KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Vice mayor Gwen McKenzie is proposing that the Knoxville City Council apologize for council predecessors’ removal policies that impacted mostly Black residents decades ago, including that of segregation.
The resolution agenda item in the city council meeting packet is described as, “A Resolution to acknowledge and apologize for past actions hurting African Americans and to address equity restoration (Requested by Vice Mayor McKenzie).”
McKenzie’s proposal, dubbed the “African American Equity Resolution” also aims to commit $100 million over a 10-year period to support strategic solutions recommended by the African American Equity Restoration Task Force.
Within the initial agenda packet for the city council meeting, McKenzie’s proposed resolution references the work and historic documents of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a nonprofit that began because of the city’s urban renewal efforts decades ago; which was the legal razing Black community businesses, churches and residences, to build and expand the city.
The city’s urban renewal efforts took place between 1959 through 1974.
Leaders with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center have said the impact of urban renewal would bring about the idea of the nonprofit in 1975 as a place to collect the history of Black Knoxville, because its communities were being taken away.
Also within the proposal is the creation of the African American Equity Restoration Task Force in order “to study the situation and help develop future policy.”
The proposal also states the city has an African American population of 17% with 42% of that population living at the poverty level — calling it unacceptable and calling for council’s commitment to address the disparity.
The proposed resolution is set to be discussed at next week’s city council meeting on Tuesday night.
We will continue to develop this story.