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Chicago suburb of Evanston will begin reparations program for Black residents

Evanston’s alderman voted 8-1 Monday to issue $400,000 in housing grants to Black residents as redress for city’s previous discriminatory housings practices

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In this Nov. 25, 2019 file photo, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, proposes a reparations fund during a City Council meeting in Evanston, lll.

In this Nov. 25, 2019, file photo, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, proposes a reparations fund during a city council meeting in Evanston, lll.

Genevieve Bookwalter, Chicago Tribune via Associated Press

The north Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, will be the first city in the United States to begin making reparations available for Black residents who’ve been historically and systemically discriminated against in the city.

Evanston’s aldermen voted 8-1 on Monday to issue $400,000 in housing grants “to address the discriminatory housing policies and practices faced by Black residents,” The Chicago Tribune reported.

“It is, alone, not enough,” said Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who proposed the reparations program, The Chicago Tribune reported. “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.”

The reparations program is the first of its kind in the country, according to The Washington Post. It is also the first phase of a larger $10 million reparations program in Evanston that was originally approved in 2019.

How Evanston’s reparations will work

The reparations fund will award $25,000 to qualifying individuals to make “home repairs” or for a “down payment on property,” NBC News reported. The grants can also be used for mortgage assistance, according to The Washington Post.

  • “Qualifying residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices,” according to NBC News.
  • Residence can also “qualify if they experienced housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969,” according to The Chicago Tribune.
  • Revenue for the grants is raised through a 3% recreational marijuana sale tax and by donation, NBC News reported. But $21,340 of the funding came from donations, The Associated Press reported.
  • The cannabis tax will be used to fund the program for the next decade, according to The Washington Post.

“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 Evanston resolution reads, The Chicago Tribune reported.

And this is a step toward “revitalizing, preserving, and stabilizing Black/African American owner-occupied homes in Evanston, increasing homeownership and building the wealth of Black/African American residents, building intergenerational equity amongst Black/African American residents, and improving the retention rate of Black/African American homeowners in the city of Evanston,”reported The Tribune.

But what are reparations?

Reparations are “a system of redress for egregious injustices,” defines the Brookings Institute.

In American history, the government has provided some amount of “redress” to exiled Native Americans forced from their lands and for Japanese Americans interned during World War II, but “Black Americans are the only group that has not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination,” according to Brookings Institute.

The Evanston resolution — and subsequent funding for reparations — may be the first in the country, but similar programs are being considered in communities and organizations across the nation.

These include “from the state of California to cities like Amherst, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Asheville, North Carolina, and Iowa City, Iowa; religious denominations like the Episcopal Church; and prominent colleges like Georgetown University in Washington,” the AP reported.