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Podcast: Restorative Housing Reparations with Nicholas Cummings, Evanston, IL

Posted on April 20, 2021


Nicholas Cummings - GovLove

nicholas cummings

Nicholas Cummings
Corporation Counsel
City of Evanston, Illinois
LinkedIn


Redressing institutional racism and redlining. Nicholas Cummings, Corporation Counsel for the City of Evanston, Illinois, joined the podcast to talk about the new program approved last month to address the historic impacts of housing discrimination. He shared the details of the program and the City’s Local Reparations Fund. Nicholas also discussed the legal limits of reparations programs in local government and how the program fits into the broader racial equity conversation.

Host: Alyssa Dinberg

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Learn More

Reparations: Redressing Institutional Racism and Redlining

Adoption of Resolution 37-R-27, Authorizing the Implementation of the Evanston Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program and Program Budget

Evanston Local Reparations

In Likely First, Chicago Suburb Of Evanston Approves Reparations For Black Residents

Evanston reparations program: When it started, who will benefit, why start with housing

First Evanston Reparations Fund Initiative: $25K Housing Grants


Episode Transcription

Alyssa Dinberg  00:00

All right, you’re ready to get started. Coming to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Gov Love, a podcast about local government. Gov Love is produced by ELGL, The Engaging Local Government Leaders Network, we engage the brightest minds in local government. Before we get into today’s episode, Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. If you don’t have a short term rental regulation and enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue, and risking damage to your community’s character. Granicus host compliance helps with everything from address identification, to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about regulating short term rentals, visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. I’m Alyssa Dinberg, the COVID-19 Recovery Coordinator for Clear Creek County, and today I’m joined by Nicholas Cummings, Corporation Counsel for the city of Evanston, Illinois. Welcome, Nicholas.

Nicholas Cummings  01:15

Thank you for having me.

Alyssa Dinberg  01:17

Yeah, I’m super excited to have you here. I listen to MSNBC while I’m working every day and heard about this story and thought we had to get you on on Gov Love. So, thank you for taking time out of your busy day. 

Nicholas Cummings  01:31

Absolutely. 

Alyssa Dinberg  01:33

So today we’re going to be talking about a historic plan by Evanston, Illinois to make reparations to its black residents. The first program in this initiative is known as the restorative housing program and acknowledges the harm caused to African American Black Evanston residents due to discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction on part of the city from 1919 to 1969. But before we get into the interview, let’s start with one of Gov Love’s signature lightning rounds. Are you ready?

Nicholas Cummings  02:05

Yes.

Alyssa Dinberg  02:06

Okay. What book are you currently reading? And would you recommend it?

Nicholas Cummings  02:12

Sadly, I am not currently reading any book considering I spend the majority of my day reading, either contracts, case law, etc, etc. However, one book on my list for this year is the color of law, which I’m sure many of your listeners have already read. So I’m heard is a phenomenal book. And I think it’s very important that I read it for the work that I’m doing here in Evanston.

Alyssa Dinberg  02:34

Yeah, we actually did a Gov Love interview on that book. So you should check that out. It’s a fantastic book, probably one of my favorite in that that type of type of book. So you’ll have to let me know what you think of it after you read it. 

Nicholas Cummings  02:49

All right. 

Alyssa Dinberg  02:49

Okay. So the next question is more of a little game that I play. And I’ve never done this on a lightning round on Gov Love, but I did it with with some co workers the other day, and I thought it was really fun. So this game is called, is it a sandwich? And the rules are super simple. I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and you’re going to give me a yes or no answer if you think it’s a sandwich. Now, these get kind of controversial, and so I’m curious to see what you say. It’s really fun to do with a large group of people because people get really heated. Okay, you ready? 

Nicholas Cummings  03:23

For sure. Yes. 

Alyssa Dinberg  03:24

Okay, taco? 

Nicholas Cummings  03:26

No.

Alyssa Dinberg  03:27

Oreo? 

Nicholas Cummings  03:28

Yes. 

Alyssa Dinberg  03:29

Okay, pizza? 

Nicholas Cummings  03:31

No. 

Alyssa Dinberg  03:33

Hot Dog?

Nicholas Cummings  03:35

That’s a tough one. I’m gonna say no.

Alyssa Dinberg  03:36

Okay, burrito? 

Nicholas Cummings  03:39

No. 

Alyssa Dinberg  03:40

Avocado toast?

Nicholas Cummings  03:42

Yes. 

Alyssa Dinberg  03:44

Really? You think avocado toast is a sandwich and not pizza? I’m shocked by that.

Nicholas Cummings  03:49

It’s an open faced sandwich. And I believe that pizza is its own food genre.

Alyssa Dinberg  03:54

Okay. All right. He’s ready to defend his answers. What about an uncrustable?

Nicholas Cummings  04:04

Yes. You know, just because it doesn’t have crust doesn’t make it a sandwich. It’s still a pocket, so. 

Alyssa Dinberg  04:11

Okay. And last one, calzone?

Nicholas Cummings  04:14

Yes.

Alyssa Dinberg  04:16

Okay.All right. Interesting. 

Nicholas Cummings  04:17

That’s why pizza can be a sandwich because you have calzones.

Alyssa Dinberg  04:21

Okay. All right. I don’t know if I agree with you on that, but that’s fine. 

Nicholas Cummings  04:26

Okay.

Alyssa Dinberg  04:27

All right. Next question. If you could give advice to your 21 year old self, what would you say?

Nicholas Cummings  04:33

I tell them to be patient, which was not a virtue of mine at 21. So obviously at 21 I had no idea I would be where I am today. Law wasn’t even my first career. So I would definitely tell that 21 year old Nick to be patient.

