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Evanston, Illinois will begin distributing reparations to Black residents this year

Qualified applicants will receive up to $25,000 for housing.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

As the national quest to grant reparations to the ancestors of slaves continues in the form of H.R. 40, a city in Illinois will begin to distribute payments to its eligible Black residents this year.

According to ABC News, Evanston, IL is the first city in the country to pass the monumental legislation providing reparations for Black people. The $10 million plan was passed nearly two years ago, and it includes incremental payments worth up to $25,000 specifically allocated for housing purposes.

Black residents and their kin that lived in Evanston during redlining will be the only applicants qualified for the funds. The city is using a 3% tax on legal marijuana sales to finance the reparations.

At the helm of Evanston’s groundbreaking initiative is 5th Ward’s Alderman Robin Rue Simmons.

“The only legislative response for us to reconcile the damages in the Black community is reparations,” Rue Simmons said. “I was looking at data. I was looking at what we had done, what more we could do, and reparations was the only answer.”

The ramifications of redlining in the Evanston community during the 1940s continued for decades, as Black families were consistently denied loans for housing by banks, the article states. The discriminatory practice pinned the city’s Black population — away from white families — into the 5th Ward.

“The historic redlining impacts our community today,” Rue Simmons said. “That map still is the map of our concentrated Black community, our disinvestment, our inferior infrastructure.”

Recent U.S. Census data shows the disparities are still prevalent. White people in Evanston make almost 2x more money and live in homes worth double the amount of value of their Black neighbors. Rue Simmons believes the city’s Black population has been decimated by redlining as well. Black residents currently make up 16% of Evanston’s community.

As the city prepares to begin distributing the payments this spring, Rue Simmons believes, $25,000 is life-saving for some families right now and will be helpful. “But relative to the injury, it’s not nearly enough,” she said.

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