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Evanston, IL Transfers $17M to Black-Owned Bank for Reparations

todayApril 19, 2024

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Evanston, IL Transfers $17M to Black-Owned Bank for Reparations

In a significant move towards economic justice, the city of Evanston, Illinois has recently transferred $17 million of its reparations fund to Liberty Bank and Trust, a Black-owned financial institution. According to a recent article in Essence, this transfer is being hailed as a “very, very big deal” by Robin Rue Simmons, the chair of Evanston’s Reparations Committee.

Evanston made history in 2019 by becoming the first city in the United States to enact a government-funded reparations program specifically designed to address and atone for the systemic injustices endured by its Black residents. The program, which initially offered $25,000 grants to eligible Black residents for home purchases, repairs, or mortgage payments, aims to narrow the racial wealth gap and provide a measure of economic justice.

To be eligible for the reparations program, Black residents must have lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or be direct descendants of those who were affected by the city’s discriminatory housing policies, particularly redlining. The program is funded by a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales, with a goal of distributing $10 million over a 10-year period.

The decision to transfer a significant portion of the reparations fund to Liberty Bank and Trust is seen as a way to multiply the impact of the program. As Simmons explains, “$17 million in a Black bank is going to give more lending power and access to Black businesses, Black mortgages that are fair and other forms of support.” Liberty Bank and Trust, valued at $1 billion, has already demonstrated its commitment to the community by providing services for first-time homebuyers who used their reparations grants for mortgages and offering 100% refinancing on predatory loans.

As the first city-led reparations program in the nation, Evanston’s efforts have inspired other local governments to explore similar initiatives. Cities like Asheville, North Carolina, and St. Paul, Minnesota have established reparations task forces or commissions to study the issue and develop proposals. These cities aim to address the historical injustices faced by their Black communities and develop strategies to promote economic equity and opportunity.

While Evanston’s reparations program has faced some criticism for its narrow scope and the debate surrounding race-based initiatives, it has nonetheless inspired over 100 municipalities across the country to consider similar programs. Twyla Blackmond Larnell, an associate professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago, emphasizes the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses and maintaining a strong Black population in the city to create a thriving and inclusive community.

As the nation grapples with the ongoing impacts of systemic racism, Evanston’s groundbreaking reparations program and its recent partnership with Liberty Bank and Trust serve as a model for local governments seeking to address historical injustices and promote economic equity. While the path forward may be complex and challenging, Evanston’s efforts have reignited the conversation around reparations and demonstrated the potential for meaningful change at the local level.


Written by: Tarik Moody

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