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Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH), a nonprofit that develops affordable housing, was chosen by the city to help disseminate the first 16 local reparations restorative housing grants. It just so happens one of the 16 beneficiaries, Louis Weathers, was on CPAH’s advisory board for 20 years.

Louis Weathers, 87, a longtime Evanstonian and one of the 16 inaugural beneficiaries of local reparations, outside his home. Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

“Reparations came in Evanston in 2012 by [former] Alderman [Lionel Jean-] Baptiste,” Weathers, 87, told the RoundTable when asked where he first heard about the local reparations effort. “But Blacks paid no attention. So it kind of went [away] until my girl came in, Robin [Rue Simmons]. She was my alderman … She’s cool.”

He said that he went to the early meetings concerning the restorative housing program to find out what the “ground rules” were, and overall, he says the program is great, although, like many others, he had reservations about what those rules were.

“You had to own a home, you had us use the funds a certain way. I wasn’t too happy with that. But it didn’t stop me from supporting it,” he said.

Weathers said he’s not a political person, but that he has some political knowledge.

“When anything’s done politically … both sides have to win something.”

He found out he was chosen in the first round of housing recipients a few days after the drawing on Jan. 13, once the city published the official list on its website. Weathers couldn’t believe it. He felt like he was winning the lottery, even though, he said, the City Council explained it wasn’t a lottery draw.

“I didn’t think I had a chance,” he said. His wife, who is from Jamaica, was happy for him because she knew Weathers was involved in the community growing up. “She’s not from Evanston. It didn’t affect her like me.” 

Background on program 

Evanston’s Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program is the first initiative in the city’s $10 million commitment “to eradicating the effects of systemically racist past practices from city government and all city-affiliated organizations.” The first $400,000 of the reparations program is slated for housing, which is enough to pay for 16 grants of $25,000.

Applicants deemed eligible for the program and selected to participate can get up to $25,000 to buy or remodel a home or pay down a mortgage. The home must be in Evanston and must be the applicant’s primary residence.

To participate, Black Evanstonians must fit one of three categories:

  • Residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969, referred to as “ancestors.”
  • Direct descendants of a Black resident from 1919 to 1969.
  • Residents who submitted evidence they suffered housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.

There were more than 600 applicants to the Restorative Housing Program, 122 of whom were ancestors. The Reparations Committee decided to prioritize that group for the first 16 grants.

Weathers decided to donate his $25,000 to his son, Michael Weathers, so that Michael could reduce his own condo mortgage.

Weathers said that he’s temporarily lending the funds to his son because he is getting inheritance money from his late mother that hasn’t settled yet.

“So he’s gonna get inheritance money and pay me back,” he says.

Family history

Weathers’ parents came to Evanston and in 1932 purchased the home he lives in now. Three years later, in 1935, he was born in Cook County Hospital in Chicago because Evanston Hospital was segregated and did not accept Black mothers.

His mother was born in Joliet, and his father in Birmingham, Ala. Weathers’ father was an interior decorator who served wealthy clients in suburbs like Kenilworth and Wilmette. His father would take young Louis out on jobs with him all throughout his childhood. His mother stayed home and did domestic work.

“In those days, wallpaper was very popular,” he said. “And I said, ‘Never would I do this. That’s too tedious as a job.’ You had to cut it just right. They didn’t make the paper like they do now. And if you put too much paste on it or tear it, you had to go back and measure all over again.”

Weathers’ family was only the second Black family to move onto his street, he said, with Swedish people living next door and Italians living across the street. Weathers’ father was a Scout master in the Cub Scouts, hosting meetings in their basement with other kids.

The father of the sole other Black family who lived on his street was a postmaster at the post office and a Scout master, so the two fathers became close, Weathers said.

“His wife didn’t work either,” he said. “We didn’t socialize with no one else. We didn’t need to … Blacks had their own businesses.”

Personal history

Weathers said growing up in Evanston was wonderful. He enjoyed the segregated YMCA on Emerson Street where he learned how to swim, play ping pong and shoot basketball.

He was the youngest child and grew up in the house mostly by himself. Since his siblings were so much older than he was, they had left home by the time he reached middle school.

Weathers graduated Foster School, Haven Middle School and Evanston Township High School without ever having a Black teacher, he said. The trend continued in college, where he briefly studied music at the University of Illinois before, ultimately, dropping out. 

Weathers served two years in the military during the Korean War before returning to Evanston and working at the post office on Davis Street from 1958 to 1969. 

His first marriage lasted 22 years until a divorce in 1980 that caused Louis to move to Maryland in 1981. Sixteen years later, in 1997, he retired back to Evanston to take care of his sick mother and sister as their primary caregiver.

He even took and passed courses to become a certified nursing assistant to properly care for his family. At that time, a state law allowed CNAs to be compensated for taking care of their own critically ill family members, and the state paid him even more because his mother had a brain tumor.

“So I used my money to hire girls [from my classes], I hired CNAs,” Weathers said. “And I used my money to give them. I was free to go come and go … I had it all figured out.”

Most days, he had several CNAs rotating in and out to take care of his family.

Weathers remarried and has been with his wife for 27 years. He has two children, Darlene, 54, and Michael, 60, from the first marriage and one child, Victoria, 36, from his current marriage.

What’s next

What does he hope happens next for local reparations? Well, he says the city has a commitment to continue over the next 10 years with the first $10 million, but he’s excited for additional programs to “open up” that will make more Black Evanstonians eligible for reparations.

“Now I told all these people who was against it. I said, ‘You gonna get your opportunity.’ … You didn’t like the way they did this one. So now you could go to city hall meetings and tell them what you want. And see if they accept your proposal.”

Previous profiles of reparations recipients

‘I never thought that I would be picked’: Meet one of the first 16 recipients of Evanston reparations

Meet one of the first 16 reparations recipients: ‘I had a great childhood. And I’m not going to complain.’

‘Dad, I think your number’s been picked’: Meet one of the first 16 recipients of Evanston reparations

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...

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