Just two miles off the Yale campus, cries of “Reparations now!” rang through the Community Baptist Church in Newhallville one Friday night last December.
Five months after the publication of the “Yale, Slavery and Abolition” report last August, which alleged that nine of Yale’s residential colleges were named for slave owners, a group called the New Haven Reparations Coalition wants Yale to answer for its past.
In meetings with Mike Morand, the associate vice president for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, and University Chaplain Jerry Streets, the coalition has enumerated its requests.
The group wants Yale to extend its home-buyer program to any African-American living in a New Haven empowerment zone, which are neighborhoods targeted as needing more assistance; rename residential colleges which are named after slave owners; change the title of residential college master to something “more culturally sensitive”; allow African-American high school students who are awarded college scholarships from Yale to attend any college, not just Yale; foster economic development in the city by allowing African-American nonprofit groups to apply for grants and for businesses to apply for loans with low interest rates; and establish on paper a “social contract” between Yale and the community.
At an Open Forum organized by the Yale College Council last November, Morand responded to a question about Yale’s reaction to the report by citing the school’s outreach efforts in the community. He added that Yale’s Homebuyer Program is the largest of its kind anywhere.
“Homeownership is the most important way families build up assets for their children and their education,” Morand said at the forum. “No University does more than Yale to help its employees achieve this part of the American dream.”
The New Haven Board of Aldermen passed a resolution in May to support a bill in Congress called H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to consider the possibility of formal reparations by examining the institution of slavery and its impact on living African-Americans.
The board also called for a task force to examine the relevance of reparations to New Haven. The New Haven Reparations Coalition was formed in response.
“When we can make a strategic difference, we’ll look for ways to do that,” Morand said. “Living in a community that is racially diverse means that we work in a racially diverse setting which includes African-Americans and Latinos.”
But the Rev. Eric Smith of the Community Baptist Church said he is waiting for further dialogue between the community and Yale.
“Is Yale a partner sensitive to the needs of the community?” Smith asked.
While Smith remains optimistic, he said there is a perception in the city that “Yale is not going to do anything. They’re going to sit on it.”