able to walk just short of the statue, which was protected by a police blockade.

“With two protests in one week, I hope something changes,” Boston said. “I know Terry Johnson isn’t probably going to retire anytime soon and he’s not going to change his viewpoint in one week, but I hope seeing the movement will at least affect Graham in some way and maybe lead to the Confederate statue coming down.”

The NC News Intern Corps is a program of the NC Local News Workshop, funded by the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund and housed at Elon University’s School of Communications.