Dozens of African-American faith leaders, attorneys and activists pleaded with Charleston City Council to vote “yes” on a two-page resolution that would apologize for the city’s role in slavery.
Some asked for reparations: easier access to loans, the removal of Confederate statues.
As Smarel Nicole Brown bounced her 3-year-old son on her lap, she nodded in agreement Tuesday.
The young mother said she felt the weight of all the enslaved and free Africans who came before her. She sat inside a City Hall built by slaves. A few hundred years later, her mother opened their family business with only $250.
That business — Dellz Deli — became a reality even though finding loans was not easy.
Today in Charleston, she said, black businesses are dwindling. To Brown, an apology was the least Charleston could do.
“We’re always behind on everything,” she said. “What happens to the people who have been affected by inequality? Reparations are so much deeper than that.”
After hours of public comment and deliberation between council members, Charleston leaders voted 7-5 on Tuesday night in favor of a resolution apologizing for the city’s role in slavery.
While the majority of council voted for the document, “no” votes came from Councilmen Keith Waring, Harry Griffin, Kevin Shealy, Bill Moody and Marvin Wagner. Councilman Gary White was absent.
Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, a father of the document and one of four African-Americans on council, implored his colleagues to vote for the apology.
“The world is looking,” he said. “This document … apologizes for the atrocities of the past.”
But not everyone saw it that way.
Before the vote, Waring, another African-American councilman, said the city continues to observe Jim Crow-era zoning rules. That’s why he voted no.
“Without economic empowerment — as a descendant of slaves — I cannot support this resolution,” Waring said.
Griffin, who represents West Ashley residents, said the majority of his constituents said they did not want the city to apologize for something they did not do. A serious apology, he said, would be the city moving to address flooding issues on Huger Street, where African-Americans live.
“This document, if we accept it the way it is, it has implications,” he said. “We cannot pick and choose history.”
Members of the crowd, many of whom shared stories of discrimination and ancestors who were enslaved, threw up their hands and shook their heads.
“You don’t have a history to choose from!” an African-American woman shouted out.
At this point, Gregorie — who worked on the document alongside Griffin since August 2017 — said he felt he had been misled by Griffin.
“The word ‘denouncing’ came from you,” he said to Griffin. “I am a little disappointed that the document has not been looked at in terms of the action steps.”
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SOURCE: Charleston Post & Courier – Hannah Alani