Just three years ago, the city of Evanston became the first documented government agency in the nation to adopt a sustained policy of reparations for harm to black citizens.
Below is information about the city’s historic reparations program, its roots and its development over the years..
It’s a two-part story: The origin of repairs in Evanston, which was published on Monday (click here read part one), and a year of local repairs at Evanston 2021-2022, below.
How did Evanston residents qualify for the Restorative Housing program?
To qualify for the Restorative Housing Program, Black Evanstonians must fall into one of three categories:
- Residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969, and who are called “ancestors”.
- Direct descendants of a black resident from 1919 to 1969.
- Residents who have provided evidence that they have experienced housing discrimination due to city policies or practices after 1969.
In October, the Reparations Committee partnered with the Evanston Public Library to help residents, especially seniors, locate documents proving residence in Evanston between 1919 and 1969. The application window has since closed.
How have non-governmental organizations helped move Evanston’s reparations forward?
Several non-governmental organizations have contributed to the growing momentum of the grassroots movement.
Former council member Robin Rue Simmons is the founder and executive director of First Repair, an organization that helps teach other municipalities across the country how to start a repair movement. In December 2021, First Repair and the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) invited state and local reparations officials from all states to Evanston to exchange ideas on movement building during a three-day symposium.
Dearborn Realtist Board, a historically black real estate organization, has partnered with the City of Evanston twice for one-day workshops teaching local residents the benefits of homeownership and the home buying process. a home to prepare residents to receive housing subsidies.
The Evanston Interfaith Community was the first local non-governmental institution to commit to reparations and has held several conferences over the past few years to speak out in favor of reparations and help community members understand that Reparations are part of the core belief system of every religion.
Learn more about other community efforts to atone for anti-Black discrimination here and here.
Have local reparations been distributed, and to whom?
On January 13, the names of the first 16 recipients of $25,000 housing repair grants were drawn from among 122 “ancestor” applicants. The 16 selected have already started to receive their housing aid. Other ancestors, ranked 17 to 122, are expected to gradually receive their $25,000 grants as more marijuana tax revenue accumulates in the fund.
Ramona Burton, Kenneth Wideman, Paul Wilson and Louis Weathers are four of the original 16 reparations recipients. (Click on their names to read their stories.)
So far, 470 residents have applied in the direct descendant category and at the July 13 Reparations Committee meeting, the city had completed its review of those applications, verifying 354 and following up on the others. .
The Restorative Housing program is just the first step in the local repair effort, and the committee should begin discussing new programs in the coming months.
In another effort to recognize black history in Evanston, four out of eight African-American heritage sites have been unveiled so far in 2022, and four remain. So far, sidewalk markers honor Maria Murray, Evanston’s first documented black resident; Evanston’s first separate hospital; Edwin B. Jourdain, first black board member of Evanston; and Lorraine H. Morton, the city’s first black mayor.
What does local dissent look like around the program?
In April 2022, Mayor Daniel Biss and St Simmons spoke at Temple Jeremiah in nearby suburban Northfield on the topic of reparations.
At the event, Biss said most local critics don’t disagree with the reparations on a fundamental level, but rather think the city’s approach is wrong.
Read this article from the roundtable to hear the opinions of local leaders in favor or against the program.
How much money has been raised in the fund so far?
At the July 13 Repairs Committee meeting, $35,544 had been contributed to the city’s repair fund.
The city cannot report revenue from recreational cannabis sales due to an Illinois state law prohibiting cities from doing so publicly unless there is a minimum of five dispensaries. To do so would be a breach of confidentiality under state law.
Therefore, it is not possible for the Roundtable to determine how much the city collected in taxes from sales of recreational marijuana.
Read more about repairs in Evanston below:
Jasper Davidoff contributed the timeline.