City council refocuses on racial equity in training, new proposals


Christopher Vazquez/Daily Senior Staffer

City Council. The council underwent racial equity training as a result of this summer’s resolution aiming to end structural racism.

Andrea Bian, Recruitment Editor

As a part of a focus on racial equity, Evanston’s City Council underwent a training about the historical impacts of racism, as they move forward with actions and programs to engage and empower minority residents.

NU Professor Alvin Tillery, who is also the director of the Northwestern Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, led the training on Sept. 30. The program came out of a June resolution presented by Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), which describes structural racism, includes a land acknowledgment for indigenous communities and joins the Government Alliance for Racial Equity.

Tillery said in an email he was thankful to lead the training for the council, and that he was “incredibly impressed with how seriously the council is taking this work.”

Dino Robinson — founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, an organization dedicated to documenting the history of black Evanston residents — said the trainings for City Council are especially important given historically racist policies in Evanston.

For decades, the city had passed discriminatory policies that disenfranchised black residents, including redlining and discrimination in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Interim city manager Erika Storlie said the training drew attention to the need to acknowledge racial inequity in Evanston’s history. She said Tillery addressed underlying causes of racial disparities in the city.

“Resources were allocated in a way that was never going to move the needle on anything,” Storlie said. “And that really opened a lot of people’s eyes.”

As the city begins to construct concrete policy related to racial injustice, Storlie said the training aimed to make sure the council understands the meaning of equity.

Deputy city manager Kimberly Richardson emphasized that the training was not the first time the city had discussed racial injustice, but they are looking to put more concrete plans in action.

“Equity is about fairness,” Richardson said. “We’re not talking about equality, which is about sameness.”

The city held the training as council begins to envision a plan for reparations to end structural racism. This summer, Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) presented actions to develop a program for reparations. She proposed a “Solutions Only” subcommittee in June to the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission. The committee, Rue Simmons said, would be dedicated to increasing home ownership among black residents after years of redlining and exclusionary policies.

In September, Rue Simmons said she aims to dedicate $10 million to reparations programs over ten years.

Richardson said Rue Simmons’ reparations plans have created an external conversation among residents and officials for the past several months.

Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center said he’s heard some residents question if reparations or other equity initiatives are legal.

“I’ve already heard some underpinnings of pushback,” Robinson said. “Ald. (Rue) Simmons pushed for solution-based discussions. Already, people are not focused on solutions. They’re looking at limitations.”

Going forward, city officials are working to implement additional programs that benefit other marginalized communities. Richardson highlighted the Hispanic Liaison Officer program, which the Evanston Police Department restarted to improve communication with the Latinx population in the city.

Richardson added that the city will also continue implementing its social services review, which includes a racial equity analysis that will evaluate Evanston’s social services programs.

The Equity and Empowerment Commission will continue to progress with Fleming’s resolution and other racial equity initiatives — their next meeting is on Thursday.

“We are making the effort to engage those impacted communities more thoughtfully to ensure any policy that we’ve had does not have a negative impact,” Richardson said. “And if it does, that we can mitigate that as much as possible.”

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