Reparations Committee discusses funding, resident experiences with reparations


Daily file illustration by Emma Ruck

The Reparations Committee is seeking applicants for working groups that will focus on economic development, community unity, educational initiatives and housing.

Astry Rodriguez, Senior Staffer

The Reparations Committee discussed the status of fund allocations and resident testimonials on the reparations program Thursday.

The Reparations Fund is supported by an adult-use municipal cannabis tax and public donations. In November, the City Council approved an additional $1 million per year for the next 10 years to be disbursed from the city’s real estate transfer tax fund to reparations programs.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said fund distributions have an extensive rollout period. She said the committee will try to keep residents updated on that timeline. 

“We will make an announcement … in terms of when you might see (the funds),” Harris said.

So far, 16 “Ancestors” — Black people who lived in Evanston and were at least 18 years old from 1919 to 1969 — have received $25,000 to use toward specified housing costs. Evanston has approved 122 Ancestor applicants to receive reparations, but the first round of funding totalled just $400,000, leaving 106 applicants without reparations.

Harris said the Committee is unable to report the exact amount of marijuana taxes due to state laws. 

Committee members also shared survey responses and resident testimonials on suggestions for the reparations program and interactions with the Reparations Committee.

Resident Tina Paden urged the Committee and the NAACP to speak about racial discrimination in the city to repair historical harms toward Black residents. 

“When people do not speak about the harassment … then all of the work towards reparations will be null and void,” Paden said. 

Other testimonials read by committee members Harris and Claire McFarland Barber brought up redlining, discrimination, policing and improving education through free tutoring services. 

One anonymous resident said they felt overlooked by the city, which portrays itself as a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees but not those who have resided in the area for a long time.

Harris said some residents expressed interest to her in a space for debates about racial issues and other topics concerning reparations. She suggested hosting listening meetings: informal sessions hosted by the committee that residents can attend to share their questions and concerns.

McFarland Barber said there have been town hall meetings held by the committee aimed at educating the community on historical injustices by bringing in experts from marginalized racial or faith groups, as well as an official city reparations-specific town hall in October. 

“There are informal neighborhood meetings … both seminars and sessions with experts on all levels,” Barber said. 

Barber encouraged people to attend and learn more about reparations in the future. She said hearing testimonials and learning more is important even for people who are not affected by the issues faced by Black residents, and for those who may have negative feelings about reparations. 

Harris agreed, saying residents’ testimonials help strengthen the case for reparations and ensure the process of reparations is inclusive.

“Our hope is that other institutions in town are paying attention to the process and beginning their work and repair,” Harris said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Astry_tpwk

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