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This Maryland town is the first city in the US to take up issue of reparations on a voting ballot

The Greenbelt Reparations Commission would be a group of 21 appointed members who would recommend reparations for African-American and Native American residents.
Credit: AP
University of Maryland students Colin Byrd, moderate a town hall meeting about racism in Universities and what can be done to stop it, at University of Maryland in College Park, Md., Tuesday, March 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

GREENBELT, Md. — City council members in the City of Greenbelt, Maryland approved a resolution Monday to include the issue of reparations on its 2021 referendum.

The city council voted to include Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd's resolution to start a Greenbelt Reparations Commission on the town's voting ballot, making Greenbelt the first U.S. city to put the issue of reparations on a ballot to be voted on, according to Mayor Byrd.*

Byrd, who also chairs the City Council, said if residents vote "yes" on the resolution, the Greenbelt Reparations Commission would be a group of 21 members appointed by the city council, who would recommend reparations for African-American and Native American residents of Greenbelt.

The City of Greenbelt has had a long history of excluding African-Americans from the city, Byrd told WUSA9. Since its founding in 1937, Greenbelt was notable for being the first and largest of three "greenbelt towns" built with the contribution of African-Americans.

Byrd is the youngest mayor ever elected in Greenbelt history. Among many things, he has been very outspoken about his opposition to the proposed D.C. to Baltimore Maglev train.

RELATED: Greenbelt mayor: Maglev train is all pain and no gain, except for rich people

Known as a progressive Democrat, Mayor Byrd most recently worked to prevent the SCMaglev project because he believed that only an elite commuter class would use the maglev, rather than a broad swathe of his constituents. 

Mayor Byrd has served as a member of the Greenbelt City Council since 2017 and was only the second African-American elected to the city council. He's a member of the Urban League and the youngest ever Regional Director for the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials.

*For context, the town of Amherst, Massachusetts created a reparations fund for Black residents to atone for slavery and discrimination. The plan never reached a ballot for a vote. Greenbelt is the first U.S. city to add it to a ballot for residents to vote.

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