It has been 157 years since the official proclamation of the end of the American Slave Trade, however its effects are still present today.
Washtenaw County was named the 8th most segregated metropolitan area in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, and in 2020, Washtenaw County declared racism as a public health crisis.
In February of 2023, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to implement an “Advisory Council on Reparations.”
The resolution cited racial disparities across systems. This included the 10-year life expectancy difference between Black residents and non-Black residents in Washtenaw County and the Black infant mortality rate of 16.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.
“We can see the outcomes,” said Desiraé Simmons, Ypsilanti City Council representative for Ward 3.
As a mother of an Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) student, Simmons said she feels the side effects of the inequitable resources for different areas in the county.
“I think it’s important to get really local in terms of some of these issues,” said Simmons.
The inspiration to start the local conversation around reparations is not new.
“Starting in the fall and actually talking about the issue a couple times, we realized we could start mobilizing in the local area, especially since the county had started talking about it as well,” said Amber Fellows, Ypsilanti resident and 2022 candidate for mayor.
The mobilization began with the connection between Fellows, Simmons and Justin Harper, another Ypsilanti resident who is passionate about working with his community.
The three have been working together in a grassroots organizing setting to bring Ypsilanti together to discuss reparations for the city.
“[We’re] trying to inform people about what the county has to offer with their new reparations committee, as well as discuss strategies for municipalities about how we can engage other people to be a part of this bigger conversation,” said Harper.
The “Reparations in Ypsilanti Community Discussion” will be held at the Ypsilanti District Library Michigan Avenue branch at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 13th.