Eleanor Swope, who would have been 85 this February, died Nov. 1, 2022, of a heart attack. She’s the seventh ancestor applicant who has died before their selection number for Evanston’s restorative housing reparations grant was called.
Since the reparation’s ordinance passed in 2019, the city’s program has awarded $25,000 grants to just 16 of the 122 verified “ancestor” applicants – those who lived in Evanston as adults between 1919 and 1969. Accounting for the seven deaths, the number of living ancestor applicants has fallen to 115.
Only 14 people have used their grants. The city said it plans to disburse grants to the next 35 to 80 ancestors in the next round of funding but hasn’t given a timeframe.
The committee voted March 2 to give cash payments, for the first time, to the final two ancestors selected among the first 16 recipients, because they aren’t homeowners, don’t plan to purchase a home and lack direct descendants to whom they could pass on the grants. The city doesn’t have a date for when those two ancestors will receive their grants.
Because Swope’s number was never called, her family isn’t entitled to her reparations grant, and the survivors of the other six deceased ancestors are in the same situation, said city Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings.
“What I can say is that while some may have QUALIFIED for allocation of funds, until the City actually AWARDS them, there is no legal entitlement to the funds,” Cummings said in a Feb. 10 email. “Stated another way, any ancestor that has passed away after qualifying for the benefit, but has not been selected to be paid does not have a legal entitlement to the money. Insofar as I am aware, only 16 individuals have been selected to be paid out. If any of those 16 would have passed away before receiving the benefit, the benefit would be owed to their estate.”
Swope was a cosmetologist for 61 years. She began styling hair from the basement of her home on Church Street. “She could do it all,” said her husband of more than 40 years, Anthony Swope.
In the summer of 1976, Eleanor Swope, age 38 at the time, reopened LaPetite House of Beauty on the first floor of the building she bought at 1126 Florence Ave., where the salon currently stands.
Swope dreamed of using the $25,000 grant to renovate the building, Anthony Swope said. Her husband, son and other relatives live in the building’s apartments.
Her son Kenard Pryor, 61, would be eligible for reparations as a direct descendant under city rules. Pryor said he didn’t submit an application. Anthony Swope doesn’t qualify as an ancestor applicant because he wasn’t living in Evanston between 1919 and 1969.
The application period is now closed, but the Reparations Committee has the power to reopen applications.
At the March 2 Reparations Committee meeting, a resident asked when applications will reopen.
Chair Robin Rue Simmons responded that the committee will have to discuss that matter further. She said the committee could extend the current program and reopen applications or reopen applications with the launch of a new reparations program.
“We run into people all the time that regret not having applied,” Rue Simmons said. “I don’t want to give any false timeframe of when it will be open again, but the committee will have to make that decision.”
The committee voted March 2 to give two recipients cash payment reparations, and residents at the meeting called for the committee to make cash payments available to all. Resident Tina Paden asked the committee to reopen applications with a new announcement that cash payment is an option.
“If two people receive cash payment, then everyone needs to receive cash payment,” Paden said. “The application process must be open again for cash payment. This will bring many lawsuits if you discriminate.”
To help ensure that at least the survivors of ancestors receive the $25,000 reparations grant, the Reparations Committee added a requirement for ancestors to name a beneficiary. Rights to a grant can only be passed down once a grant is awarded, however.
Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager, and interns began meeting with the remaining ancestor applicants this week.
It’s unclear how the city tracks the number of ancestors who have died. The city was apparently unaware that a seventh ancestor had passed away until Feb. 16, when the RoundTable told Kerr about Eleanor Swope.
Great insight! Sounds like the committee should opt people in by default. Why even have an application process if you already know who the ancestors are. Especially if cash payment is is made available to all.
I think that given this is the seventh ancestor that has passed away, consideration should be given to the oldest living ancestors first and the process accelarated.
Definition of a fake reparations program:
“What I can say is that while some may have QUALIFIED for allocation of funds, until the City actually AWARDS them, there is no legal entitlement to the funds,” Cummings said in a Feb. 10 email. “Stated another way, any ancestor that has passed away after qualifying for the benefit, but has not been selected to be paid does not have a legal entitlement to the money. ”
I’m hopeful they will open new applications for I am 85 lived in Evanston all my life we lived at 2017 Darrow Ave where my grandparents the peaks were here
I am writing this comment to say thank you Ms.Gina Castro of the Roundtable for your beautiful depiction of my wife (Eleanor) you also have a great preception . Thank you again and keep on keeping on.