On Monday, Evanston, Ill., is set to become the first American city to provide reparations to some of its Black residents. While local leadership praises the plan, many Black residents across the city, who make up just over 18 percent of the population, are divided on how the final program has taken shape.
ROSE CANNON: Well, I'm an old lady. I want to see reparations before I die here. And I intend to see it. I intend to see it done exactly like it should be done.
My name is Rose Cannon. And I'm one of the founding members of Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations here in Evanston. I love reparations. But I do not love this version that Evanston is trying to pass as reparations. So I'm in resistance to it.
This movement for reparations started in 2019 sometime. Somewhere along the line, it changed from I want cash money to no, we're going to offer you this housing program. So I'm what they call a qualified legacy entitled resident. So that means myself and one other son would be entitled to $25,000 each. I would get $25,000, and he would get $25,000. However, somewhere along the line after this reparations stakeholder authority took hold over everything, it turned into this housing program where I can only get $25,000.
And it never touches my hand. It has to go to me taking out a mortgage with a bank, number one, or number two, taking that money to be used and refurbishing a house, which I no longer have-- I rent now-- or number three, paying down an existing mortgage. So literally, we would never get to touch our $25,000. It would go straight into the banking system that has virtually killed all of us in this city.
ROBIN RUE SIMMONS: My name is Robin Rue Simmons. And I'm the Fifth Ward Alderman in Evanston. I introduced reparations as a way to advance tangible, measurable redress in the Black community, which had historically been disinvested and disenfranchised like every other city in America.
No one believes that this alone is full repair, that this alone is sufficient, or it's adequate, or it is justice. But it is the first step. And a first step must be taken. There is a group that is well organized and using their legitimate political organizing and marketing acumen to partner with other anti-reparation movements nationally to disrupt what we're doing in Evanston.
But the overwhelming amount of outreach that we hear from residents here in Evanston and beyond that have relocated supporting this, proud of our city, this should be inspiration. There is no blueprint because every city injury in history is going to be different. Every city's data is going to be different. So there is no blueprint. But this certainly has inspired already other cities to advance reparation initiatives and states.
SEBASTIAN NALLS: My name's Sebastian Nalls. I'm a former mayoral candidate here in Evanston. I've lived here my entire life. And I'm one of the founding members of Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations. The current reparations program isn't enough.
From the conversations I had with residents, they expressed that they felt that this program wasn't inclusive enough, that their voices weren't being heard. If residents are not being listened to, that's a problem in and of itself. And we can't even begin to have those conversations about what reparations look like going forward.
I know cash payments were originally discussed. And I know that's what a lot of residents wanted. Their reasoning for not wanting cash payments is because ultimately they would be taxed by the IRS. And I think that there are a varying amount of options that can be done to circumvent such an issue, whether that's universal basic income for-- for certain residents or providing direct stimulus and providing other public goods to the community as well.