Of course, because of the pandemic, the celebration was virtual, with a (very!) long car parade past the church, at 1524 Simpson St., led by Evanston Police Department cars and Evanston Fire Department trucks. Pastor Dillard, among his many roles in Evanston, is a chaplain with EFD. He also serves on the City's Equity and Empowerment Commission and on the Reparations Stakeholders Authority, a group of Black leaders and community members that will administer reparations funds. First Church of God was the venue for the first Reparations Town Hall, which took place in December 2019.
Before the parade, I spoke to Pastor Dillard and asked him what the past 10 years have meant to him.
"The last decade has been an amazing journey. Moving my family to the Evanston community, getting integrated initially as the leader of my congregation, and now having been able to be a leader in our community has been tremendous," he said.
I asked him what challenges and accomplishments he's seen in Evanston in the past decade.
"Evanston is a community of tremendous accomplishments and promise. Like anywhere, there are still things where we're working out, but I'm proud of the upward trajectory that that our church, and myself as a leader, and our city, has been able to continue to accomplish," he said.
"One of the things I've appreciated about the city of Evanston, is that the acknowledgement level, though probably challenging to get there on some levels, has these last several years seemed to be something that people are willing to get to. Until we first say hey, these are problems, we can't begin to put the action steps necessary towards fixing them.
A lot of communities live in denial. They reject acknowledgement, they refuse to acknowledge that certain realities are true for certain people. I appreciate that the city of Evanston has shown itself to not shy away from acknowledgement. I'm not here to suggest that we do that perfectly, but I'm proud to see the things that I've seen and been able to be a part of it this last 10 years."
I asked Pastor Dillard how he feels work toward reparations in Evanston in progressing.
"I think that our city being a model, having been the first city to pass that reparations work, will go down in history as one thing that we will always be known for," he said.
"I think the progress in many ways has been right, what it will be for anybody who is creating a blueprint as you go. This was a new trail being blazed. So you have to craft it and curate it and created as you go. The truth is, whenever you're the first to do something, you're writing the playbook. Hopefully the learnings that the city of Evanston has had through this process, other cities will be able to benefit from. Whenever you are trailblazers, you kind of grow as you go."
Lifelong resident Leticia Barge, 72, was on hand for the celebration. She lives at Jacob Blake Manor, which she chose because it's walking distance to the church.
"I've never sat up under a more annointed man," she said of Pastor Dillard. "I have learned so much. He has taught me to apply the word, live the word, and allow the word to change me. He's such a valuable asset to Evanston."
Minister Neticia Waldron, a member of First Church and author of Worship and Warfare: A Navigational Tool for Spiritual Victory, said Pastor Dillard is wise beyond his years.
"He has a lot of influence in our community and we come with excitement to say thank you for his dedicated service. He has shown us that even if you're young you can do it. He brings hope, and charisma, and confidence that all things are possible," she said.
Watch a clip from the first Reparations Town Hall.
Read about the HELPS conference Pastor Dillard holds each year to encourage everyone to live to their fullest potential, whether they are cut out to serve as leaders, or to contribute behind the scenes.