Tag Archives: Chicago

Cardinal Cupich: 5 steps to contrast growing violence in Chicago – Vatican News

By Lisa Zengarini

Amidst growing street violence in the city, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago has called on Catholics and “all people of good will” to resist the temptation to retreat to what they consider “a safe space”, but rather to engage in dialogue and listening.

Over 2000 people  shot in Chicago in 2021

The Chicago Police Department reported a record of 100 shootings during the Independence Day weekend holiday, with 14 dead, including 2 children, and 83 injured.  The shootings have raised more questions about security in the city. 2,019 people have been shot in Chicago as of July 4 2021, an increase of almost 13% over last year and a 58% increase in shootings compared with 2019.

A “spiritual crisis” 

Following the latest incidents, Cardinal Cupich has issued a Pastoral Letter reflecting on the issue and suggesting a possible way to invert this dangerous trend which threatens everybody. “Understandably, we want this horrifying situation resolved without delay”, he writes, recalling that Government leaders and community activists have offered many ideas, including “more effective policing, reforming the criminal justice system, stemming the flood of illegal guns, dismantling gangs, investment in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, strengthening education and shoring up family life”. On his part, Cardinal Cupich points to the underlying “spiritual crisis” that this violent and unstable situation has provoked.

We are inextricably connected with each other

“When violence prompts grief, fear, and a loss of hope, as it always does, people feel alienated from one another. On one level, the fractures appear to be along the lines of race, ethnicity, economic class, and political affiliation. But it runs much deeper than that”, he notes. “We seem unable or unwilling to comprehend that we are inextricably connected with each other”. “Yet we truly are all brothers and sisters to each other”, the prelate points out citing Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ and Martin Luther King’s words in 1964. “If we lose that sense of interconnectedness, we also lose our sense of compassion, empathy and responsibility for each other”.

Asking questions, listening, praying and staying connected 

As a way forward, Cardinal Cupich therefore suggests five steps. The first step is to “ask questions”, but being “prepared to authentically listen, even when what we are hearing proves painful”. The second step proposed is dialogue, that is seeking “honest exchanges with people of different backgrounds”, which helps mutual understanding and empathy. Cardinal Cupich also suggests praying, to ask for enlightenment and discerning God’s will.

“If you want peace, work for justice”

Finally, he recommends “staying connected”: “The great temptation during a time of crisis is to retreat to what we consider a safe space”, he says. “In fact, what we most need is to go out of our comfort zones and accompany one another, even when that calls for effort and even some risk”.

The letter concludes with the words of Psalm 91: God, my refuge,  and of Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Chicago Priest to Be Reinstated After Inquiry Finds Proof of Sex Abuse Lacking

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an influential Roman Catholic priest who temporarily stepped aside from his parish on the South Side of Chicago in January after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 40 years ago, will be reinstated after an internal investigation found “insufficient reason to suspect” he was guilty, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced on Monday.

In a letter to the Faith Community of St. Sabina, the parish where Father Pfleger is assigned, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said that the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board and its Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review, as well as outside investigators, had “conducted a thorough review of the allegations.”

“The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” the cardinal wrote. He said he accepted the decision and would reinstate Father Pfleger to his position as senior pastor at the church beginning June 5.

Father Pfleger, who did not return a telephone message left at his church or an email sent on Monday evening, wrote on Facebook that he was “overjoyed” by the decision to reinstate him after having been removed “because of False Accusations.”

A separate investigation by the Chicago Police Department is continuing. “It is still an open and active investigation,” Steve Rusanov, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement.

The inquiry into Father Pfleger was announced on Jan. 5., after the archdiocese received an allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago. “Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cardinal Cupich wrote at the time. “Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.”

After the first accuser came forward, two more did, too. The second accuser is the older brother of the first accuser; the third accuser is a man not related to the brothers, according to Eugene Hollander, a lawyer representing all three men.

On Monday, Mr. Hollander said his clients had presented “a staggering amount of evidence” to church investigators. “What do I have to do, produce 10 victims to say they were allegedly abused by Father Pfleger?” he asked.

Father Pfleger has cut a striking figure in four decades at St. Sabina. In 1981, at age 31, he began working in the parish, in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago, which has about 2,000 parishioners, most of whom are Black.

His unorthodox approach to activism has drawn widespread attention. He staged sit-in protests at drug paraphernalia shops. He painted over liquor billboards in poor neighborhoods. He paid prostitutes for their time so he could preach to them and help them find a path out of poverty and drug addiction.

