(New York, NY)
Senator James Sanders Jr., Chair of the Senate Banks Committee, Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, Chair of The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, and nearly 70 elected officials from around the state signed a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul urging her to sign the reparations commission bill into law. The bill (S.1163-A/SANDERS Same as A.7691/Solages) would establish the New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies.
This letter was delivered to Governor Hochul along with a list of numerous organizations and petitions with hundreds of signatures from individuals who support the bill and urge the Governor to sign the bill. Some of the organizations that support the bill include the following: New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus; New York State Council of Churches; The Black Institute; Churches United for Worldwide Action, Inc; NY Renews; New Economy Project; African American Redress Network and the NAACP Far Rockaway Branch.
Slavery remained legal in New York until 1827. And even after that, it remained closely tied to the institution when it continued to exist in southern states. There’s a real question of whether slavery would have been economically feasible without New York. New York provided insurance for the slave industry. New York bought much of the cotton. African Americans have been subjected to racial, economic, and institutional injustices in New York and around the nation throughout history.
The letter includes the following passage: “The history of chattel slavery and all of its successors including but not limited to, America apartheid (Jim Crow Era), and mass incarceration, is a history comprised of atrocities too brutal to fully comprehend. Not only were African American’s sold and bought as property, but African Americans in this nation have been lynched, beaten, wrongfully incarcerated, intentionally deprived of bare necessities, treated merely as second-class citizens, with very little action taken to provide an equitable society.”
This bill would create a commission tasked with studying the history of slavery and racial discrimination in New York and recommending possible reparation payments. The commission would look at more than just slavery. It would also examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and discrimination on living people of African descent. The bill details the history of slavery within the United States and provides a particular focus on New York State’s profitable relationship with the slave industry. The bill details long-standing generational impacts of slavery on African Americans in New York including legal battles to secure basic civil rights for African Americans, New York State’s history of segregation, housing discrimination and redlining, unequal pay, voter suppression, and police bias and brutality.
The 9 commissioners are to be appointed by the following: 3 members appointed by the Governor; 3 members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly; and 3 members shall be appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate. New York would be the second major state to study whether to issue reparations. In 2020, California became the first and only state to create a task force to study reparations.
Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “New York played a major role in the history of slavery. Even after slavery was banned in New York in 1827, it provided key financing for the institution of slavery and the cotton industry through Wall Street. New York and America cannot fully heal the wounds of slavery and discrimination until justice applies to everyone. Governor Hochul should do the right thing and sign the reparations commission legislation into law.”
Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said, “As our nation still struggles to reckon with its original sin, New York has an opportunity to put progress into action and study the best ways forward. I am pleased to support this effort from Senator Sanders and Assembly Member Solages and encourage the Governor Hochul to sign this legislation.”
Senator Cordell Cleare stated, “Reparations aren’t just about the past; they are about healing our society today. Slavery may have officially ended in New York in 1827, but true equality did not follow the next day or even today. The fate of our 2023 legislative session now rests in Governor Hochul’s hands. We must do all we can to push for this most important bill to become law.”
“We can no longer willfully ignore the realities of structural racism, discrimination, and inequality Black New Yorkers have endured for centuries,” said Assembly Member Khaleel M. Anderson. “The Reparations Bill passed by the State Legislature is a critical first step for New York State to acknowledge and reckon with its role in anti-Black chattel slavery and genocide. I urge Governor Kathy Hochul to sign this historic bill into law, ensuring that the Empire State redresses its harms by prioritizing truth and reconciliation for Black New Yorkers.”