Evanston, Ill., leads country with first reparations program for black residents

The Evanston City Council approved the first phase of reparations to acknowledge the harm caused by discriminatory housing policies, practices and inaction going back more than a century. The 8-to-1 vote will initially make $400,000 available in $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants, as well as in mortgage assistance for Black residents, primarily those can show they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from such discrimination.

The housing money is part of a larger $10 million package approved for continued reparations initiatives, which will be funded by income from annual cannabis taxes over the next decade. Black residents make up about 16 percent of Evanston’s population of 75,000…

“It’s a first tangible step,” said Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, who represents the largely African American Fifth Ward and has been a key force on the program. “It is alone not enough. It is not full repair alone in this one initiative. But we all know that the road to repair injustice in the Black community will be a generation of work. . . . I’m excited to know more voices will come to the process.”