In 2008, he was briefly placed on leave after he mocked Hillary Clinton in a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ, President Barack Obama’s former church. On New Year’s Eve in 2020, he led a silent march in Chicago’s most expensive shopping district to call attention to the more than 750 homicide victims in the city that year.

After the abuse allegations surfaced in January, Father Pfleger agreed to cooperate with investigators and to live away from the parish during the investigation, the cardinal wrote.

At the time, Father Pfleger wrote on Facebook that he was “devastated, hurt and yes angry but I am a person of faith, I Trust God.” He also said church officials had asked him not to speak out, adding: “Pray also for the person, my life is more than a 40 year old accusation, and on that and my Faith I will stand.”

Mr. Hollander said his clients had spoken at length with church investigators. They described details only a person who had visited the pastor’s bedroom would know, he said.

“No one was supposed to be in the bedroom of a priest at a rectory, period,” Mr. Hollander said. “And these brothers were granted access, as well as the other victim, and they can recall all of these details which someone off the street, perhaps a parishioner of St. Sabina, would have no knowledge about that.”

In January, the archdiocese said it reported the allegations against Father Pfleger to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services and to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Jassen Strokosch, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, said on Monday that the agency is authorized to investigate allegations only when the victim is a minor at the time the allegation is made. (Mr. Hollander said his clients were all over 18 years of age.)

In February, the department announced that it could not investigate the matter because the people making the accusations against Father Pfleger were adults.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Cook County state’s attorney said it had not received any information about accusations against Father Pfleger from the police.

In his letter on Monday, Cardinal Cupich said the reinstatement of Father Pfleger would occur in “the next two weeks to prepare himself spiritually and emotionally to return, realizing that these months have taken a great toll on him.”

A telephone message left at the Archdiocese on Monday evening was not immediately returned.

“It’s a difficult day for them to reckon with,” Mr. Hollander said of the three accusers’ reactions to Father Pfleger’s reinstatement. “My clients, on a person level, don’t feel vindicated, but I think they needed to do this to make them feel complete, in order to move on with their lives.”

Author: Azi Paybarah
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

‘Sound of Metal’ actor Paul Raci on his Oscar nomination, Chicago roots

CHICAGO — Chicago native Paul Raci is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Sound of Metal.”

Raci plays Joe, a Vietnam veteran who lost his hearing in the war. Now he runs a sober house for deaf people who are struggling with addiction.

Raci is intimately familiar with his character Joe, having lived through some similar experiences himself.

“When I got back from Vietnam, I came back with some nasty habits and I’ve been through a lot with several addictions,” he said. “I wrestled those devils and ended up working as a sign language interpreter for deaf addicts. The deaf community in Chicago that raised me, they taught me what unconditional love is.”

Raci’s parents were both deaf, and signing was his first language.

“I realized later in life what a great man my father was. He was a blue collar worker, a blue collar guy that got up every day, put the Chicago Tribune under his arm and went to that menial job and marched back home to be a father,” he said. “Life is beautiful, man, it really is.”

Now 73, when Raci was younger sign language gave him a skill to pay the bills.

“I’m a sign language interpreter in the court system here in Los Angeles,” he explained. “I’ve been doing that for 35 years, that’s how I paid for my house.”

He said he still feels deeply rooted in his hometown.

“It’s a heartbreaking thing to leave Chicago, you never forget it,” he said. “Nothing rivals what I saw and was instilled with in Chicago.”

The rousing Chicago theater scene captivated Raci, but a professor at UIC had a warning for him about pursuing a career as an actor.

“He said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think you’re going to have any success until you’re much older, 40 years old.’ Nobody wants to hear that,” Raci recalled. “When I moved out here, I was already 40 years old, so let me tell you, nobody’s looking for a brand new 40 year old out in Hollywood! You know, Chicago is and always will be a theater town. When I came to Los Angeles, I was like, ‘Oh my god, you guys call this theater?!'”

And there’s quite a bit of Chicago in the character of Joe.

“That accent Joe has is my accent, and I’m a Chicago boy, I grew up in Humboldt Park. You listen to my brothers, they talk like Mayor Daley,” Raci said. “When the nomination happened, my brothers and sister got together, they sent me some Lou Malnati!”

His wife has also been integral to his whole journey to his Oscar nomination.

