Greenbelt Referendum to Create A Reparations Commission Passes with Support from Local Democratic Socialists of America Chapter


Greenbelt Referendum to Create A Reparations Commission Passes with Support from Local Democratic Socialists of America Chapter

More than 62% of Greenbelt Voters Support Creating Commission to Examine Reparations for African American and Native American Residents

DATE: Wednesday, November 3, 2021 

PRESS CONTACT: For all press inquiries, please contact or Emily Frias at (240) 283-7656

Greenbelt, MD:  Last night, a referendum to create a 21-member reparations commission for the city of Greenbelt passed by a 25-point margin. The final vote count was 63 percent to 37 percent (1,522 votes to 910 votes). The referendum was introduced by now-reelected Greenbelt City Council Member Colin Byrd during his previous term as mayor. Greenbelt is the first city in the country to pass such a measure through ballot initiative, though other cities have created similar commissions through other legislative means. “There’s a historical rationale for this, there’s a moral rationale for this, there’s an economic rationale for this, and certainly there’s an equity rationale for this,” said Byrd, referring to the reparations bill in a recent interview with DCist.

The metro D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was an early endorser of the measure. The local Prince George’s County DSA branch—an affiliate of Metro D.C. DSA—led the coalition to organize around the initiative, mobilizing dozens of volunteers and coordinating outreach efforts in the weeks prior to the election. The issue of reparations is a key component of the national DSA platform, due to the long legacy of white supremacy in the United States.

Emily Frias, a Greenbelt resident and member of the Prince George’s DSA steering committee who helped lead the coalition said, “I’m very proud of the work our volunteers have done to bring awareness to this issue and address the city’s history of racism, segregation, and hostility toward African Americans. We showed that, overwhelmingly, everyday people share the principles of justice and repair that the creation of this commission represents.”

Previous attempts by Byrd to introduce the measure as a city ordinance earlier this year were stymied, with council members stating that they were uncertain the measure had broad support. Yet as of today, with an overwhelming majority of voters saying yes to the commission, the new city council has been given the important task of appointing the commission’s members and overseeing its work in the coming term.

Several local supporters of the referendum expressed their optimism for the initiative: “This is good news for Greenbelt—[we are] committing ourselves to investigation and dialogue about our shared and troubling history, and then deciding how we can best repair damage done to individuals and groups too often denied dignity, equity and full participation in community life,” said local faith leader and LGBTQ activist Rev. Robin Gorsline

Dr. Lois Rosado, co-chair of the Greenbelt Black History and Culture Committee, who recently published an op-ed in the Greenbelt News Review about the history of slavery in Maryland and the need for reparations said, “The people of Greenbelt must be very enlightened, and not afraid to take a look at a very hard issue. I’m delighted.”

As we continue to organize around principles of racial justice and liberation, Metro D.C. DSA and the Prince George’s County branch are heartened by the outcome of this vote and look forward to seeing the results of the commission’s work.


Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America is a chapter of the national Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the United States. Prince George’s County DSA is a branch of the metro D.C. chapter.