The 21st Show

Best of: Evanston began issuing reparations years ago. So, what’s next for Illinois and America?

A person walks a dog past a street sign reading

A person walks a dog past a street sign reading "Welcome to Evanston" in the predominantly Black 5th Ward in Evanston, Ill., Tuesday, May 4, 2021. AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar

Three years ago this month, the Chicago suburb Evanston made national headlines when its city council approved what it called a reparations program.

The idea was that revenue from the city's tax on marijuana would go to a small number of its residents, $25,000 each. They would be allowed to use the money on mortgage payments, home down payments, and home repairs.

Starting last year, a fourth option appeared in the form of a direct cash payment. 

There are some who say what Evanston is doing isn't nearly enough, and shouldn't be considered reparations. Conversely, other cities in Illinois and around the country are looking to Evanston as a model.


Robin Rue Simmons
Former Alderwoman, Evanston; Founder, executive director, FirstRepair
Jeff Trask 
Chair, Champaign-Urbana Reparations Coalition
Adjunct Professor, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Alvin Tillery
Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, Northwestern University

A version of this conversation was first broadcast December 11, 2023.