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The St. Louis Reparations Commission is working on a draft of the final harm report

Kimberly Hicks Franks, a member of the St. Louis Reparations Commission, speaks during a meeting of the commission on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, at City Hall in Downtown West. St. Louis Reparations Commission was approved by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones to to extended until September 9.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Kimberly Hicks Franks, a member of the St. Louis Reparations Commission, speaks during a meeting of the commission on Jan. 31 at City Hall in Downtown West. The commission was approved by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones to be extended until Sept. 9.

The St. Louis Reparations Commission is focusing on drafting its proposed 100-page harm report over the next few months. Three commission members will work through each section of the report along with about 20 historians and experts.

The report will include an executive summary that ties into the recommendations from the commission that will help shape a sizable amount of the report. The six harm areas will include housing, neighborhoods and the built environment, education, public health, jobs and the economy, and state violence and policing.

Dr. Will Ross, David Cunningham and Kayla Reed will work on two sections of the report apiece.

“It really is our priority to be contributing and drafting a report that responds to the realities that our families and communities have faced over the decades in St. Louis,” said Reed during the monthly meeting.

Reed will lead the housing and neighborhoods and the built environment section. She invited Walter Johnson, author and Harvard University professor, and Goeff Ward and Patti Hayden, who are both professors at Washington University, to work through the neighborhoods and built environment section. This working group met once and will continue to share and write about episodic moments and times of abandonment, divestment and removal throughout June.

The housing team includes Colin Gordon, a history professor at the University of Iowa; Elizabeth Korver-Glenn, a sociology professor at Wash U, and Carol Camp Yeakey, who is an urban studies professor at Wash U.

“Everyone is putting their best foot forward so that we can meet this deadline in September and bring forth something that meaningfully contributes to the conversation on reparations from a local lens,” Reed said.

Ross will work on education and public health. His public health group includes St. Louis' health director, Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis; Wash U professor Darrell Hudson; St. Louis University health law professor Sidney Watson, and SLU sociology professor Elizabeth Chiarello. The education working group consists of SLU education professors Joseph Nichols and Cameron Anglum and Wash U education professor Michelle Purdy.

Ross’ sections will include extensive data that will support the narratives from those who spoke over the past year.

Cunningham’s jobs and the economy section will include Wash U sociology professors Jake Rosenfeld and Adia Harvey Wingfield and University of Missouri-St. Louis postdoctoral fellow Ifeanyichukwu Ukpabi. The state violence and policing group will include Andrea Boyles, a professor of sociology at Tulane University, and Ashley Jackson, a sociology professor at Rutgers University.

Each working group should have a draft for the commission members to read by the end of June.

Commission member Delesha George hopes the report will not contain information that has previously been written in reports like the Forward Through Ferguson or the city’s Environmental Racism Report.

Reed reassured George during the virtual meeting that the integration of personal narratives will set the harm report apart from other local reports.

“We are hoping to cite other reports, and not reproduce entire sections of the reports,” Reed said. “In our report, we are telling the historical arc of information … and the narratives in a way that is uniquely taking from those different things, and also providing space for additional learning to the public eye.”

Cunningham said the report will not be “detached or a general research report but also will have a lot of space for these voices.”

Over the past few months, the commission has been asking Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office for a budget to help with promotion, social media and production of the harm report. Reed said the commission is set to speak with the administration in early June about financial assistance.

The commission wants the harm report to live on a website and a virtual space to allow people to hear the oral histories that were recorded during the commission meetings. However, Reed said the commission has been approached by a private foundation that wants to support its needs, but the commission will determine the next steps after the meeting with the mayor’s office.

A draft of the report should be available for the public to view this summer, and the harm report is due to the Board of Aldermen in September.

The next monthly virtual meeting is scheduled for June 24.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.