Black residents start to receive reparations in Illinois
Evanston, Illinois, has become the first city in the U.S. to deliver on its promise of paying reparations to Black residents.
The city committed in 2019 to spend $10 million over 10 years on local reparations. Two years later, it approved a program to give eligible Black residents $25,000 housing grants for down payments, repairs, or existing mortgages, in an effort to atone for the city’s past racist housing policies.
Evanston’s program is being funded through revenue from a 3 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana and a real estate transfer tax on properties worth over $1 million when they are sold. City officials said $1.18 million in revenue has been generated so far, the Evanston RoundTable reported.
Federal reparations efforts have stalled for decades, but the reckoning over racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 revived interest in reparations across the country.
City staff have met with 48 recipients who are eligible to receive payments, according to a memo from Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager. Sixteen of them have received their payments, the local news outlet reported.
Evanston expects to have distributed $25,000 each to 140 mostly elderly residents by the end of the year, The Wall Street Journal reported. The city manager’s office has been contacted for further comment via email.
Louis Weathers, an 88-year-old retired postal worker and Korean War veteran, is among those who have received their payment.
He told the newspaper that he lived most of his life in the historically Black Fifth Ward and was only able to move to a predominantly white neighborhood in 1969 when laws began to change.
Even then, he said he had to threaten to complain to the real estate board if the agent didn’t allow them to sign a sales contract when he and his wife wanted to buy a house in a white neighborhood.
He gave his payment to his son, who put it toward debt reduction and upgrades to his condo, he told the Journal.
Qualifying residents must either have lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and suffered discrimination in housing or be a direct descendant of a Black person who did.
Evanston’s reparations program was spearheaded by then Alderman Robin Rue Simmons.
“I thought that we as a city might localize a reparative policy to empower the Black community and help rebuild wealth that had been stripped away due to predatory practices and other anti-Black practices,” she told Newsweek in 2021.
“It may look different from city to city, but the toolkit that we have developed in Evanston certainly is one that is replicable and includes starting with a very public process, understanding the history of the city, and where white supremacy and anti-Blackness plays a role that has disadvantaged the Black community.”
Late last month, members of California’s Black reparations task force handed off their historic two-year report to state lawmakers, urging them to take action on more than 100 recommendations. However, the price tag associated with proposed cash compensation has caused skepticism that reparations will be approved by lawmakers.