“She’s the one who made the phone call to the casting director, to take a look at my tape which was on the bottom of the pile there, because they were inundated with tapes, everybody and his uncle wanted to play this role,” Raci said. “Thank God for those people who believed in me when nobody else out here did. Now they’re calling me, my phone’s ringing off the hook, I’m turning stuff down. This is the big carrot, and I’m grateful!”

Raci is a Chicago White Sox fan, and called the team’s original stadium, Comisky Park, his “church” and “sanctuary.” He grew up wanting to play baseball.

“I wanted to be an infielder, my first glove was a Nellie Fox Wilson glove,” he said. “The people of Chicago know who I am, they know what I’ve been through. I never thought I’d be a star, I never wanted to be a star. I wanted to do some authentic, true acting.”

Mark your calendars: April 25 is Oscar Sunday. Live coverage begins Sunday morning and continues all day with special “On The Red Carpet” coverage leading up to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. After the last award is handed out, stay with “On The Red Carpet” for continuing coverage. Be sure to follow @OnTheRedCarpet on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for all your Oscar news and information.

Copyright © 2021 OnTheRedCarpet.com. All Rights Reserved.

Author OTRC

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Video of Chicago Police Fatally Shooting Adam Toledo Is Released

CHICAGO — A shaky, fast-moving video released in Chicago on Thursday shows a police officer chasing a boy down a dark alleyway, yelling at him to stop. “Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing, telling him to drop his gun. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.”

As the boy turns and lifts his hands, a single shot rings out and he collapses. The boy, Adam Toledo, was killed. He was 13.

Release of the officer’s body camera footage set off a fresh round of consternation over police conduct in Chicago, even as it stirred debate over what the images — grainy and graphic — actually showed. Activists announced protests against police abuse for downtown Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm, even as she grew emotional as she talked about Adam’s death and her own pain in watching the video, calling it “excruciating.”

Adam, who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s West Side, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.

Graphic videos of deaths at the hands of police officers have repeatedly roiled the nation. The video’s release in Chicago comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, was charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.

In the shooting in Chicago, which took place in the early-morning hours of March 29, officials have said that two officers were responding to reports of gunfire when they saw two people in an alley and started to chase them. Prosecutors have said that Adam was holding a gun when he ran down the alley as an officer called for him to stop and drop the weapon.

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said at a news conference on Thursday that the video shows that Adam, who was Latino and a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School, was attempting to comply with the officer’s orders.

“He tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”

The key events took place in a matter of one second. In an analysis, The New York Times slowed down the police video, as well as another of the 21 videos released by the authorities.

As the officer, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot, Adam is raising his arms and appears to be empty-handed. In the moment before the shooting, The Times’s analysis shows, Adam can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before he raises his hands.

After firing the shot, Officer Stillman called for an ambulance, searched for the wound and began CPR with the help of another officer. “Stay with me,” he said to Adam more than once.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent agency that investigates police shootings in Chicago, released the videos on Thursday after initial resistance to making them public, citing Adam’s age.

The Chicago Police Department had no comment on the video aside from redistributing its news release about the shooting from April 1, which called the loss of life “tragic” and said the department would cooperate with COPA, which is investigating the use of force.

A lawyer for Officer Stillman, who is white, said that the shooting, while tragic, was justified given the nature of the threat. “The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision,” said Timothy Grace, a lawyer at the firm of Grace & Thompson retained by the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago.

Officer Stillman has been placed on administrative duties for 30 days; he joined the Chicago police in August 2015 after serving in the military overseas, his lawyer said.

As images of the shooting spread on social media, community activists and others expressed anger. Some said the officer had no reason to fire at the boy.

“It was hard to watch,” said Baltazar Enriquez, the president of Little Village Community Council, saying that he considered the shooting to be murder. “Adam raises his hands and then he shoots him.”

Mr. Enriquez said demonstrations were planned for Thursday and Friday evening, with residents demanding that money spent on the police budget be diverted to community programs instead. “Everybody is extremely angry,” he said. “We don’t need angry officers. We need social workers.”

Adam’s family was permitted to view the video privately on Tuesday night. Afterward, the family issued a statement calling the experience “extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present.”

Hours before the video was released, Ms. Lightfoot issued an emotional appeal for calm. “We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said, her voice breaking as she talked about the pain of losing a child to gun violence. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place,” she said.

Ms. Lightfoot said the outrage and pain that people were feeling in Chicago were compounded by both the Chauvin trial and a recent police shooting in a Minneapolis suburb.

