Greenbelt Council Approves Referendum on Reparations

    The city council in Greenbelt approved a referendum that will ask voters whether to commission a study on what reparations could look like for African American and Native American residents in the Maryland city.

    At the polls later this year, residents will be able to vote “yes” or “no” to a referendum on whether the council should appoint 21 members to a commission aimed at researching the feasibility of local reparations — and how they could be established.

    “The story of Greenbelt is the story of America, in many ways. From day one, African Americans were excluded from residency in the city, but, at the same, black workers were involved heavily in building this city,” Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd told WTOP’s news partners at NBC Washington.

    The council approved the resolution with a 5-1 vote during a virtual session on Wednesday. The only opposing vote came from council member Silke Pope, who said the question’s wording needed to be broader and that the federal government is better equipped to handle an issue with such a large scale.

    “For our 23,000 people in Greenbelt, I think it’s too much to take on to do all the necessary research that needs to be done … there’s so much research and staff that we need to really get to the bottom of who is eligible, and it needs to be very detailed and fair,” Pope said.

    But if voters approve, the council would form a commission that would then have to investigate whether the city is capable of fulfilling reparations.

    “Tonight, I think the most important thing is to have the appropriate language asking people what their opinion is,” council member Rodney Roberts, who backed the resolution, replied.

    The question will appear on the ballot during Greenbelt’s Nov. 2 city election.

    As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Alejandro Alvarez and Matt Small. Click here for the WTOP News website.