Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has announced the launch of a new subcommittee that will allocate $500,000 of the city’s 2024 budget to study reparations, local Chicago station WTTW reports.
The new panel comes after the idea of how to give reparations to residents of the city who are the descendants of enslaved African Americans was opposed three years ago.
At a news conference on Thursday (Nov 9), Johnson spoke about the groundbreaking work to create the panel and its potential impact on Black Chicagoans.
“These are the first dollars spent in this city to begin the process of studying both restoration and reparations,” Johnson said in a statement. “When residents who have experienced neglect and disinvestment for generations speak out of their pain and their trauma, this administration and the Black Caucus we hear you.”
Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th Ward), who's the chair of the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus said that the panel would have met for a year, and then it would become a full commission.
“We are laying the groundwork” to do more than just talk about the issue, Coleman said.
Under the administration of former mayor Lori Lightfoot, Coleman served as the chair of the Subcommittee on Reparations in its inception in June 2020 but the mayor was against creating a full commission to study reparations.
The 16-member commission would have been tasked to examine “the racial gaps in homeownership, educational funding, health care, [and] government contracts” and give annual reports.
Instead of a commission, Lightfoot endorsed the formation of a subcommittee claiming it could get off the ground “quickly” while accomplishing the same work as a commission.
After meeting only twice, Coleman could not procure funding for the committee in 2022 and 2023.
Johnson’s administration has fully endorsed the study of reparations describing the panel as “working to right the wrongs of the past.”
“This is not a zero-sum game,” Johnson said. “We will invest in people and provide for every single Chicagoan.”
Another Illinois town preceded Chicago in its query about reparations when the suburb of Evanston became the first city in the nation to approve reparations to Black residents.
According to the city’s legislation, those who can prove their lineage in the Black community between 1919 and 1969, and those who were victims of housing discrimination after 1969 — “would be eligible for $25,000 toward mortgage payments, home repairs, down payments on property or other housing-related expenses.”
In 2019, Evanston officials allocated $10 million in revenue from cannabis sales to assist Black residents in purchasing homes through mortgage assistance programs and fund home improvements as part of an effort to offer reparations to the descendants of enslaved African Americans.
In March, the City Council unanimously passed an expansion of the legislation to provide $25,000 in “no-strings-attached direct cash payments” for those eligible Black residents.
Coleman said Chicago would create a similar plan to use revenue from cannabis sales, and to require businesses” to comply with a 20-year-old law by disclosing whether they profited from slavery.”
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