Mr. Floyd’s death last year provoked demonstrations across the country over police misconduct and racism. Those sentiments have resurfaced during the trial, where dramatic video footage was replayed of Mr. Floyd gasping “I can’t breathe” while he was pinned under Mr. Chauvin’s knee. Nightly protests have erupted anew in nearby Brooklyn Center after another police shooting that was captured on body camera video — the fatal shooting of Mr. Wright after he was pulled over for an expired registration.

In Chicago, even before the video was released, Adam’s killing had set off protests and severe criticism of the Chicago Police Department. Ms. Lightfoot repeated her appeal that the department create a better policy for foot chases that too often proved dangerous to suspects, the police and bystanders.

The shooting tapped into a tide of anguish and frustration in Chicago neighborhoods that have been gripped by gun violence. Chicago, like other American cities, has struggled to stem a surge in shootings during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 131 homicides, the most violent start to a year since 2017.

A few details of the events that led to Adam’s death emerged in court in the past week. Ruben Roman, a 21-year-old who the authorities said was with Adam at the time of the shooting, appeared in a Cook County courtroom on Saturday. He was charged with felony reckless discharge, unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment, and held on a $ 150,000 bond.

According to prosecutors, video captures Mr. Roman and Adam walking together down a street on the West Side around 2:30 a.m. Mr. Roman, holding a gun, appears to fire several shots at an unknown target.

In recent days, Adam’s mother has said that she had no idea that he was out the night of the shooting; she thought he was safely in his room at the time. Adam had been missing for several days, she said, but had come home and gone into the room that he shared with his brother.

Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Chicago. Christoph Koettl also contributed reporting.

Julie Bosman and Neil MacFarquhar

This article originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

'Trial of the Chicago 7' takes top honors at SAG Awards

The win for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award.

The starry cast of Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” took the top prize Sunday at a virtual Screen Actors Guild Awards where actors of color, for the first time, swept the individual film awards.
The 27th SAG Awards, presented by the Hollywood actors’ guild SAG-Aftra, were a muted affair — and not just because the red carpet-less ceremony was condensed to a pre-recorded, Zoom-heavy, one-hour broadcast on TBS and TNT. The perceived Academy Awards frontrunner — Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” — wasn’t nominated for best ensemble, making this year’s postponed SAG Awards less of an Oscar preview than it is most years.
Still, the win for Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award. Written and directed by Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had been set for theatrical release by Paramount Pictures before the pandemic hit, leading to its sale to Netflix. The streamer is still after its first best-picture win at the Oscars.
Frank Langella, who plays the judge who presided over the 1969 prosecution of activists arrested during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, drew parallels between that era’s unrest and today’s while accepting the award on behalf of the cast.
“‘God give us leaders,’ said the Rev. Martin Luther King before he was shot down in cold blood on this very date in 1968 — a profound injustice,” said Langella, citing events leading up to those dramatized in “The Trial of the Chicago 7. “The Rev. King was right. We need leaders to guide us toward hating each other less.”
The win came over two other Netflix releases — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Da 5 Bloods” — as well as Amazon’s “One Night in Miami” and A24’s “Minari.” Had Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean-American family drama “Minari” won, it would have been the second straight year a film largely not in English won SAG’s top award. Last year, the cast of “Parasite” triumphed, becoming the first cast from a non-English language film to do so.
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The SAG Awards are a closely watched Oscar harbinger. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and SAG winners often line up with Oscar ones. Last year, “Parasite” went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards, and all of the individual SAG winners — Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Joaquin Phoenix — won at the Oscars, too.
Those awards this year went to a group entirely of actors of color, potentially setting the stage for a historically diverse slate of Oscar winners: Chadwick Boseman, best male actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Viola Davis, best female actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Yuh-Jung Youn, best female supporting actor for “Minari”; and Daniel Kaluuya, best male supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Of those, Davis’ win was the most surprising in a category that has often belonged to Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”). It’s Davis’ fifth individual SAG award.
“Thank you, August, for leaving a legacy for actors of color that we can relish the rest of our lives,” said Davis, referring to playwright August Wilson.
As it has throughout the awards season, best male actor again belonged to Boseman for his final performance. Boseman, who died last August at age 43, had already set a record for most SAG film nominations — four — in a single year. He was also posthumously nominated for his supporting role in “Da 5 Bloods” and shared in the ensemble nominations for both Spike Lee’s film and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
It was the SAG Awards where Boseman gave one of his most memorable speeches. At the guild’s 2019 awards, Boseman spoke on behalf of the “Black Panther” cast when the film won the top award. “We all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured,” Boseman said then. “Yet you are young, gifted and Black.”
The Academy Awards frontrunner, “Nomadland” missed out on a best-ensemble nomination possibly because its cast is composed of largely non-professional actors. Zhao’s film previously won at the highly predictive Producers Guild Awards, as well as at the Golden Globes. “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” up for best picture at the Oscars and four other awards, could pose a challenge to the frontrunner.
In an interview following the pre-taping of the award for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Langella called the virtual experience much more civilized. “I’m in my bedroom slippers,” he said from New York’s Hudson Valley. “I have no pants on,” added his co-star Michael Keaton.
Eddie Redmayne, who plays Tom Hayden in the film, credited Sorkin and casting director Francine Maisler for assembling such a disparate group of actors — including Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong — into an ensemble.
“It was like a clash of different types of music, whether it was jazz or rock or classical — but all of that coming together under Aaron. He was the conductor, almost,” said Redmayne. “It was a joy day and day out to watch these great and different and varied actors slugging it out.”
In television categories, the ensembles of “Schitt’s Creek” (for comedy series) and “The Crown” (for drama series) added to their string of awards. Other winners included Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”), Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”), Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”), Jason Bateman (“Ozark”) and Mark Ruffalo (“I Know This Much Is True”).
The awards are typically the highest profile event for the Screen Actors Guild, though the union’s faceoff earlier this year with former President Donald Trump may have drawn more headlines. After the guild prepared to expel Trump (credits include “The Apprentice,” “Home Alone 2”) for his role in the Capitol riot, Trump resigned from SAG-Aftra.

