Evanston To Use Cannabis Revenue For Reparations For African Americans

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Recreational cannabis becomes legal on Jan. 1 in Illinois. Evanston plans a reparations fund to address racism and historic discrimination against African Americans. Image created by Moguldom

Cannabis will become legal for recreational use on Jan. 1 in Illinois and the city of Evanston plans to use the tax revenue to create a reparations fund that addresses historic discrimination against African-American residents, CBS Local Chicago reported.

The city’s Black population has been in decline, falling from 22.5 percent in 2000 to 16.9 percent in 2017, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Evanston plans to divert 100 percent of the 3 percent tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales and allocate up to $10 million to a separate fund in a city account for local reparations.

The goal is to compensate for redlining and other government and private- sector activities that discriminated against Black People, Evanston Now reported.

In addition, voluntary contributions will be solicited for the fund set up under the program.

No other city in the U.S. has created a reparations fund of this kind, and it could become a model for other cities, said Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who helped get the resolution approved by the City Council.

“This is the first that I’ve heard of in the nation,” Rue Simmons said. “I’m hoping that it will be a model that other localities will explore.”

Located twelve miles north of downtown Chicago, Evanston has a history of redlining and wage disparities. Its neighborhoods were divided based on race and economics, and the impact is still felt today, according to Rue Simmons.

“We were intentionally targeted,” Rue Simmons said. “The law, the policy, the actions, the culture of the community, intentionally excluded Black residents. I’m offering no apologies. This is for Black Evanston residents.”

Evanston has an 18.1-percent Black population, according to the 2010 census.

The goal of the reparations fund is to help African Americans thrive in Evanston, Jermont Terry reported for CBS 2.

With the $10 million reparations fund, the city plans to encourage minority business startups and help longtime residents, ultimately eliminating the wage disparity for residents like Toly Walker, a lifelong Evanston resident who cannot afford to own a home there, CBS reported.

Walker watched the city’s Reparations Resolution closely. With two master’s degrees, she said she has what it takes to get ahead but feels being Black and living in Evanston made it difficult to get over the financial hump.

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“Despite the fact that I was born and raised here, and I live here, and I’m raising my kids here, I could not afford to buy here,” she said.

Many of the city’s Black residents support the unprecedented fund, including a retired teacher Oliver Ruff , who said it could repair past wrongs.

“I support the approval of the ordinance for the city of Evanston to commit all of the anticipated tax revenue from the recreational marijuana businesses, to support work aimed at intentionally repairing harms done to the Black community from policies and practices in so many different areas,” Evanston resident Ruff said.

Not everyone approves.

“I guess it’s time to leave Evanston,” a resident commented on EvanstonNow. “This reparation is illegal and unfair to all the other races in Evanston, and will just lead to animosity among the races.”

However, Rue Simmons told her colleagues Monday night that the thousands of local government officials at last week’s National League of Cities meeting “were in awe of us” when members of the Evanston delegation described the racial reparations program the city council has adopted.