Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the creation of a reparations task force and agenda aimed at addressing historical injustices against Black people in the United States while citing systemic racism and other polices he said have harmed people of color. 

The task force will develop a definition and framework for reparations, which would be delivered in the form of improvements in housing, education, jobs, and criminal justice. The group will also conduct a study to catalog policies that have harmed African Americans in Chicago, including controversial real estate practices like redlining and restrictive covenants.

“Reparations will be an investment in our neighborhoods and our people,” Johnson said Monday during a Juneteenth celebration. “It will unlock the doors of prosperity to fully flow through the neighborhoods that have been disinvested in for decades…we must never forget our goal to make sure reparations become a reality for Black residents of this city.”

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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson with other leaders at a Juneteenth celebration

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson on Monday announced the creation of a reparations task force during a Juneteenth celebration.  (WFLD)

The City Council’s Black Caucus will also participate in the task force hearings and recommendations. 

Alderman Nick Sposato, a critic of Johnson, told Fox Chicago the planned $500,000 to fund the task force could be better spent elsewhere. 

“It’s too divisive, it’s going to divide us even more,” Sposato said. “I don’t know what the fairness about it would be. Maybe the report will say it’s unnecessary, but I highly doubt that.”

Reparations has been a thorny subject as some cities have tried to create a pathway for the descendants of Black slaves to collect compensation for the free labor of their ancestors. 

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During his speech, Johnson said Chicago still bears the scars of “systemic racism and injustices that have been inflicted on our communities.”

“We’ve seen them in highways that cut through Black neighborhoods and the industries that, of course, flock to these neighborhoods and often contribute to increased pollution and poor health outcomes,” he said. 

“The disinvestment in our community has been intentional,” he added. 

He also cited the mismanagement by previous mayors and the closing of schools and anti-Black and anti-business policies. Chicago has long been a Democratic stronghold; it last elected a Republican as mayor in 1927, when William H. Thompson served until 1931.

Alderwoman Stephanie Coleman hailed the reparations initiative as a significant step forward.

“I am thankful to the Johnson Administration for its continued support and commitment to addressing the deep wounds inflicted by centuries of injustice against the Black community,” Coleman said. “We will not be ashamed of who we are, and what we have overcome.”