"We need to heal as a community, but specific to reparations, the Black community needs to heal

About 30 Evanston residents gathered at Evanston's Civic Center last Thursday for the second meeting of the reparations subcommittee. They were joined by a film crew headed by Whitney Dow who is producing a documentary, in partnership with Erika alexander (best know at Pam Tucker on "The Cosby Show" and Maxine on "Living Single"), that will follow Evanston's journey to the implementation of reparations.

At the meeting, Robin Rue Simmons 5th Ward Alderman provided a timeline for next steps in the process with a goal of submitting recommendations to City Council in early June, and residents offered suggestions and asked questions during public comment.

Rue Simmons encouraged community groups to continue meeting to discuss reparations and to share their feedback with the subcommittee so that its recommendations to City Council will reflect the community's input.

Soon, Rue Simmons said, there will be a facilitator's guide available on the City's website so anyone who wants to run a discussion group will have the tools to do so--as well as a way to submit comments.

In addition, feedback that's already been submitted from community members will be available on the website, listed under categories such as workforce development, entrepreneurship, home ownership, education and infrastructure, and mental health.


Each meeting will focus on a specific topic and will also include ongoing reports from community outreach groups.

-- Friday, February 21, 12:30 p.m. Focus on housing and redlining, and create guidelines for how housing funding will be spent and who will receive it.

-- Friday, March 6, 12:30 p.m. Include community outreach groups to gather information from their meetings.

-- Friday, March 20, 12:30 p.m. Focus on financing/local banks and discuss which banks the committee can parter with.

-- Friday, April 3, 12:30 p.m. Focus on mental health and emotional healing in Evanston, begin to develop an initiative or plan, and begin applying the plan to the community (possible forum or town hall).

-- Friday, April 17, 12:30 p.m. Focus on partnering with local businesses and discuss their involvement.

-- Friday, May 1, 12:30 p.m. Focus on all areas of reparations, confirm local business partnerships, discuss feedback from the mental health forum or town hall.

-- Friday, May 15, evening Community Town Hall to discuss community outreach outcomes.

"By the time we have the second town hall, we will have met with institutional donors, potential donors, and with banks, Northwestern University, hospitals, real estate," said Ald. Ann Rainey, who is on the subcommittee. "And we will be able to make a report on who’s inclined to support us and who needs a little more lobbying."

-- Friday, June 5, 12:30 p.m. Finalize reports and submit recommendations to City Council.


Here are some of the voices from the meeting. You can watch the whole meeting in the video below.

Cindy Levitt, a 44-year resident of Evanston who is white, offered to help reach out to banks and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Cindy told the story about how she and her husband were unknowingly steered by a realtor when, in their 20s, they purchased their first house, and how learning about racism in Evanston led her to go back to school for a degree in multicultural education to teach people about racism and white privilege.

"I was renting a coach house at that point. I had identified a home that I liked on Asbury near Oakton. And I didn’t know what racial steering was at the time, but the realtor was like hmmm, I don’t know, I think you may never get your money out of that. I think it would be better if I showed you some houses in northwest Evanston. My ex-husband and I bought a house and lived in northwest Evanston for 29 years.

Fast forward to the early ‘90s I was recruited to be on the Evanston Human Relations Commission and got a really great education about a number of things, including fair housing. Because at that point, we were the administrators for the Fair Housing Ordinance, and it was like a bell rang in my head when we learned about racial steering. And all of a sudden, I was like, Oh my God, that happened to me and I didn’t even know it. That’s how smooth it can be for someone white who’s unaware and doesn’t have a lot of money. Didn’t even see it."

Carlis Sutton, lifelong Evanston resident

"I think the most immediate response would be to senior homeowners, and I think that by giving them incentives to repair their homes, or to help them with their taxes, like you do with businesses when they come here, would be much more effective at this time one, to continue with black ownership in Evanston and two, black residency in Evanston."

Roberta Hudson, Evanston resident

"I’ve talked to a number of the seniors in our community and they’re struggling now to repair their homes. In fact, one told me recently, 'I’m going to have to leave Evanston.' We need to deal with that almost immediately because I can go within two blocks of where I live and there are people that are having problems."

Tina Paden, Evanston landlord

"Our neighborhood has changed rapidly, and it continues to change rapidly. We have about 5,000 affordable housing committees and meetings. But it’s not going to change unless you listen to the landlords that are providing in the affordable housing. These buildings that you approved only have 15 units with one bedroom or studios. That’s not going to help the families that need help in Evanston. There’s a lot of Black people that need housing in Evanston and have children in Evanston, and I’ve worked with a lot of the social workers and they don’t have any place to go.

Sometimes you give agencies money, and they can't find a place to place them. And you get money from developers because they don't want to put up affordable housing, and so then where are you going to put the people once you get the money? We've lost 7,000 affordable units in the past 10 years. How many have you put back into the community? How many affordable units do you have with two, three and four bedrooms? That’s what we need to address. And if you do not help the landlords like myself, you will have no one. Because I won’t be able to afford it either, because you’re not helping me or landlords like myself. You're saying, 'reparations,' but we won't be here soon and there'll be none of us here for reparations."

Ms. Brenda Greer, 71 years old, retired data entry worker

"I've lived in Evanston all but three years of my life. I did have to move when the rent started increasing. I left Evanston and I lived in Skokie. I didn’t like it. I got out of their fast and start renting from the Padens for 10 years. Due to the fact that I got Section 8 certificate, I ended up being able to find an apartment, but then I could not move into it. I had a certificate that would’ve paid for the first month’s rent, but I did not have the security. I could not move into the apartment and technically I would have lost it. Had it not been for Connections for the Homeless that put up my security and the first month’s rent for me, I would have lost it and I would have been homeless.

"So, I find that there is a lot of discrimination within finding apartments still. And then also there is embedded redlining within Cook County Housing Authority, because when I was looking for apartments, there was a program that would have given me the security deposit to move into the apartment, but I had to move to south Evanston. They would’ve paid my first month’s security, moving expenses, and security deposit had I moved over to Main and Sherman, but they would not give me the money for the unit at 1620 Foster. So a lot of discrimination within the government also."