Senior Older and Wiser By June Michel

40 ACRES AND A MULE. We cannot leave Women's History Month without talking about Alderman Robin Rue Simmons who together with the Evanston City Council developed a program to start reparation payments to Black families for discriminatory practices by the city. It's known as the Evanston initiative. This historic program seeks to make reparation for slavery and racial discrimination in the application of local property laws.

HOW DID EVANSTON DECIDE ON HOUSING? The city held countless meetings, town halls and conducted surveys asking the residents for suggestions. Really, this is a huge question. How does a government decide what and how much it would take to undo the effects of slavery? When Evanston evaluated the feedback, the overwhelming demand was for housing. This demand was reinforced by a study showing that discriminatory property practices in Evanston had systematically deprived housing opportunities to Black residents.

HOW WERE THE RECIPIENTS SELECTED? Evanston prioritized descendants of Evanston residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 or suffered housing discrimination after 1969. This is a beginning. It isn't the total answer and this city's initiative certainly won't reach every person injured. Importantly, the Evanston initiative is being closely watched by other cities including Seattle. Just imagine if the City of Seattle started a program like the Evanston initiative and compensated Black families that were impacted by redlining and gentrification. Even starting small, such a program would have far reaching results.

WHERE DID THE MONEY COME FROM? The Evanston project is funded with $10 million raised from donations and revenue from the city's sales tax on recreational marijuana.

THERE SHOULD BE A NATIONAL REPARATION PROGRAM. Well, we have good news and bad. The bad news is that every session since 1996 Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, has reintroduced HR40, but the bill never gathered the traction it has today. We definitely need to keep our eyes on HR40, it would create a commission to examine reparation proposals for the African American descendants of slavery. The good news is that this may finally be the right time for this bill. President Biden has stated his support for a commission to study reparation proposals

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