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New York City Unveils ‘First Ever’ Racial Justice Commission

March 23, 2021 by TWN Staff
New York City (Photo by Dan McCue)

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new racial justice commission Tuesday, which he said will be tasked with targeting and dismantling structural and institutional racism across the city.

At the same time the new body, which de Blasio said is the first of its kind in the nation, will serve as a charter revision commission, fulfilling his pledge in his most recent State of the City address, to revise the city charter with special attention paid to racial justice and equity.

The commission’s formal report and recommendations are due on the mayor’s desk by December 2021.

“Our mission is to root out systemic racism across New York City,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The Racial Justice Commission has the power to put forth permanent, transformative ideas for our government and our city. This moment demands nothing less.”

The commission is primarily tasked with reviewing the city’s charter and delivering proposals for charter revisions, but may also recommend policy and programmatic changes that don’t require charter revision, or changes to advocate for on a state or federal level.

It is expected to focus on significant structural changes to the powers, structures, and processes of New York City government that underlie sources of inequity, rather than narrow procedural changes or superficial policy fixes.

Anusha Venkataraman, who is currently NYC chief service officer, will serve as the Commission’s executive director. 

The 11-member commission will include:

  • Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director, FPWA, Chair
  • Henry Garrido, Executive Director, DC 37 AFSCME, Vice Chair
  • K. Bain, Founder and Executive Director, Community Capacity Development
  • Ana M. Bermúdez Esq, Commissioner, Department of Probation
  • Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary and Chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)
  • Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., Interim Executive Director at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College
  • Darrick Hamilton, Founding Director, Institute for the Study of Race, Stratification and Political Economy at The New School and Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy
  • Chris Kui, former Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality
  • Yesenia Mata, Executive Director, La Colmena
  • Phil Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation

According to a written release on the commission, its work will be “informed by the administration’s existing and ongoing work, including the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity. Its work is expected to meaningfully incorporate reconciliation and steps toward reparation of harms, including healing, restorative justice, recognition of history, affirmation of cultural memory, and a public apology.”

The release went on to state, “This vision should be grounded in the recognition that centuries of slavery, segregation, and anti-Black racism have created structures and informed institutional systems that impact all New Yorkers. 

“While the history of systemic racism has especially impacted Black New Yorkers, it has also powerfully shaped injustices and inequities that impact other people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized communities,” it said.

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