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Lawmaker wants proposed Emmett Louis Till Victims Recovery Program to help heal historical traumas

You can’t put a price on freedom, but legislators would like to help those hurt by historical trauma.

Sponsored by Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL- Mendota Heights), HF51 would establish the Emmett Louis Till Victims Recovery Program to award competitive grants for health and wellness projects to victims of historical trauma, their families and their heirs with a one-time appropriation of $500,000 in fiscal year 2024. 

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee held the bill over, as amended, Tuesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Such trauma — described as discrimination or oppression based on race, ethnicity or national origin — must have resulted from government-sponsored activities.

Examples of historical trauma cover assault, violent physical acts, false accusations, wrongful convictions, hate crimes and the violent death of a family member.

“The research is clear that unresolved trauma impacts people’s future health,” Richardson said.

When trauma goes untreated, she said it festers and increases risk of mental health issues including suicidal ideation and physical problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke or a heart attack.

Specific project types outlined in the bill include remembrance and legacy preservation, spiritual and faith-based support, cultural needs, physical or mental health aid, and community resources to promote healing.

Who was Emmett Till?

In 1955, Emmett Louis Till was kidnapped, tortured and lynched at the age of 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The murder galvanized the civil rights movement.

His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral to show the “ugliness of racialized violence,” said Debra Watts, his cousin and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.

Rep. Tom Murphy (R-Underwood) said he honored Emmett Till every day of his campaign, but believes the bill would benefit from specifying human rights and not just civil rights because “it’s for all of us.”

Richardson countered that when we hear names like George Floyd, Amir Locke, Philando Castile, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, Jamar Clark, Taylor Hayden, Brittany Clardy, and many more, there’s a clear need for dedicated resources for healing.

She closed with the words of Mamie Till-Mobley, “When something happened to the Black people in the South, I said that’s their business, not mine. Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us anywhere in the world, had better be the business of all of us.”

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