On Jan. 22, the City’s Reparation Subcommittee’s main agenda item was to review a survey that will gather information from the Black community regarding reparations in Evanston.
“The purpose of this survey is to aid the City of Evanston in identifying and prioritizing and quantifying individuals for the City of Evanston reparations program,” said Tasheik Kerr, Management Analyst, City Manager’s Office.
One thing the survey will do is provide the City with information about how many Black Evanstonians may qualify to participate in one of the proposed housing assistance reparations programs.
Ms. Kerr said, “We’ll be distributing the survey via Survey Monkey. And we do plan to make a list of Black institutions in Evanston to ensure it is distributed to their subscribers.”
In November 2019, City Council decided to create a Reparations Fund and to deposit up to $10 million in City tax revenues collected from the sale of recreational marijuana into that fund.
Council also created the Reparations Subcommittee and asked the committee to consider the viability of two recommendations: 1) housing assistance and relief initiatives for Black residents in Evanston and 2) various economic development programs and opportunities for Black residents and entrepreneurs in Evanston.
On Aug. 28, the Reparations Subcommittee decided to recommend that City Council approve the use of $400,000 in reparations funds for housing assistance programs that would benefit an estimated 16 households. The three programs would provide down-payment assistance, home improvement assistance, and mortgage payment assistance. A qualified Black person could participate in one program and receive up to $25,000 through that program.
The Subcommittee, composed of Aldermen Robin Rue Simmons (5th Ward), Peter Braithwaite (2nd Ward) and Ann Rainey (8th Ward), will consider additional uses of the Reparations Fund as time goes on.
Ms. Kerr said staff came up with the questions to be included in the survey, and she asked member of the Reparations Subcommittee if they had any changes or additions. The proposed questions are:
- If you reside in Evanston, what Ward do you live in? (Respondents may indicate they do not live in Evanston)
2. If you do not live in Evanston, where do you currently live?
3. What is your generation? Respondents are asked to state which of the following periods they were born in 1925-1945, 1946 -1964, 1965 -1980, 1981 -1996, and 1997 – current.
4. Are you a Black Legacy Evanstonian, meaning, family has/had lived in Evanston for several generations?
5. Are you living in an inter-generational home at this time, meaning, having multiple generations living in the same home?
6. Are you at least 18 years of age, a Black resident, and suffered discrimination in housing due to City ordinance, policy or practice?
7. Are you a direct descendant of a Black Evanston resident who resided in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 who suffered discrimination in housing due to City ordinance, policy or practice?
8. Do you own a home in Evanston?
9. Do you rent?
10. If you are at least 18 years of age, a Black resident, and suffered discrimination in housing due to City ordinance, policy or practice or a direct descendant of a Black Evanston resident who resided in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 who suffered discrimination in housing due to City ordinance, policy or practice, which Restorative Housing Reparations program are you interested in pursuing: a) Home Ownership, b) Home Improvement, or c) Mortgage Assistance?
The bottom of the survey form asks for additional information on a voluntary basis. It says, “The City of Evanston is looking to identify, prioritize, and quantify individuals for reparations. Can we contact you regarding this survey? If yes, please provide your contact information. If you choose to complete any portion below, that information will be kept confidential. 1.What is your name? 2.What is your email? 3. What is your phone number? 4.What is your physical address?
Ald. Simmons said she had requested that certain information be included in the survey and that information was include in question No. 5. Other than that, members of the Reparations Subcommittee did not request any changes or addition to the questions.
Ald. Simmons did ask that an introduction to the survey include a statement saying, “This is the initial remedy policy for the reparations program. There will be more forthcoming.” She explained she thought this was necessary, “So anyone that has concerns that these are the limits of the program, they’ll know that there’s more work to be done.”
Ald. Rainey said she thought that it was important that an introduction to the survey explain that it is not an application for Referendum Funds, but to gather information about interest or the number of people qualified.
Ald. Braithwaite and Simmons agreed.
Ald. Simmons requested that a link to the Subcommittee’s Reparations page be included on the survey form so that people who were not familiar with the work of the Reparations Subcommittee would be able to easily access information.
Ald. Simmons turned the discussion to the distribution of the survey. She said, “Survey Monkey is an efficient way to collect information. And we heard Tasheik say that staff is going to reach out to the historically Black institutions and organizations as well as other organizations that serve large Black populations. And then we’ll have to do our own work.
