Churches Pushed to Contribute Millions to City’s Black Reparations

( – Boston religious leaders, primarily black clergy with some white members, are sparking a conversation on racial healing and reparations within the city’s churches. The grassroots Boston People’s Reparations Commission urges historically white churches to confront their ties to slavery and contribute financially to address the lasting effects on the black community.

The call to action, announced at Resurrection Lutheran Church, centers on a $15 billion reparations request from the City of Boston for its role in the slave trade. However, this event specifically targeted religious institutions. Reverend Kevin Peterson, a prominent voice in the movement, called for “white churches” to atone for their slavery atrocities and extend their resources toward the black community.

This atonement could take various forms, according to Peterson. Cash payments, investments in affordable housing, and creating financial institutions for black Bostonians were all mentioned. A letter signed by 16 clergy members outlined these possibilities and was sent to targeted churches, including historic landmarks like King’s Chapel and Old South Church.

These churches, built in the 17th and 18th centuries, face a past where clergy and parishioners owned slaves. Some, like King’s Chapel, have acknowledged this history and published research on the topic. Reverend John Gibbons of Arlington Street Church, another targeted institution, emphasized the need to move beyond research and take concrete steps toward repair.

While some churches have begun this process, others, like the Catholic Church, haven’t. Though initially excluded from colonization efforts, the Catholic Church is still included in the reparations discussion due to its perceived role in perpetuating racial inequality. The Archdiocese of Boston acknowledged the “suffering of the black community” and stated they would review the proposals.

This movement for reparations extends beyond the church walls. Reverend Leo Edward, a Baptist leader, criticized the failure to fulfill the promise of “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves, suggesting prisons and their inmates represent the modern-day version of that unfulfilled promise.

Mayor Wu’s administration is already moving forward with reparations. A Task Force launched in 2022 is delving into how to compensate black Bostonians for historical wrongs.

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