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By Lee Brown
A suburb of Chicago has become the first to start paying reparations to qualifying black residents in what is being seen as “a test run for the whole country.”
The city of Evanston has already paid 16 locals from a $10 million package first approved in 2019, the Evanston RoundTable said Monday.
“I see it as like a test run for the whole country,” Justin Hansford, head of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University, told the paper.
Those qualifying had to be at least 18 and living in the city between 1919 and 1969, when the city passed a fair-housing ordinance, the WSJ said.
The $10 million fund was initially supposed to come from tax cash from legal marijuana sales. When that proved too slow, the council agreed to allot real estate transfer tax money from properties worth more than $1 million.
Evanston expects to pay $25,000 each to 140 qualifying residents by the end of the year.APJustin Hansford called the Evanston payouts “like a test run for the whole country.”
So far, just under $1.2 million has been gathered for it, Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager, told a meeting last week.
Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said the city is not concerned over whether reparations are paid out elsewhere, including at the federal level.
“Our job here is just to move forward and to continue being that example, to continue illustrating that a small municipality can make real tangible progress,” he told the WSJ.
Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said the city will “move forward” and “continue being that example” no matter what the rest of the US does.
Those who qualify had to be at least 18 and living in the city between 1919 and 1969, when the city passed a fair-housing ordinance, the WSJ said.
Still, not everyone is satisfied with the pioneering payouts.
Local civil rights activist Bennett Johnson told a recent meeting that the $25,000 was not enough — and the 1969 cutoff year “totally arbitrary” given that black people were “discriminated” against long after that.
Kenneth Wideman, a 77-year-old Vietnam vet eligible for a cash payout, also told the WSJ: “We have not received real reparations, the 40 acres and a mule.”
However, Ramona Burton, 74 — who used her $25,000 to upgrade the home she’s lived in since the 1970s — called it “a good start.”
“It’s better than a blank,” she told the paper.