Thursday, June 20, 2024

Saskia VannJames’ recent letter (“What do ‘reparations’ mean for you? Forum asks Mondays throughout summer; Join and be heard,” July 13) on a reparation policy order by city councillors E. Denise Simmons and Patty Nolan is a misguided attack on a well-intentioned initiative. Despite the author’s obvious passion for the topic, the contents of letter suggests that the genesis of the policy is not understood or is being misrepresented in an effort to drum up opposition even before more robust public discussion takes place.

The chief argument of the letter is that the reparations policy “is backed by a study sponsored by Revolutionary Clinics.” That conclusion does not withstand even the mildest scrutiny and is not supported by evidence. A quick glance at the order indicates its inspiration was a program from Evanston, Illinois, that dates back to September 2019. The study, meanwhile, makes no mention of Evanston nor reparations. Trying to link the policy to Revolutionary Clinics is not only incorrect, but reads as an attempt to confuse issues and poison the well.

Using funds from cannabis sales to support the needs of the community is hardly novel. In fact, revenue generated from cannabis is being used as a selling point in legalization pushes across the country. It diminishes and disrespects the thoughtful and important work of these councillors to chalk this order up to the “influence of the ‘Big Canna’ industry.” As an economic empowerment applicant myself, I look forward to the day that my business’ revenue can be reinvested into the community. It is my firm belief that there are a lot of benefits associated with cannabis, and this is one that can be enjoyed whether you consume or not.

The fact that we have councillors planning how to use cannabis sales to funnel money to Cambridge resident speaks to where their intentions lie: leveraging a lucrative industry to benefit the community. It is a noble proposal, and we should be supporting this work by banding together to strengthen its impact.

During a June 21 meeting of the council, Nolan acknowledged that this policy alone is not a panacea for slavery or the war on drugs, considering the limitations of municipal resources. She is absolutely right; but to enact change at scale, smaller steps must be taken first. That is what this policy is designed to do. And furthermore, it is just the latest step forward in Simmons’ long and well-established effort to stand up for and boost the Black community in Cambridge.

Nolan, Simmons and councillor Quinton Zondervan have all articulated a desire to get public feedback on the order. My hope is that future input is more constructive so that we can begin to allocate revenue toward empowering our Black business community and creating generational wealth. 

Sieh Samura

Sieh Samura is an economic empowerment applicant behind Yamba Market, a recreational cannabis business proposed for Central Square. A family member is an announced recipient of $100,000 from the Aspire program, which is funded by Revolutionary Clinics, for Yamba Boutique, a recreational cannabis business proposed for Harvard Square.

This post was updated July 20, 2021, to correct that a family member is named as getting $100,000 from Revolutionary Clinics, not Sieh Samura.