'There's no plan going forward': Evanston's reparations resolution prompts debate over current proposal

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Sunday, March 7, 2021
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The city of Evanston plans to put the money generated from the sale of recreational marijuana into a reparations fund that will be used for investment into the African American community and to make amends for racial inequalities.

EVANSTON (WLS) -- Evanston made headlines as the first city in the country to fund reparations for Black residents, but going forward, how to best use those funds has been up for debate.

"Reparations are meant to close the racial wealth gap. The program that the City of Evanston is offering does not do that," said community activist Kevin Brown.

RELATED: Evanston plans to use revenue from recreational marijuana for reparations

The Reparations Resolution was first passed nearly two years ago, spearheaded by 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons and endorsed by the National African American Reparations Commission.

"This is an initial tangible first step in Evanston, recognizing it's not nearly enough," Simmons said.

The first initiative of the $10 million plan is the Restorative Housing Reparations program that would distribute up to $25,000 for housing per eligible resident with funding expected to come from a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales.

"We've proposed the use for the first $400,000, that is directly in line with both community feedback that was often around housing discrimination practices and other anti-Black housing policy," Simmons said.

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"This housing program is not what reparations mean. It's not all-inclusive. There's no plan going forward," said Sebastian Nall, Organizer for Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations.

"Just putting money into a loan is not true reparations," added Sarah Bogan with Evanston Fight for Black Lives.

Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations organized a demonstration Saturday, calling for city hall to take a second look at the program before voting on it this month.

"We ask that the city council either take the time to rename the current proposal from something other than reparations or pass it on to the next city council coming into office in May," Nalls said.

SEE ALSO: How the 1st US city to fund reparations for Black residents is making amends

Demonstrators said the program as-is is incomplete, and while they are behind the idea of reparations, this group said a second look is needed in order to set a better nationwide precedent.

"We're leaving the door open for a lot of interpretation on what reparations actually means and that's unacceptable," Nalls said.

But Simmons clarifies this program is only the first step and acknowledged that there is more work ahead.

"We know we're so far from perfect. We know we have a lifetime of work ahead of us, and we encourage those that are disgruntled and not satisfied to join us because we're also not satisfied," she said.

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