The National African American Reparations Commission will convene a symposium on municipal reparations in Evanston from Thursday to Saturday, Dec. 9 to 11.
The symposium includes a national town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, at First Church of God Christian Life Center, 1524 Simpson St. Actor and activist Danny Glover has been announced as the keynote presenter.
Residents will have an opportunity to interact with leading U.S. and global reparations advocates at the event, which is free and open to the public. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, the lead sponsor of HR 40, the congressional bill to establish a National Reparations Commission, has been invited to be special guest for the event. Doors open at 6 p.m.
The national symposium also comprises a series of working sessions for community-based advocates, stakeholders, elected officials, academic and philanthropic partners working on municipal reparatory justice initiatives. Faith Temple Church, 1932 Dewey Ave., will be the site for the working sessions. The Hyatt House Chicago Evanston will serve as the host hotel.
The working sessions are designed to afford participants an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge about the background, historical basis, evolution and process that led to Evanston emerging as the first municipality in the country to award reparations to eligible African American residents. The organizers are limiting the invitations to 50 participants and partners to create an intimate, roundtable atmosphere conducive to quality sharing and interaction.
Session participants and partners will begin their experience with Dino Robinson, founder of Shorefront Legacy Center, conducting a tour highlighting Evanston’s historically Black neighborhoods, redlining and other racially discriminatory practices. The tour will serve as background for the sessions, where participants will learn more about the Evanston reparations model and share their experiences building municipal reparatory justice initiatives in other cities.
The symposium will be hosted by FirstRepair, an organization founded by Robin Rue Simmons, former 5th Ward Evanston council member, who spearheaded the Evanston Reparations Initiative, with help from many people who worked alongside her and those who initiated the work before her. Evanston has been the focus of national and international attention for developing the first citywide reparations program in the United States.
Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite, chairperson of the Evanston City Council Committee on Reparations, together with members and staff of the committee, will serve as resource people for the symposium.
In an exclusive interview with the RoundTable, National African American Reparations Commission convener Dr. Ron Daniels said, “Evanston has emerged as the global epicenter, really, of local reparations initiatives. People are looking at Evanston from all over the world. We have a representative, Eric Philips, coming [to the symposium] all the way from Georgetown, Guyana. He is chairman of the Guyana Reparations Commission, and he will be coming to represent the CARICOM Reparations Commission.”
Daniels defined CARICOM, an intergovernmental organization of 15 member states throughout the Caribbean, as “the equivalent of the European Union. The CARICOM Reparations Commission is representative of all 15 reparations commissions in the Caribbean. They have selected Eric Philips to represent them here in Evanston.
“Between the African American Reparations Commission and the CARICOM Reparations Commission, there is a synergistic relationship. We support each other. They are very aware of what’s happening with HR 40, and they are very aware of what’s happening with Evanston.
“Evanston is something that is concrete. It is not aspirational. It may be small. It may be a work in progress. But what is exciting to everyone is, it is a work in progress that is concrete, and has been done as a citywide initiative like nowhere else in this country, or in the world. For example, when the vote was taken [to authorize implementation of the Evanston Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program], I received calls from Japan, South Korea, South Africa, from all over the world. So that’s how Evanston is seen. …
“We hope to create a national network among advocates working on reparations at the local level and to establish a national resource center for municipal reparations in Evanston administered by FirstRepair,” concluded Daniels.
With the establishment of a national resource center, Evanston could become the focal point for a national municipal reparations movement.
Kamm Howard, National Co-Chairperson of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations, has spent considerable time meeting and working with community stakeholders and members of the City Council in Evanston to provide advice on the process of implementing the reparations program. He shared his thoughts on the significance of the symposium.
“This gathering is the next logical and radical step to laying the foundation to synchronize local reparations in the U.S. This requires our collective thoughts on the purpose, goals and objectives of local reparations to proliferate around the country,” Howard said.
Rue Simmons said FirstRepair is eager to host the symposium.
“As local leaders call for Congress to pass HR 40, we are also building a powerful movement and process for reparatory justice locally,” Rue Simmons said. “Local leaders need tools, resources, thought partners and best practices to support their Black communities in advancing reparations. The experts are living in every historically Black neighborhood in this country. Reparations is a process, not a transaction. This symposium will support us on the road to improving and expanding our goals within our own communities.”
The upcoming town hall meeting will be keynote presenter Danny Glover’s second visit to Evanston to promote the reparations initiative. He served as keynote presenter on the subject of reparations on Dec. 11, 2019, addressing large crowds at an Evanston town hall meeting. Glover currently serves as an ambassador for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs through 2024, and as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund since 2004.
In an historic vote March 22, 2021, Evanston City Council adopted Resolution 37-R-27 authorizing the implementation of the Evanston Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program and the initial budget of $400,000 – the nation’s first local reparations initiative. The city’s reparations planning process began nearly two years earlier, in June 2019, following the City Council’s adoption of a resolution affirming the city’s commitment to end structural racism and achieve racial equity.
In November 2019, the Reparations Fund was created and adopted as part of the City of Evanston’s 2020 budget. The City Council committed to utilize tax revenue collected from sales of recreational cannabis to create a $10 million fund to support reparations in Evanston.
In August 2020, the National African American Reparations Commission certified the Evanston Reparations Initiative as a model for municipal reparations that could be replicated across the country.
The Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston announced in February 2021 that it established the Evanston Reparations Community Fund to provide investment support for efforts to advance Evanston’s Reparations Program. The fund is housed at the Evanston Community Foundation and helps ensure that monies will be available for reparations once the City of Evanston’s tax revenues for reparations are no longer available.
The RSAE idea was initiated in 2020 by then-Fifth Ward Council member Rue Simmons, along with the consulting team of the Reverend Dr. Michael Nabors, Pastor Montè Dillard, 2nd Ward Council member Braithwaite, Henry Wilkins, Spencer Jourdain and Dino Robinson.
The Reparations Community Fund is an asset-based approach to building wealth for Black residents who experienced the impact of local housing and systemic discrimination between 1919 and 1969, as well as their direct descendants.
The fund’s focus is on helping Evanston’s Black residents with a variety of benefits and programs developed by the RSAE that will address issues like home retention and ownership, education, business development, health and cultural awareness. The fund is managed by a term-limited team of Black residents under the RSAE. On Dec. 4 RSAE and the Dearborn Realtist Board, the local chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, hosted a free Community Wealth Building Day at Faith Temple Church of God to boost home ownership for Evanston’s Black Americans.