Chicago to Release Video of Deadly Police Shooting of a 13-Year-Old

The Chicago police said that officers were called shortly after 2:30 a.m. on March 29 to an address in the Little Village, a heavily Latino neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, responding to reports of gunfire. The officers saw two people in an alley and started chasing them.

One, a 21-year-old man, was arrested, the authorities said. An officer pursuing Adam fired his gun once, striking him in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Soon after the shooting, police officials described an “armed confrontation” and shared a photograph on social media[1] of a firearm resting on the ground.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability said initially that although the shooting had been captured by the officer’s body camera, it would not make the footage public. The agency said it was abiding by a longstanding practice of not releasing video in cases involving minors, but that 911 calls and police reports, among other evidence related to the case, would be released within 60 days of the shooting. Nothing about the identity of the officers has been released.

Pressure to share the video quickly intensified from activists and City Hall.

“We’re going to be out here every day until that tape is released,” Enrique Enriquez, a resident of the Little Village neighborhood, said during a vigil last week.

Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, said in a series of posts on Twitter[2] that “we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible,” adding that “transparency and speed are crucial” in an investigation as sensitive as this one. Ms. Lightfoot was criticized and later apologized in December after her administration attempted to block the airing[3] of body camera footage from a botched police raid.

“As a mother of a 13-year-old myself, I can only imagine the incredible pain this boy’s parents are experiencing at this moment. My heart goes out to them,” Ms. Lightfoot said on Thursday, adding, “The facts and the circumstances around this case are under investigation, but we must ask ourselves how our social safety net failed this boy leading up to the tragic events in the early hours of Monday morning.”

David O. Brown, the Chicago police superintendent, also urged investigators to release as much video as the law would allow. He said that a fatal encounter between an officer and a minor had been “my greatest fear,” and he noted a rise in violence involving juveniles in the city.


  1. ^ a photograph on social media (twitter.com)
  2. ^ a series of posts on Twitter (twitter.com)
  3. ^ attempted to block the airing (www.chicagotribune.com)

Rick Rojas

Chicago Suburb Shapes Reparations for Black Residents: ‘It Is the Start’

EVANSTON, Ill. — The proposal in Evanston, a lakefront suburb of Chicago, on Monday was both pioneering and rare: a blueprint to begin distributing $ 10 million in reparations to Black residents of the city in the form of housing grants.

“It is the start,” said Robin Rue Simmons, an alderman and an architect of the measure. “It is the reckoning. We’re really proud as a city to be leading the nation toward repair and justice.”

In Evanston, a city of 73,000 people that is home to Northwestern University and known for its liberal politics, members of the City Council said they were taking concrete steps that go beyond proposals that have emerged in American cities in recent years, committing funds to a city reparations program intended to address historical racism and discrimination.

