St. Louis Mayor Vows to Create Reparations Commission

City seeks to examine reparations for slavery and harmful local discrimination

click to enlarge St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones speaks at the event Let’s Talk Reparations: Community Teach-In and Block Party.
Rosalind Early
St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones speaks at the event Let’s Talk Reparations: Community Teach-In and Block Party.

Mayor Tishaura Jones said Saturday that she plans to sign an executive order to establish a commission on reparations for St. Louis city. The announcement came at the event Let’s Talk Reparations: Community Teach-In and Block Party, hosted by Action St. Louis, Arch City Defenders, the ACLU of Missouri and other organizations.

Jones did not have a date when people could expect the order to be signed, saying there were steps that included the city counselor that still needed to be taken.

The gathering was about advocating for reparations in the city. Local community organizations have been raising awareness and putting pressure on the mayor since December, when they sent a memo to Jones asking her to make a plan for reparations. The memo was published in June with another request that the mayor address how racial discrimination has created an inequitable society.

Many point to a study by Jason Purnell from 2015, For the Sake of All, that describes how someone living in the majority Black Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood in the 63106 ZIP code has a life expectancy of 67 years, while someone living in majority white St. Louis Hills in the 63109 ZIP code has a life expectancy of 81 years.

In response, the mayor signed legislation from the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to create two reparations funds that support Blacks who have been victims of slavery. She has been the first mayor in St. Louis to publicly support reparations. She also joined a group of 11 other mayors across the country that pledged to pay reparations for slavery.

“We think that those are good steps forward,” said Kayla Reed, executive director of Action St. Louis, “but we’re calling for a commission to actually ground [itself] in that history, [like] the structural neglect that’s happened in north city, or some of the neighborhoods that have been decimated by policy decisions. Repair isn’t just a fund. It’s telling the truth out loud. It’s making the plan around it that actually creates opportunity for future generations.”

The event, which attracted around 100 people, discussed what reparations are, why they are necessary and what they might look like going forward.

According to organizers, reparations include five elements:
  • Cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition
  • Restitution and repatriation
  • Compensation
  • Satisfaction
  • Rehabilitation
Some suggestions from the crowd included defunding the police, abolishing prisons, and including more visible memorials to Black history around the city.

Some in the audience weren’t thrilled with the results. “A lot of things die in committee,” one attendee said. But Reed said it felt like a good step.

“We’ve been in this conversation for almost a year, and we feel like Tishaura is the mayor to get it done,” Reed said.

About The Author

Rosalind Early

Rosalind is the editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She formerly worked for Washington University's alumni magazine and St. Louis Magazine. In 2018, she was selected as a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. In 2014, she was selected as an Emerging Leader by FOCUS St. Louis. Her work...
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