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The RoundTable invited City Council members to share the statements they made at the March 22 meeting at which aldermen voted 8-1 to approve a resolution on reparations.
The statement by Alderman Cicely Fleming, who cast the sole “No” vote, may be found here.
Three aldermen – Melissa Wynne, Don Wilson, and Tom Suffredin responded – as did Mayor Stephen Hagerty. The Mayor may vote on the budget or in case of a tie.
Mayor Stephen Hagerty
“Thank you to Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, Alderman Peter Braithwaite, and Alderwoman Ann Rainey for their courageous leadership, as well as the hundreds of community members and stakeholders who provided their input throughout this public process. This is only a first step, but it is an important one in repairing the historic harm done to our Black and African American community by racial discriminatory practices and ensuring that all Evanston families have the opportunity to build wealth and success across future generations.”
Melissa Wynne, Third Ward Alderman
I was on the Council in 2002 when Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste led the way in our resolution supporting reparations, which I was proud to support. It was a time when reparations were not a part of the national conversation. But they are now. I regret that it has taken us 18 years to get to this vote tonight.
I want to thank Alderman Rue Simmons not only for pushing us forward, but most importantly for making us believe that we could do this. I also want to thank Ald. Rainey and Ald. Braithwaite and our City staff for all of their very hard work in blazing this trail. I am in complete support of this program.
As Dr. Iva Caruthers stated so powerfully this evening, this is a first step that is long overdue. And I believe this first step will pull all of America forward.
I humbly vote yes.
Donald Wilson, Fourth Ward Alderman
In the course of doing important and difficult work, it is of the utmost importance to listen and to hear the voices that are relevant. There are also times along the way where decisions have to be made and steps have to be taken. This step reflects an intention by the Evanston community to achieve equity for everyone in the community. There are occasions when you have to take a stand. Evanston has a history of taking important steps and this one is simply long overdue. There is nothing in our decision to move forward that precludes any voice from being heard. Dissent is often the path to achieving a better result and I see no reason why that would not be the case in this instance. But a better result won’t be reached if there is no collaboration.
In order to make progress, we must understand where we are and why. An important aspect of that is to learn and understand history. Researching and correcting our local history is an important component of our Reparations Initiative and related programs. There is a great deal of work to be done in our community in the pursuit of equity and to repair harm. But there is also much to be proud of. Many individuals have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy in the work so far to get us to where we are. I expect Evanston to continue to work hard in furtherance of the Reparations Initiative and continue to strive to live up to who we hope to be.
Thomas Suffredin, Sixth Ward Alderman
Ten years from now what will have grown from the seed that was planted on Monday?
As of this moment, the City of Evanston is offering a $400,000 Restorative Housing Program and an outside organization has agreed to provide 25 Evanston qualified residents with a $300 per month payment for 10 months.
There is a remaining City commitment of $9.6 million, a fund established at the Evanston Community Foundation and promises of partnerships with and contributions from other entities yet to come.
There is almost certainly litigation on the horizon as well. That is part of the price of being first. Organizations have committed to sharing that cost and that work. The City needs to make sure that happens.
There are Black Evanstonians who feel that their voices were not heard on the first 4% of this program. Will we create space for them to be heard going forward or continue to point out how many meetings they missed?
At Monday’s meeting 62 speakers were given a minute each. Should Black Evanstonians speaking – in favor, in opposition or neutrally – on something this significant and that directly affects them even have had to compete for limited time?
This should not be about the white community seeking to understand more deeply and further their own personal journeys or the City of Evanston perfuming over the harm that our government continues to cause through ignorance, inaction, incompetence or some combination of the three.
This cannot be about personal ambitions, media exposure or Evanston’s holding bragging rights among liberal American cities.
This proposal is incomplete. Everyone acknowledges this. It is the start of a start.
Will Black Evanstonians feel that the City delivered on what it has promised? This is the only measurement that matters.
Will Evanston listen if the answer is “No”?
Will we be too proud of ourselves to admit when we get it wrong and try to get it right?
What will we have grown in ten years?