Chicago suburb OKs reparations for Black residents, a first in the nation

Evanston, Illinois, , Becomes First City in US, to ray reparations to Black residents.Evanston's City Council approved the plan on March 22 in a vote of 8-1.$400,000 will be distributed among eligible Black households.According to the Associated Press, those households will be qualified to receive $25,000 for down payments on property or home repairs.Program funding will come from recreational marijuana tax as well as donations.Evanston anticipates spending $10 million over the next decade.To qualify, residents must have have either been a direct descendant of a Black person who suffered housing discrimination in Evanston between 1919 to 1969, .or they must have endured the discrimination themselves.The sole vote against the plan was cast by Alderwoman Cicely Fleming.Fleming supports reparations but thinks recipients should be able to decide what to do with the money instead of the city assuming they need it for housing

Evanston, Illinois, makes history with $10 million program

The City Council in Evanston, Illinois, has approved the first payouts in a landmark reparations program designed to compensate Black residents for decades of discrimination — the first city in the country to do so.

The initiative, which was approved Monday in an 8-1 vote, will distribute $10 million in tax dollars to eligible residents of the Chicago suburb over the next decade, with a $400,000 housing grant program kicking things off.

The money can be used to help with a home down payment or closing cost assistance within the city; help pay for repairs or modernizations of an Evanston property; or help pay down mortgage principal, interest or late penalties on Evanston property, according to a memo from Kimberly Richardson, interim assistant city manager, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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Known as the Local Reparations Fund, the money will award up to $25,000 to individuals with “origins in any of the Black racial and ethnic groups of Africa,” according to the city. Applicants must also be a Black resident of Evanston between 1919 and 1969, or that person’s direct descendant, the Tribune reported.

Others can qualify if they experienced housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.

The program is being funded by a 3% tax on newly legal recreational marijuana sales along with some donations.

The dispersals will seek to remedy “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place,” said 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who has spearheaded the reparations effort since 2019, when Evanston first approved a resolution on the matter.

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“It is, alone, not enough,” Simmons said Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work. It’s going to be many programs and initiatives, and more funding.”

Supporters hope Evanston’s decision will pave the way for more reparations programs around the nation.

“For the first time, the United States is moving in the right direction. I believe this surge of goodwill began in Evanston about two years ago,” said the Rev. Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, where racial inequality thrived for years through segregation and the federal practice of redlining, which deliberately sought to suppress wealth and lower property values in the Black community.

In Evanston, the practice — combined with Black codes and Jim Crow laws — relegated Black families to an area of the city that ultimately became the 5th Ward. For generations, the area had no access to basic public amenities and was choked off from economic opportunities that were generally afforded to white people.

“Banks in Evanston would not loan to Black families for housing, [and] the real estate agencies would not show you anything other than the 5th Ward,” Robinson said.

White people who live in Evanston today make almost double the income and enjoy double the home value of their Black counterparts, according to U.S. Census data.

The wealth gap in Evanston reflects a consistent pattern that persists in nearly every city across the country.

“The Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program ... acknowledges the harm caused to Black/African-American Evanston residents due to discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction on the part of the City,” the city’s resolution reads.

Information provided by Tribune News Service was used to supplement this report.

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