But as the details of how the money would be distributed are beginning to take shape, elected officials, residents and activists for racial equity in the city say they are far from united on the specifics.

When the City Council overwhelmingly agreed in 2019 to create a reparations fund, it planned to use private donations and tax revenue from the sales of recreational marijuana, now legal in Illinois. The first phase of spending from the reparations fund will begin with $ 400,000 in housing grants toward home repairs, mortgage assistance or down payments toward a new home.

The grants take a different approach from the common view of reparations as cash payments to a wider group of Black Americans who have suffered from discrimination rooted in slavery.

In Evanston, the housing grants are more narrowly targeted to residents who can show that they or their ancestors were victims of redlining and other discriminatory 20th-century housing practices in the city that limited the neighborhoods where Black people could live. Eligible applicants could be descendants of an Evanston resident who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969; or they could have experienced housing discrimination because of city policies after 1969.

It is not clear how many people in Evanston would qualify, city officials said, and the number of available grants — of up to $ 25,000 each — is small. The population of Evanston is 17 percent Black, 59 percent white and 12 percent Latino, according to census data.

The choice to provide housing grants rather than cash payments has raised concern among some Evanston residents, including one member of the City Council, Cicely L. Fleming, who voted against the first phase of spending on the reparations plan in a vote Monday night.

“I want to be clear, I 100 percent support reparations,” she said in an interview. “What I can’t support is a housing program being termed as reparations. We are potentially setting precedent.”

On Monday night, the resolution passed 8-1, and dozens of residents spoke at the meeting, with most in favor of the measure.

City officials say[1] they do not have the authority to give direct payments to residents without leaving them with a tax burden; under the housing program, grants are paid directly to banks or businesses. And the officials said they hoped the reparations fund would be complemented by larger efforts from the federal government and other entities.

In Washington, Congress has debated a bill that would create a commission to study the reparations issue more closely.

The bill, H.R. 40, was last considered in 2019, and it refers to the Civil War-era broken promise to give former slaves “40 acres and a mule.”[2] Under the bill, $ 12 million would be spent to establish a commission to study the history of slavery and discrimination and create a proposal for remedies.

At a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties last month, Herschel Walker, a former football star who is Black, argued against reparations[3], saying they are divisive.

“Reparations teach separation,” Mr. Walker said. “Slavery ended over 130 years ago. How can a father ask his son to spend prison time for a crime he committed?”

Leaders of the Jesuit conference of priests said last week that they would pledge $ 100 million[4] to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people the order once owned, the largest effort toward reparations by the Catholic Church yet.

In Evanston, the remainder of the $ 10 million fund has yet to be determined, but the process is expected to unfold in a series of public meetings this year.

Many residents, in a city where signs in front yards promoting racial justice and equity are commonplace, say they are watching the reparations debate closely, whether or not they will personally receive money from it.

Sebastian Nalls, a 20-year-old junior at Purdue University who ran unsuccessfully for Evanston mayor, said he worried that the current plan was not expansive enough and that other cities would mimic the housing program and refer to it as reparations.

“It’s detrimental to the larger movement of reparations,” he said. “Because media and municipalities will take this program at face value and they will use it as a blueprint. Giving $ 400,000 to 16 Black people in a town of 12,000 Black residents is not reparation.”

Mark Christian, 51, an operations manager from Evanston, said that he was in favor of the city’s efforts on reparations, as he walked through a park in the city on Monday afternoon.

He is a native of Milwaukee, and his family had not lived in Evanston long enough to be eligible under the housing program debated Monday evening. But he was supportive of its goals.

“I think anything to help Black people get what they’ve lost due to slavery and systemic racism — every little bit helps,” he said.

Peter Braithwaite, an alderman and a supporter of the reparations plan, said he hoped other cities across the country would take notice.

“I hope that this first step will provide other local municipalities the confidence, as well as a path, to creating local reparations to help improve and repair the conditions of those injured in our other Black communities,” he said.

Ms. Simmons, who initially introduced the reparations legislation two years ago, acknowledged that critics of the housing plan had emerged recently. But she is also seeing growing support from houses of worship in Evanston. Some of them have pledged funds, a sign, she said, that support for reparations was growing.


  1. ^ say (www.cityofevanston.org)
  2. ^ “40 acres and a mule.” (www.npr.org)
  3. ^ argued against reparations (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ they would pledge $ 100 million (www.nytimes.com)

Julie Bosman