New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the formation of the New York City Racial Justice Commission, the first commission of its kind in the United States tasked with targeting and dismantling structural and institutional racism across the City. The Racial Justice Commission will simultaneously serve as a charter revision commission.
The Commission fulfills the Mayor’s pledge in the State of the City to convene a Charter Revision Commission that focuses on racial justice and equity. The Mayor called upon the Commission to produce a formal report and recommendations by December 2021, and to produce a rigorous, community-informed guide toward a more fair, equitable, and just New York City.
“Our mission is to root out systemic racism across New York City. The Racial Justice Commission has the power to put forth permanent, transformative ideas for our government and our city. This moment demands nothing less,” a statement by the Mayor’s office quoted de Blasio as saying. “This undertaking is unprecedented but I believe this extraordinary group of leaders, visionaries, and public servants have the ability to put forth a tangible vision to continue dismantling and obliterating centuries of racial oppression.”
“This is an opportune moment to deconstruct the barriers that have limited opportunity and prevented people of color from fully benefiting from their own labor, the taxes they pay and the sacrifices they have made to have a better life. The Commission will propose tangible actions and structural changes to respond to the questions that too many still refuse to acknowledge,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray.
“Why are underpaid and dying essential workers mostly people of color? Why do Black and Brown New Yorkers have less education and wealth than white New Yorkers? Why have Asian Americans, here and across the country, been harassed, attacked and killed? The answer is that racism has infected every facet of our lives in New York City for generations. If our City is to heal, the Commission must pull the bandages off the ugly truths, using the full powers of government to make right the deeply rooted policies of inequity. Only then will we be able to move forward together.”
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 currently leads NYC Service as the City’s 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
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. The Commission should seize the transformative potential of this moment in history to identify the structural changes and significant policy reforms that will advance racial justice and equity and begin to dismantle structural racism for all New Yorkers.