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.
“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.