Detroit will ask voters if a reparations committee should be created

Detroit City Council voted Tuesday to put the question to ask voters in November if the city establishes a reparations committee to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs addressing the historical discrimination of the Black community.

Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield says it's an issue Detroiters should decide.

"It should be a ground-up initiative and movement, it really should be lead and driven by the desire of the people," she said.

People in the majority Black city have faced systemic racism, redlining in housing, and a lack of economic opportunity. Some say reparations are a small way to right centuries of wrong.

"Since the previous election and the death of George Floyd, the idea of reparations has gained a lot of attention and I think now legislatures are getting more serious about addressing this issue," Sheffield said.

Sheffield says they're looking elsewhere for guidance. The city of Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, made history a few months ago - becoming the first city to issue reparations for discriminatory housing practices.

"It's only right for Detroit to be a part of that conversation - as the blackest city in America - that we insert ourselves in that conversation," she said.

The conversation will begin at the ballot box in November. It is one that Sheffield hopes opens doors of opportunity. One possible source of funding is tax revenue from recreational marijuana - but that would be decided somewhere down the road.

"It really begins to provide opportunities," Sheffield said. "Economic opportunities to help Detroiters in a lot of different ways to create generational wealth and help in a lot of different areas that will help Detroiters to help them become the highest and best versions of themselves."