Chicago suburb’s city council votes in favor of housing reparation program

Race in America

EVANSTON, Ill. (WGN-TV) — Evanston officials gave the go-ahead Monday on how best to spend the first phase of the city’s reparations funding.

Created in 2019, the reparations fund uses tax revenue from recreational marijuana to help African-American residents whose families suffered from past discrimination. On Monday night, the city council voted 8-1 in favor of passing the first initiative. Under the accepted program, $25,000 in funding will be allocated for 16 eligible African-American residents for homing expenses.

Monday’s meeting on how 4% of the allocated fund would be spent was met with praise and opposition. Residents will not get a say in how to best distribute the funding, according to 9th Ward Alderman Cicely Fleming.

“Myself and lots of residents have voiced concern about the money going directly to a bank mortgage or contract lender,” she said.

Fleming spoke about the proposed housing initiative in Evanston that would help counteract historically discriminatory housing practices.

“As a housing program I think it’s great,” she said. “As a reparations program, it falls very flat to me.”

Some residents agreed.

“I think what’s being proposed is admirable but doesn’t quite rise to the stature of what most people understand as reparations,” one man said.

But the counter argument for many was that the resolution was a start.

“We’re talking about 4% of a $10 million budget,” one woman said. “Wisdom of the ages says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Journey Shannon owns a business in town and says she is firmly behind the approved allocation.

“You have to start some place and if you oppose it, what are you suggesting?” she asked.

Her friend and Evanston resident Kevin Nelson agrees.

“We’re looking at leveling the playing field of giving Black people another opportunity,” he said.

Shannon says there is plenty of time to look at how best the rest of the money can be spent.

“What I would like to see is new programs established for people to learn new trades and new skills,” she said. “But we don’t all need a check. Some of us just need to learn how to be better business people.”

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