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Evanston’s interfaith community to commit to local reparations

In a move that Rabbi Andrea London describes as “putting their money where their mouth is,” a consortium representing 16 different faith institutions in Evanston will come together Monday to formally announce their intent to participate in local reparations.

“We feel, as religious communities, our communities should be offering financial support for reparations within Evanston,” said London, senior rabbi at Beth Emet Synagogue, one local faith group leading the event organizing.

On Monday at 10 am at Fountain Square in Evanston, several community leaders will speak in support of what their religious communities are doing for reparations.

Faith communities will announce on June 13 a commitment to participate in Evanston’s reparations effort. Credit: Submitted

It will include messages from Mayor Daniel Biss, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th), Dino Robinson and former City Council Member Robin Rue Simmons. The clergy then will present a statement about why they are doing this work and what those commitments are. The event will conclude with clergy signing the documents as a signal of unity.

“We really believe in creating a just society and eradicating racism in our midst, that we need to pony up in terms of contributing some money ourselves and not just relying on the city to do so,” London said.

She said the religious leaders also feel a moral responsibility to work on the process of reconciliation and repair because the harm that’s been done “isn’t just financial.” Part of the announcement Monday will be that faith groups hope to do this through education and storytelling about the discrimination that has happened in Evanston, specifically.

The money will be collected through the Evanston Reparations Community Fund, housed by the Evanston Community Foundation and overseen by the Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston (RSAE). The RSAE was established in collaboration among Rue Simmons, Robinson, the Rev. Michael Nabors, Pastor Monté Dillard, 2nd Ward Council Member Peter Braithwaite, Henry Wilkins and Spencer Jourdain.

Many faith bodies already have been participating in reparations via contributions to the Evanston Reparations Community Fund, but Monday will be the first time Evanston’s faith community, specifically members of Evanston Interfaith Clergy and Leaders, will make a combined financial commitment to the effort. They hope it will encourage other faith groups in Evanston to join the effort to donate, as well.

“Several congregations have already raised in the tens of thousands of dollars, and 16 congregations have committed to this,” London said. “We’re hopeful that it’s going to really be a significant amount of money that the religious community will raise”

London clarified that Black congregations are not included in the fundraising goals because the group felt it was the responsibility of the white faith community.

EICL wants Monday’s announcement to kick off a renewed financial momentum with church and synagogue donations. The group hopes that, by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day on Jan. 16, 2023, they can reflect and say, “This is what we accomplished. This is how much money we’ve raised.”

The churches do not have a specific financial goal, but London told the Roundtable that the Evanston Reparations Community Fund, when established, had a goal to raise a parallel $10 million to the other $10 million already approved to be collected through a cannabis user tax.

“We also hope [with this event] that people are gonna look to Evanston and say, ‘Hey, you know, this little town of less than 80,000 people is committing to raising and distributing $20 million,’” London said.

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