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By Torsheta Jackson, Yes Magazine

Cities like Evanston, Illinois, and Asheville, North Carolina, are paving the way for local reparations in the absence of a federal plan.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons

Residents of Evanston, Illinois, filed into the Evanston Township High School Auditorium for the reparations committee’s regular meeting on Jan. 11, 2024. People braved the cold winter weather to wait patiently through the meeting’s public comments, musical performances, and education sessions for the announcement of the order in which the next set of residents would receive their reparations funds.

“This information will be available starting Tuesday or Wednesday of next week on the web page and also at 311,” announced Robin Rue Simmons, chair of the Evanston Reparations Committee. “So city staff will be available outside to tell you what your selection number is if you can’t see them on the screen.”

An Excel spreadsheet with unique identifiers for the 454 direct descendants eligible for the second round of housing reparations benefits was projected onto a wall, illuminating the dark space. A gleeful countdown and a click of the sort button prompted cheers and applause from the crowd. The document scrolled for several minutes while residents searched for their numbers on the list.

“The number [doesn’t] matter,” Rue Simmons told the audience. “What matters is the ranking. What place you will be.”

Evanston is the first city in the United States to make financial reparations to its Black residents. Through its Restorative Housing Program, the city gives $25,000 to eligible residents for mortgage assistance, renovations, or a down payment on a home. A later city council vote added a direct cash payment.

Rue Simmons, a former Evanston alderwoman, learned of the local harm to the Black community during her tenure as an elected official. She concluded that the only acceptable legislative tool to advance justice for the Black community was reparations, and thereafter proposed a reparations program in 2019.

Read Simmons’ words.

Politicians like Simmons propose reparations for descendants of victims of slavery.

We frequently post articles about reparations in our breaking news archive.

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