Greenbelt council approves reparations-related referendum

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

When voters in Greenbelt head to the polls later this year, they’ll 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.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up