Editor’s Note: The RoundTable has more coverage of the city’s Feb. 2 Reparations Committee meeting. Click here for the second story.
The city’s Reparations Committee is eager to hear what the community thinks about reparations. The committee announced at its Feb. 2 meeting that it will host its first-ever listening session at its next meeting in March.
“So in addition to the testimonies, we want to have quarterly listening sessions where we hear from the community and we respond, and it’ll be a dialogue,” said Reparations Committee Chair Robin Rue Simmons. “That’s been some of the critique, and we want to make sure that we respond to that.”
The committee plans to host a quarterly listening session in lieu of a regular committee meeting.
But the timing of the meeting might be problematic.
Meetings will continue to be held at 9 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month, despite a community survey showing that residents prefer the committee meet later in the day.
The survey results said that 50% of the 68 people asked preferred the committee meet at 6 p.m.
The committee chose to stick with its current meeting time to accommodate city council members booked with other committee meetings on week nights.
“I just wanted to acknowledge that we clearly see what the desire of the community was, but that we have to make a hard line decision for the people who sit and make these decisions and our availability, said Second Ward Council Member Krissie Harris.
“But as Rue Simmons has said, we are accessible, we are available. There’s only so many hours in the day, so many meetings that we can attend. And we want the best representation of this committee to be able to effectively do the work.”
Thursday morning’s meeting kicked off with the first-ever round of testimonials from four Black Evanstonians. Rue Simmons spearheaded the initiative. The testimonials will be added to the minutes of each meeting.
“We’re hoping that the other institutions in town and leaders in town are paying attention to this process and hearing so that other institutions are beginning to do their work, as well,” Rue Simmons said.
“It is not intended for the city of Evanston to do this work alone. It is not only the city of Evanston that has harmed Black Evanston.”
Youth art contest winners announced
The committee named four winners of its Reparations Youth Arts contest.
The winners were Maia Faith Hadaway, a third year undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles; Margo Stonebraker, a student at Haven Middle School; Asiah Williams, Evanston Township High school, and Javahya Wright, Haven Middle School.
The artists were challenged to bring to life what they think about reparations.
“Just because it happened a long time ago, it doesn’t mean people forget, or that injustices aren’t happening right now,” Margo said in a written statement about her piece Repair What’s Broken. “And just ignoring that is not right. Even if the injustice was in the past, if no one took the first step, who would? Not all wounds heal on their own. Not all problems can be fixed with words.”
The committee also discussed transparency in regard to its budget.
Clayton Black, the city’s budget manager, said the city will be able to provide a monthly update on the amount collected in the graduated real estate transfer tax and reparations donation fund.
But the city can’t reveal the amount of funds raised by the cannabis tax until a total of five dispensaries contribute to the recreational cannabis tax.
The reparations donation fund currently has $42,931, said Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager. The Evanston Reparations Community Fund has $842,000, Dino Robinson said.