KANSAS CITY, Mo. — American Public Square by Jewell hosted a panel in Kansas City Wednesday night on whether Black residents should receive reparations and what form they should take.

There were a lot of questions that the coalition that’s been pushing for reparations here in Kansas City says there just aren’t answers to yet.

The Mayor’s Commission on Reparations in Kansas City had its first meeting in May pledging to study five injury areas to the Black community stemming from slavery and Kansas City policies in the more than century that’s followed.

The commission will study impacts on education, wealth, health, home ownership and criminal justice from KC policies that supported red lining and restrictive covenants.

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson told the packed auditorium there are still many unknowns.

“We don’t know how much the reparations are going to be, we don’t know if it’s going to be housing, we don’t know what the recommendations are going to be, we don’t how we are going to fund it,” she explained.

Former Evanston, Illinois Councilwoman Robin Rue Simmons faced many of the same questions back in 2019.

“We were looking at our data, our racial gaps in wealthz, education and life expectancy and it didn’t add up to our values of inclusions and diversity and wellness for Black community and that’s how we began the road to repair,” Simmons said.

Evanston has since allocated $20 million in reparations through marijuana sales tax and real estate transfer taxes. It began as a $25,000 home loan program, but has changed to allow direct cash payments to longtime Black residents of that community.

Simmons, who now runs First Repair, informing reparations discussions nationally, says she knows there will be tough questions like those that came up on the panel Wednesday night.

“I was using an example of others who may not deal with priority of reparations. That’s nothing out of line that I just said, with all do respect,” radio host Pete Mundo said after being dinged by a community member holding a civility bell for his comments about how first generation Hispanics new to Kansas City may not want to be taxed for occurrences prior to their living in America.

But Simmons says the most important portion of any successful reparations discussion is public education.

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“My advice would be continue listening to one another. Really develop a case specific to Kansas City and be open to other forms of reparations,” Simmons said.

KCPBS panel moderator Nick Haines cited Pew research tonight saying only 29% of Americans support reparations. Councilwoman Robinson said based on her understanding of City Charter any funding of reparations would likely require a public vote.