If you blinked, you could have missed a historic vote at the City Council’s meeting Monday night, March 27. The council unanimously approved adding direct cash payments to the city’s reparations program. It also approved creating and designing a new reparations initiative benefit program for direct cash payment.

“Tonight, we passed a historic amendment to the reparations program,” said Council Member Devon Reid (8th Ward), who attended the meeting via Zoom. “It was just on the consent agenda. There’s no pause, no folks coming out protesting, no dissent among the council. This is a special place.”

Council Member Devon Reid (8th Ward) made the motion during the reparations committee to add cash payment as an option. Credit: City of Evanston YouTube

In a quick swoop, the council voted to pass all consent agenda items, with the exception of six items. The direct cash payment amendment and decision to create a new cash payment program were passed without debate or questions.

Direct cash payments will now be a fourth option for the Restorative Housing Program. The agenda and memo regarding this amendment made it clear that this option will be available for all grant recipients, including both ancestors and direct descendants.

This second reparations program will follow the directives of 126-R-19, the ordinance that permits housing and economic development reparations.

The city’s Law Department had previously opposed cash payment reparations because the grant recipients may have to pay taxes on the grant.

“Prospective applicants that wish to receive cash payments under the Restorative Housing Program will likely need to be income qualified in order to avoid tax liability,” says the memo to City Council from city staff. “Moreover, cash payments may not be able to come from the City’s Reparation’s Fund, as the Fund is not a ‘general welfare’ fund like the City’s General Assistance Fund.”

The debate over cash payment within the Reparations Committee, however, was not as easy as at last night’s council meeting. It took the committee two meetings and hours of debate to agree to make cash payment an option for all applicants.

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Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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    The passing of the reparation program without dissent, the direct cash payment amendment and a new cash payment program prompted councilman Devon Reid to exclaim about Evanston, “This is a special place.”
    However, if what we are trying to do is to help reduce the economic disparities between some black and white families in Evanston, we need to find something more permanent — because this is not going to do it.
    What has to happen is a way to entice kids to continue their education after high school, because statistics have shown time and again that a college education will dramatically increase their potential lifetime earnings and that much of the black-white earning disparity can be tied to the learning gap.
    One way to “entice” them is to facilitate their visit to one of the many MAGNIFICENT all black colleges or universities within the U.S., (an unforgettable experience, I promise!) with the possibility to be accepted to it after graduation – if and only if they maintain a good enough academic record, of course. The earlier the visit…the better! Kids make up their minds about the value of an education very early!
    A new paper from four economists, including Duke University’s William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., suggests that Black students do not always benefit from attending racially balanced schools: “When black kids attend schools that are more or less half and half majority/minority, they don’t do well as they do in ALL BLACK SCHOOLS or where they are a large minority.”
    Even W.E.B Du Bois in 1935 sounded a cautionary note about school integration as a potential cure-all for Black students: “(T)heoretically, the Negro needs neither segregated schools nor mixed schools. What he needs is Education.”
    Thomas Sowell agrees: “We are told that racial integration is a necessary condition for black academic excellence. But in some public charter schools such as Crown Heights Success Academy 100% of the students tested proficient where black and Hispanics constitute 90% of the student body. “
    So what do you say council? Is Evanston a special place?.

  2. Awesome reporting on this, Gina Castro! Thank you. Prior to Monday night’s vote to pass direct cash payments, it was, indeed, a fight with Alderperson Devon Reid standing alone with no support. CNN didn’t even interview Alderperson Reid who sponsored the amendment. They portrayed Robin Rue Simmons as the lead on the fight and that is BEYOND inaccurate. No doubt…Simmons did plant the roots for Evanstin reparations and made it a real conversation across the country. Much respect! But she did NOT support Alderperson Reid in his push for amending the program for direct cash payments. Regardless to whether she will alert the media with the truth of how direct cash payments was pushed through because of Alderperson Reid…don’t hold your breath. But thank you to the Roundtable for reporting what actually happened.

  3. Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES!
    We are a special community that will hopefully continue to influence the rest of our nation in finding Justice for our years of Injustice!