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Chicago suburb to become first US city to pay reparations to black residents

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The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, is about to become the first US city to make reparation money available to Black residents. Part of a growing movement that has picked up speed in the wake of police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd last year, the decision by Evanston officials could also lay the groundwork for other municipalities and states considering reparations.

“It doesn’t mean every city will do it exactly as Evanston has done, but there’s a blueprint there,” Ron Daniels, who oversees the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) said.

The Evanston city council voted 8-1 Monday night, 22 March, to start with an expenditure of $400,000 to give 16 eligible Black households $25,000 each to be spent on home repairs or down payments on properties.

Funded by a new tax on legalized marijuana, the council previously committed $10 million over 10 years to repair the ongoing harm that systemic racism has caused Evanston’s Black residents, with the housing initiative its first step. About 16% of Evanston residents are Black.

National advocacy groups that advised Evanston on its action expressed optimism that other cities and states would follow suit, leading to further pressure for national legislation.

The effort in Evanston was led by Robin Rue Simmons, an alderwoman who will join the commission when her term ends.

Ongoing mortgage discrimination in Evanston and other parts of the country justify tackling years of abusive housing practices in any reparations program, according to Howard. “We brought in experts to look at current conditions to justify a housing initiative as a first initiative,” he said of his group’s work in the suburb just north of Chicago.

Evanston’s plan came up short in the eyes of some local residents and one council member. Alderwoman Cicely Fleming voted against the resolution, arguing that it is a housing program masquerading as reparations. She cast the only negative vote.

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