‘Reparations Are Due’ Pledge – News for August 25, 2023

‘Reparations Are Due’ Pledge – News for August 25, 2023


‘Reparations are Due’ Pledge

By Cythera Wilkerson

I have deep gratitude for the home I have found at the Haywood Street Congregation: a space that centers love and compassion and supports access to basic needs. A space that shares a commitment to justice and creates room for curiosity and stewardship where justice is lacking. I am eternally grateful for the home that greets me each time I walk through these doors.

Another space of home that I have found in Asheville is the Racial Justice Coalition (RJC). I am learning that systems of oppression shape Asheville’s past and present. Enslaved people built many of the buildings, roads, and railways that allow this area to thrive. When it was no longer legal to enslave Black people, and they built communities in areas like Eagle Street, governmental actions like urban renewal and the shuttering of Stephens Lee High School–among a wide array of other practices–limited access to education and destroyed generational wealth. (A great summary can be found here.) This harm persists today with persistent opportunity gaps for Black pupils and ongoing disparities between Black and White homeownership.

In both of these spaces of home, I listen and learn about lives that are different than my own. I learn about ways that I have been a part of systems, often unconsciously, that have contributed to harming individuals, families, and communities. And because I am a factor in the problems that Haywood Street and RJC confront, I can also be part of the solution. My faith guides me to do so.

My faith centers on justice. My faith centers on ways that we can support each other by learning and listening and opening up to the history that our families have been a part of and that we are living into with our own choices and actions. Justice includes repair when harm has been committed. In response to growing awareness of historical harms, Asheville and Buncombe County each committed to a process of reparations to the Black communities harmed by government actions. I support this process, which is underway. And I hope to be in conversation with those of you who are curious about this process also.

The energy of a group like Haywood Street is what allows change to take place. Haywood Street Congregation came to be because a need was identified, and the community came together to work to address this need. The Racial Justice Coalition is doing this also. Haywood Street did not begin with certainty around outcomes but rather faith in change. The RJC is offering us the opportunity to make a Pledge of support for the recommendations that the Reparations Commission will soon propose. Centering those who have been harmed and putting faith in their understanding of what must change can begin to repair this harm. I have faith in this process, and I have signed the Pledge. I invite you to consider signing it also.