“So, the subcommittee members will definitely be sharing it in the ways that we get information out to our neighbors, through our newsletters, through our social pages,” Ald. Simmons said. “Alderman Rainey uses a really robust, like message board of sorts that I’ve learned about, and then we’ll need your help. She asked other people to help get the survey out to as many people as possible, and even to people that are no longer living in Evanston.”
Ald. Rainey asked, “When we receive these responses, what do we plan to do with them?”
Ald. Simmons said, “Well, I requested that we have this survey so that we can understand the interest and the demand. As we’re thinking about it, we’ve allocated the first $400,000 of $10 million towards this. Do we continue with this program? Is there enough interest? Do we pivot to another area of repair that falls within housing and economic development as our legislation states. And then it is good information for the broader community, especially with a new fund established at the Evanston Community Foundation that will be managed by a stakeholder authority? It’s going to be important to the community as well as the City and City council as programming continues.
Ald. Simmons said, “In the background of this, we’re still working on the application process, which will have to go to City Council for approval. … And at that time, that it comes to City Council, we’ll all also have our first community look at a financial products and services from a financial institution that is going to partner with us.”
Members of the public presented a wide range of views to the Reparations Subcommittee.
Ndona Nyomo said, “I would like to request that a council of legacy custodians be created that will oversee the actions of the fund and the subcommittee, that will provide feedback and suggestions from the historically marginalized among us within the legacy Black Evanston community. … And I would also like clarification, on who and what exactly is the Reparations Stakeholder Authority?
Tina Paden suggested, as she has before, that the City make a cash payment for reparations. She said, “The housing program does not address the people that have been harmed. Most of the people who have been harmed are not of house-buying age. Either they own a home already, or are in a senior building, or have lost their home, or variety of things.”
Melody Bickhem again urged that the reparations remedy include “a health initiative to address some of the issues that Black people often deal with in terms of diabetes and high blood pressure.” And she said, “I wanted to add to that, that specifically we needed something that addresses the mental health conditions as well.”
Gretchen Brewster said with respect to survey question no. 7 (which asks if respondents have experienced discrimination), “I think it would be helpful to perhaps give the people filling out the survey specific examples of kinds of discrimination.” She added that the survey “might also serve as a means to gather information about discrimination,” and it could “therefore ask specifically what those situations might have been.”
Prisala Giles said, “There is not enough money even asked for reparations to include all of the people who have been discriminated against, redlined against, from day one to the present. And I’m really disappointed because we have not asked for anything that would be permanent that would include everyone in the City of Evanston, all the people who were discriminated against. We need something that is permanent, not a committee or something that’s already existing that can be taken away, or that can be used in a different way.”
Sarah Vanderwicken said, “In looking at this whole program, it seems to me you’re trying to do a balance between individual reparations to people who individually or their families have been harmed, but also to the community, which is a part of the impetus for this, is losing the population that has been here. So, it’s not, it’s not necessarily individuals, but it’s a harm to the community that has evolved over the years. So, I think that maybe in terms of some of the concerns about people not getting the money, first of all, there’s so little money for people. So, I think you need to put more emphasis on this is reparations to the community as much or more than it is to individuals. And help assuage some of the concern about all the people who’ve been discriminated against not being able to benefit from this.
Some Committee Member Responses
Ald. Simmons said what the Reparations Subcommittee has recommended is in line with what City Council asked for and in line with the “the documented harms that we have here in our City government.”
She said, “We’re starting with housing because, as you all know, we’ve had an exodus in the Black community; we have been losing wealth through losing our homes and not being able to access buying homes, because affordability is just not there.
“There are seniors in town that do own homes that are burdened by the cost of them. They’re burdened by the cost of taxes; they’re burdened by the cost to maintain old drafty housings that we have here in Evanston. And there are seniors that are looking forward to participating in the reparations program to get some relief at this point, $25,000 up to $50,000, if they’re two qualifying residents in the household.”
Ald. Braithwaite said, “I always like to remind people that we are laying the tracks for the future on the labor of a few. And so, I just want to thank you, lift you up, and continue to pray for you as we do this sacred work. I think you were spot on with identifying the fact that there are many different areas that we need to address, and you did a great job of talking about the housing for those of you that are just now getting into this conversation, this discussion about reparations.”
Ald. Simmons said, “I want to make everyone aware that we will have Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste at our February meeting, and possibly another presenter, who among other things will speak to the important role of ally support and ally leadership in reparation initiatives here in Evanston and really anywhere and the methodology and approach.”
Ald. Simmons added that she would invite someone to attend that meeting and talk about the proposed Reparations Stakeholder Authority.