Is justice on the way?
By Taya Coates|Contributing Writer
We are approaching the anniversary of summer 2020, the setting for many murders at the hands of police brutality and the riveting protests that followed. While the initial response to protests was an overflow of tweets and performative activism, almost a year later real results are beginning to emerge.
The city of Evanston, Illinois recently voted to approve its plan to give out reparations for Black citizens. The chair for this initiative is 5th Ward City council representative Robin Sue Simmons, who has been campaigning for the initiative since 2019. The first action was Resolution 126-R-19, which “committed the first ten million dollars ($10,000,000.00) of the City’s Municipal Cannabis Retailers’ Occupation Tax (3% on gross sales of cannabis) to fund local reparations for housing and economic development programs for Black Evanston residents.” The next step in the initiative is putting in place systems to aid with housing problems that disproportionately affect the Black community in the city. Instead of giving citizens cash reparations that would be liable to tax interception, the reparations are planned to go directly to the financial institutions. Funds are available for three initiatives, Home Ownership, Home Improvement, and Mortage Assistance. Information on how to qualify and apply is coming in future weeks for the community.
A week before that, Amalgamated Bank’s statement to endorse HR-40 proposed the creation of a federal commission to investigate how to counteract the effects of slavery that descendants are fighting every day. The bill was reintroduced to the house by Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) in January 2021. HR-40 currently has over 170 cosponsors and has received the verbal support of President Biden and Vice President Harris. The company expressed its willingness to help by stating, “Amalgamated also acknowledges the deep roots connecting the financial sector to the American slave economy. Banks and lenders played a key role in not only financing slavery, but in excluding Black people from financial resources by redlining, withholding investment into black-owned businesses, predatory lending practices, engaging in predatory payday lending, and charging exorbitant fees that trap people in a downward spiral of debt.” Home of many accomplishments such as being the first bank to offer free checking accounts to New York workers, the bank has a history of supporting the disadvantaged since its founding in 1923.
Media attention has hopefully inspired citizens, officials, and companies to consider contributing to the reparation effort. These historic motions have received national attention in recent weeks from the biggest outlets like CBS and CNN. The catalyst needed to set these efforts in stone is the support of higher-ups to bring these local efforts to a national level. While Biden has supported HR-40, his vow to “advance the economic mobility of African Americans and close the racial wealth and income gaps” is still missing a concrete plan. Assisting the advancement of reparations while the publicity could be a perfect start for his administration to fulfill their promise. While the damage done to the Black community can never truly be corrected, this is a great first step at attempting to fix the problems of the nation.