Reparations, before Evanston, seemed almost impossible. But this city made it happen, and I’m thrilled to be capturing history while y’all make it.
I first heard about Evanston’s promise to fund reparations when I was back in Florida researching the Medill School of Journalism. I remember hoping this racial equity progress would make its way down to the South.
I’ve spent a good chunk of my life in the South. My parents are Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans raised in New York City) through and through. They both enlisted in the Air Force, and as a result, my siblings and I grew up calling many cities in the states and overseas our home.
My mom likes to say I’m a Southerner raised by Yankees.
I learned the power of my pen while juggling classes at the University of West Florida and being a full-time reporter for a paper in Brewton, Ala. I started out writing whatever assignments my editor told me to. I hadn’t thought much about what stories I wanted to pursue or even ones that hadn’t been told yet (or enough).
I’ve always been an avid reader– typically flipping through a science fiction novel or some trendy dystopian fiction. But at that time, I was reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and The Puerto Rican Syndrome by Patricia Gherovici.
Both of these books take readers through decades of history to show just how deep systemic racism runs. Despite the founders of these systems being long dead, their sins keep rearing their heads like some hellish game of Whac-A-Mole for years to come.
Somehow along this road, things clicked for me. I realized journalists were historians. We decide what’s the most important information of the day, jot it down and send it to print.
There’s cherry picking, of course. We pick what stories we think matter the most, and I realized that examining these pesky Moles and their impact was what mattered most to me.
So I began reporting on social justice issues like foster care and mental health in Alabama. I later transitioned to reporting in Pensacola, Fla. I reported on environmental racism, homophobic legislation, the Black Lives Matter movement and access to reproductive healthcare.
I made my way to Chicago to attend Medill for my master’s in investigative journalism and graduated in June. I spent the rest of my summer reporting in the Louisiana bayou for the Pulitzer Center. I wrote about Native American tribes’ lack of assistance from FEMA following Hurricane Ida.
Now, I’m the Evanston RoundTable’s new Racial Justice Fellow. This one-year position is funded by Northwestern University.
For this fellowship, I’ll be reporting on the city’s historic reparations work. I’ll also be reporting on educational equity, police reform, affordable housing, homelessnesses and everything in between.
After living in Chicago for more than a year, I’ve learned that perhaps I should start calling the South my regional home. Midwesterners love to tell me I have a Southern drawl.
My cell number is still a Florida number, so if you get a call with an 850 area code, please consider answering it. It just might be me inquiring about my latest story!
I’m looking forward to getting to know Evanston and its residents.