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Chapel Hill Public Library hosts series of readings on reparations and repair

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A panel presented by the UNC Commission on History, Race, and A Way Forward will be featuring the book "From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century." The event, which will consist of a reading followed by a discussion, will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, as pictured on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

On March 30, the Chapel Hill Public Library hosted “From Here to Equality: Chapel Hill Community Read and Conversations,” the second session in a series of four about reparations for Black Americans. 

The series is based on William “Sandy” Darity's and A. Kirsten Mullen’s book, "From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century." Darity and Mullen will attend the last session of the series on April 13.

Simona Goldin, a research associate professor for the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina, said over 100 people attended the first meeting. She said people from different communities across Orange County were able to come together to discuss race in the Chapel Hill community.

The event was organized by Danita Mason-Hogans and Goldin, the co-chairpersons of the Equity in Schools Task Force, members of the UNC Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward and members of the Chapel Hill community.

Mason-Hogans, who works as an oral historian and memory specialist, said the event allows for different parts of the community to discuss how the University and the Town of Chapel Hill are racialized. She said she is working to partner with local faith-based organizations, such as University United Methodist Church, to begin reparative work in the Chapel Hill area.

“This is the first time that we've been able to convene at the Chapel Hill Public Library to really think about what this history means to us as a community,” Mason-Hogans said. 

The event on March 30 discussed reparative work in Orange County. Mason-Hogans said conversations centered around how Black residents of Orange County have been generationally stunted in their ability to amass wealth, education and health.

More than 85 people attended the event, "Session 2: Opportunities for Repair," including generational Black Chapel Hill residents, like Braxton Foushee and Patricia Mason. 

“There were over 85 people last night — at least 85 hearts — believing that it is an important cause, at least important enough to sit and listen," Luis Melodelgado, the library experience assistant for the Town of Chapel Hill, said.

At the event, the speakers shared recorded stories about their educational experiences in the Chapel Hill area.

According to a 2017 Racial Equity Report Card produced by the Youth Justice Project, 33 percent of Black students felt college and career ready, compared to 89 percent of white students. 

Performance data scores from the 2021-22 school year also show an achievement gap in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

The event included reflection questions for the audience about race in institutions — such as education, healthcare and housing.

“It's important for us to sit together and to gather data and to think about that data, and to be together in a room to have these conversations about how we might answer those things in similar ways and how we might answer those things in different ways," Goldin said.

The event also displayed photos taken from Earl Bynum, a Black Chapel Hill native, from his series, “A Simpler Time.”  

“We have to make it possible for the future humanity to, at least, not live under the conditions that people from the past lived," Melodelgado said. "So, I believe that people that came to the program are also thinking along the same lines, that we cannot be responsible and change the past. We should do anything we can today to improve the conditions for everybody."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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