The Russell City Reparative Justice Project is trying to determine the appropriate compensation owed by the city of Hayward to the residents of Russell City and their direct descendants, who were forcibly displaced from their homes six decades ago. Kamilah Moore, chair of the state’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, says the recommendations from the California Reparations Report could help former Russell City residents figure out how much restitution they are owed.
Moore told the project’s steering committee during a Zoom meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 30, that Assembly Bill 3121 mandated that the task force focus on addressing the harm the state inflicted on Black people from slavery into the present. However, the California Reparations Report goes beyond that scope, outlining the harm suffered by multiple communities across the state over time, while also providing recommendations that can be valuable for mixed communities like Russell City. Specifically, the report features a section that calculates financial losses related to housing discrimination and unjust property seizures.
“People can use that as a resource to continue to advocate for specific repair,” Moore said.
Russell City, an ethnically diverse unincorporated community near Hayward, was home to predominantly Black, Latino and other people of color who were not allowed to purchase property in other communities. The residents tried to get basic utilities like water and electricity for their homes, but were instead forced to relocate in the ’60s when the Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided to tear down the community and turn it into a business park. Some residents who resisted relocation faced a series of mysterious arsons that resulted in the destruction of their homes.
The Hayward City Council took a step toward reconciliation in November 2021 by unanimously passing a resolution that formally apologized for the city’s role in perpetuating harm against the residents of Russell City. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors followed suit in June, when it, too, unanimously passed a resolution formally apologizing for its involvement.
But before any form of financial compensation can be realized, Kerby Lynch, the project management consultant for the Russell City Restorative Justice Project, emphasized the importance of gathering comprehensive information from residents and their immediate descendants about their experiences. This data will play a key role in devising precise policy solutions and compensation recommendations that best serve the Russell City community, Lynch said.
Lynch is currently surveying former residents of Russell City and individuals with connections to the area in order to help inform the recommendations to the city of Hayward. For more information, visit shorturl.at/bckTZ or attend the annual Russell City reunion, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3, at Kennedy Park in Hayward.
Photo caption: Kamilah Moore, chair of the state’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, speaks to the Russell City Reparative Justice Project steering committee about state-level reparations efforts during a Zoom meeting on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 30. (Zoom screenshot)