"There is no turning back. The door’s open and the lid has been lifted off the box."

-- Kamm Howard, National Co-Chair, NAARC, on the local and national push toward reparations.


Housing and education reparations, funded by weed tax, discussed at third Town Hall.


Evanston's third Town Hall on Reparations took place last Thursday, August 27, in the shadow of the police shooting in Kenosha, WI, of Jacob Blake, whose grandfather Jacob Blake served as pastor of Ebenezer AME Church and who was a civil rights activist for fair housing in Evanston.



The event, hosted by Robin Rue Simmons 5th Ward Alderman, included speakers:


Dino Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center;

Oliver A. Ruff and Henry Wilkins of STEM School- Evanston;

Kamm Howard of National African American Reparations Commission - NAARC;

Rev. Dr Iva E. Carruthers, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC);

Dr. Ron Daniels, Institute of Black World 21st Century and administrator for NAARC;

Attorney and social justice leader Nkechi Taifa;

Actor and UN Ambassador Danny Glover;

Spencer Jourdain, sustainability consultant, author, and son of the late Edwin B. Jourdain, Evanston's 5th ward Alderman


Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, sponsor of the Federal Reparations bill HB40, was scheduled to speak, but Hurricane Laura had her attending to her constituents in Texas.

In November of 2019, the City of Evanston passed a resolution restricting the first $10 million of cannabis sales tax--three percent on every sale of adult cannabis--to fund reparations for the Black community in Evanston. Adult-use weed became legal on January 1, 2020.


The City also established a fund for individual contributions to its reparations initiative.


At last week's meeting, more specific plans were announced to advance the first remedies, beginning with housing and a 5th ward STEM school, with hopes, said Ald. Robin Rue Simmons who has spearheaded the initiative, of awarding benefits in early 2021 at the latest.


"Until recently when you heard reparations, it generally referred to HR 40, a federal slavery reparation goal," Rue Simmons said at the start of the town hall, "but recently cities across America have begun to take local actions to repair damages in the Black community from years of institutional and structural Black racial oppression. Our city has led the way."


There's a $46,000 economic divide or household-income divide between black and white Evanston, Rue Simmons said, which is expected to grow given the devastating impact of Covid-19.


Speakers, including Rue Simmons and NAARC's Kamm Howard, emphasized that local reparations initiatives are not at odds with the push for federal reparations.


"As we work towards repair in Evanston, we are in full support of HR 40 and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s leadership," said Rue Simmons. "I'm really excited to share that HR 40 has more sponsors in the House and the Senate than ever in its history."


In fact, Rue Simmons said, in 2002 then-Alderman Lionel Jean Baptiste, now a NAARC commissioner, led the passage of a resolution in support of HR40.


"Today, more and more Americans are coming to the realization and understanding that a tremendous debt is owed to the African American community," Kamm Howard said. "In a recent national poll, 90 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of all Americans favor some form of reparations."


Rue Simmons emphasized that Evanston's reparations initiative is not just about compensation, though financial repair is crucial to make up for the wealth that has been stripped from Black Evanstonians. But, she said, "we're also pursuing full reparations, which includes cessation, assurance of non-repetition, restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and satisfaction."


After several community meetings last summer the reparations subcommittee--Ald. Rue Simmons, Ald. Ann Rainey, and Ald. Peter Braithwaite--received feedback from residents on what reparations in Evanston would look like to them.


Housing remedy


"Due to housing zoning policy that discriminated and oppressed the Black community that stripped away wealth, we advanced housing as a priority," said Rue Simmons.


Ald. Braithwaite describe the subcommittee's proposed housing remedy, which will offer up to $25,000 in assistance to eligible residents to use to purchase a home in Evanston, or to rehab a home in Evanston, or to help qualified residents catch up on their mortgage or abate their taxes.


"We still have some some work to do to finalize the program," said Ald. Braithwaite, "the administration, the application process, and finally a presentation to our city council."


Eligible residents, Braithwaite explained, are Black Evanston residents who have experienced discrimination or are tied to families that have experienced discriminations at the hands of the City of Evanston. They must be direct descendants of those Evanstonians who lived in town between 1919 and 1969 when the City, either discriminated or failed to stop housing discrimination.


Education remedy


Oliver Ruff and Henry Wilkins, members of the Education Subcommittee, offered an update on educational repair.


Ruff said that for the short-term, the education subcommittee will push to bring Black history to the classroom.


"With the recent police killings, folks are more empathetic to teaching more B