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The new City of Evanston Reparations Committee met for the first time Aug. 5 in front of an audience of about 30 people at the Lorraine Morton Civic Center. The new expanded committee consists of three Council members and four community representatives who are tasked with exploring and identifying programs and opportunities to be supported by the City’s Reparations Fund.
As Chair, Council Member Peter Braithwaite opened the meeting by welcoming the four new resident members: Claire McFarland Barber, Bonnie Lockhart, Carlis Sutton and immediate past 5th Ward Council Member Robin Rue Simmons.
In response to questions about the current size and management of the Reparations Fund, Braithwaite moved the discussion of the budget to the top of the agenda. City Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings addressed the question of tax receipts, explaining that because there is only one cannabis dispensary in Evanston, Illinois state law prohibits the City from disclosing the exact amount of tax revenue received from that source. If and when a second or third dispensary opens, the City will be able to share the aggregate revenue received from cannabis taxes.
Separately, the Evanston Community Foundation has seeded the Reparations Fund with $25,000. Dino Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center said that he is working with ECF to establish a non-profit organization to manage the fund for the benefit of Evanston’s Black community. Robinson said they are “looking for board members from historically Black organizations and Black citizens of Evanston, for the purpose of managing the funds at ECF” and hopes to be able to announce at the next meeting that they are a 501(c)(3) organization under federal law.
Deputy City Manager Kimberly Richardson provided the committee with the recommended timeline and approach to community outreach for the first reparations program intended to address the harm done to African American residents of Evanston by racist policies related to housing.
Several committee members pointed out that the Restorative Housing Program currently being developed is only the first reparations initiative and represents only 4% of the total funds allocated for reparations in Evanston.
The Restorative Housing Program prioritizes three groups: “Ancestors” who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1949, “Direct Descendants” and those who may not qualify in the previous two categories but can prove harm after 1969.
The committee is compiling a list of organizations to contact as part of the education and outreach effort. Staff plan to hold at least four workshops about the application process, beginning on Monday, Aug. 23. Applications can be submitted beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 21. The application deadline is Sunday, Oct. 31, with the initial funds expected to be disbursed before the end of the year.
Rue Simmons pointed out that one of the goals of the program is to compile a directory of Black-owned businesses that can participate in the program by providing services to the recipients of reparations payments through the restorative housing program. “We have some work to do,” she said. “The goal is to provide a directory of Black Realtors, contractors – a really complete directory.”
Rue Simmons also issued a call to action to the public, noting that Evanston’s conversations and actions on reparations have had repercussions nationwide. “We’re doing our part as the City of Evanston for the specific actions of the City. Whatever program we’re doing here, will not be alone.”
Contact email@example.com with any questions about the Restorative Housing Program or to suggest an organization for outreach or a business for inclusion in the directory.