Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday a new Racial Justice Commission that will make policy recommendations the city hopes will lead to changes in an effort to fight "structural and institutional racism" in New York City.
The commission will be focused on equity, inclusion, representation, and access to opportunity, the mayor said. De Blasio called the move "transformational" and "unprecedented."
"The epitome of a recovery for all of us is addressing the injustices that have plagued our city -- not just for years, not just for decades, but for centuries," the mayor said during his press conference. "The epitome of a recovery for all of us is looking at the disparities that came out of the COVID crisis that were laid bare and doing something about them."
De Blasio said some changes can be achieved through policies, but others can only be achieved by laws, and that will mean changing to the city's constitutional charter. The committee will examine this charter and determine what needs revision. The mayor went on to say that the committee will have the power "to send proposals to the ballot for the people to decide."
"We do aspire to lasting change in this city," de Blasio said. "We have to have this conversation. We have to identify structural and institutional racism formally, officially and then we have to delineate the solutions and act on them right down to our laws, our charters, our constitutions."
The commission, which is comprised of 12 members, is tasked with finding where racism exists and how to eradicate it. They will focus on the city's public agencies and elsewhere.
"I'm asking the members of this commission to engage all elements in New York City society. To engage business communities, cultural organizations, the universities of this city, to look across the board at where we are still dealing with the painful legacy of racism, that still, in this very moment, is affecting the way that people are governed and treated," de Blasio said, adding that comments from the private sector as well will be welcomed by the commission.
“We’ve never had a model for actually addressing structural racism, institutional racism, identifying it, acknowledging it, formally apologizing for it, weeding it out, eradicating it, making the policy changes, changing the laws, doing the things that actually will have a lasting impact,” the mayor said.
The commission is comprised of a group that has had experience in advocacy and justice reform. The members are:
- Chair: Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA
- Vice Chair: Henry Garrido, Executive Director of DC 37
- Phil Thompson, Deputy Mayor
- K. Bain, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Community Capacity Development
- Ana Bermudez, Commissioner of the city's Department of Probation
- Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President of the Union Theological Seminary
- Lurie Daniel Favors, Interim Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College
- Darrick Hamilton, Director of the Institute on Race and Political Economy at the The New School and Henry Cohen Professor of Economic and Urban Policy
- Chris Kui, former Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality
- Yesenia Mata, Executive Director of La Colmena
- Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of Asian American Federation
- Executive Director: Anusha Venkataraman, Chief Service Officer of NYC
"My fellow commissioners and I are honored to serve on this critically important commission for reasons we all can appreciate, especially during this time in our nation with evidence of historical and modern day racism abounds and inequity persists in every pillar of society," Jones Austin said. "Our desire to help reconstitute our city's foundation, to advance racial equity is heartfelt."
“This is gonna surpass everything else we’ve done previously in terms of the sweep and the impact it can have for the future of this city and this nation," de Blasio said.