Black St. Paul residents say reparations efforts should be led by a Black person

Black St. Paul community members with roots in American slavery spoke out on Tuesday against the reported new hire who will manage the city’s reparations efforts.  

Over twenty people gathered in high heat Tuesday morning for a press conference outside the St. Paul City Hall to express frustration that the unidentified hire is not an American descendent of chattel slavery. 

“This is total disrespect to the Black community,” said Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council and former director of the St. Paul Department of Human Rights.  

“We stand before you to say that our lived experience, and our lives and the spirits of our ancestors matters. And no one, no one can speak for us,” said Rena Moran, a Ramsey County commissioner and St. Paul resident. She was joined by fellow commissioners Mai Chong Xiong and Victoria Reinhardt. 

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A City Council spokesperson was not available to confirm the hire or the person’s race or ethnicity, but mental health counselor Jeremie English serves on the city’s reparations commission and said he was recently introduced to the new hire. He declined to share the person’s identity beyond “non-Black.” 

“It’s not about the person,” said Black Lives Matter Minnesota founder Trahern Crews. “We need somebody who has lived experience, knowledge of reparations, and knowledge of the racial wealth gap and how it impacts the descendants of slaves who reside in the state of Minnesota.” 

The position exists as part of the city’s commitment in recent years to make reparations to Black people a reality. 

In a 2021 resolution, the St. Paul City Council apologized for its participation in institutional racism, including the bondage of slaves at Fort Snelling and the destruction of a thriving Black community with the construction of I-94 through the Rondo neighborhood. 

The resolution laid the groundwork for the establishment of the St. Paul Recovery Act Community Reparations Commission earlier this year to advise city council and the mayor on addressing the resulting racial disparities across all measures — homeownership, health care, education, employment, criminal justice, etc. — for American descendants of chattel slavery. 

The St. Paul City Council selected 11 people from an applicant pool to serve on the commission in June, then also opened applications for a senior policy analyst to manage the commission part-time. The analyst’s other responsibilities include serving as the city’s liaison with district councils, according to the job listing. 

The job application was open for three weeks, according to the listing. Annual pay for the role ranges around $81,000 to $110,000. 

Chauntyll Allen, an activist with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities and St. Paul Public Schools board member, helped lead the press conference. Speaking for the group, she said the city should revisit their applicant pool and prioritize American descendants of chattel slavery, or re-post the application until a suitable candidate is found. She also argued the job should be separated from other city coordinating work. 

“We’re talking 404 years of oppression that needs to be addressed. We deserve a full-time staff,” Allen said. 

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