Alyssa Dinberg  04:55

Just out of curiosity, what was your first career?

Nicholas Cummings  04:58

I was in IT for 10 years before I became a lawyer,

Alyssa Dinberg  05:03

Wow. Interesting. Big switch.

Nicholas Cummings  05:06

Yeah.

Alyssa Dinberg  05:08

All right. Last question. If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why? And it could be a vegetable or a fruit. I’m going to broaden it up a little bit.

Nicholas Cummings  05:16

I appreciate you broadening it up, because I don’t know what kind of vegetable I’d be. But the answer I usually give for fruit is I’d be a pineapple. Because on the outside, they’re nice and prickly and hard, but they can be sweet once you finally cut them open. So.

Alyssa Dinberg  05:33

That’s a good answer. I appreciate that. All right, so before we begin our conversation about the restorative housing program, I have some super exciting news. Tickets for ELGL Pop Ups are on sale. Now, the ELGL pop ups are our approach to regional conferencing. And this year, they’re hosted virtually on May 21st. These events are a great way to learn more about regional local government topics. Tickets are $10 for students, $40 per person, and $80 for an all access pass to attend any region’s sessions. We also have volume discounts if you want to sign up your whole team, visit ELGL pop ups.com to save your spots. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get started and talk about the reparation program. Are you ready?

Nicholas Cummings  06:17

Absolutely. 

Alyssa Dinberg  06:18

Okay, so, what is reparations generally and how is the idea for reparations for Black Americans unique?

Nicholas Cummings  06:27

So reparations generally, is the idea that you’re making amends for a wrong that was done by either paying money or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. And throughout history, this is usually been done, for example, after world war two folks helped rebuild Germany. The United States gave reparations to Japanese Americans, former slave holders were given reparations when the Emancipation Proclamation was done. So the United there, there is a history of what this sort of looks like. How this is unique for African Americans or Blacks in the United States is the anchor of wrong is is slavery. And I think that that gets a lot of opinions and blood boiling. When you talk, when you anchor the wrong that was done to slavery. And in everything that has led from that is usually what makes this so unique from for Black American, because it’s not as if the experience of the descendants of slaves stopped when slaves were emancipated. There was Jim Crow, there was, you know, all sorts of other actions that took place against those descendants of slaves in United States history. So that’s what makes it so complicated in in took talk about reparations in this country for Black Americans.

Alyssa Dinberg  07:58

Yeah, it’s it’s very complicated. And that’s why I think it’s really interesting to start this conversation and have somebody like you on here, coming from a city that is starting to take steps to work on that. So what are some considerations that state and local governments need to consider if they’re starting to consider reparations?

Nicholas Cummings  08:20

So the the general definition that we just talked about is making a rent amends for wrong that was done. And I think the anchor consideration for state and local governments is you have to identify and come to grips with the actions or even deliberate indifference that the body had to whatever wrong that we’re talking about. Right? So with respect to Evanston, Evanston decided that it had very distinct policies, very distinct policies regarding housing discrimination. And so that was the wrong that was identified. And I think, if any other state or local government is looking at doing this, they have to be able to identify that wrong and admit that it was wrong. And and then try and, you know, do the research, and everything around it to be able to build a successful program.

Alyssa Dinberg  09:22

Okay. So I know, a lot of times we talk about segregation and wrong wrongdoing to the Black community in the South, but but very rarely we talk about Illinois and other states like that. So can you give us a little bit of history behind the city of Evanston and the treatment of their Black residents?

Nicholas Cummings  09:42

Absolutely. So I think the funny thing you mentioned that we talk about discrimination and things like that, in the South, I think it’s just because it was more overt in the South. Right? And there were a lot of folks in the North that decried what was happening in the south and once Black Americans started to migrate from the South to the North, the attitude was, wait a minute, we didn’t want you to move here. We just didn’t think it was right what they were doing to you down there, you could stay down there but not come up here. And that was sort of the the, the attitude that Evanston kind of had between, you know, the early 1900s leading up until the late 1960s. Where you had, not only did you have the banks and real estate agents, engaging in redlining, and the federal government only underwriting loans in certain areas, because of redlining, you had zoning practices when the city first put together its city plan, it, you know, only allowed certain kinds of housing in certain areas in the city of Evanston. You know, mainly multifamily housing, which would help black residents tremendously because they were moving typically in large familial groups from the south migrating from the south. You couldn’t have those kinds of homes or buildings in certain areas of the city. Later on in the 1930s and 40s, the city put together a commission that literally moved Black residents from certain areas of the city in order to raise their homes to tear them down under the guise of urban blight, and relocated them into one specific area of the city, which is now the city’s fifth Ward, in an effort to try and really expand downtown, ultimately. So those are just some of the general examples that the city has put forward. There’s 100 Plus page document that Mr. Dino Robinson and Jennifer Thompson from the Evanston, History Center in the south shore legacy, not south shore, shorefront legacy center have put together on the City’s web page where anyone can read about the discriminatory, discriminatory practices of the city during that time period that we’ve laid out. 

Alyssa Dinberg  12:04

Interesting. So I have two follow up questions to that. The first one is just a simple one. Were the deeds in Evanston marked if if somebody that was Black lived in that house initially? The reason I ask is I, prior to living here, I lived in the City of Kansas City, and the deeds there marked if the resident was black or the resident was Jewish. And they still say that to this day, which is an interesting piece of history. And I think some of the residents that live in those houses probably have feelings about that.

Nicholas Cummings  12:39

I’m sure that they do. Because restrictive covenants were definitely a thing in the city of Evanston. And those deeds that got recorded. And because restrictive covenants at the time were legal, definitely likely had an identity identifier or a racial identifier on them, because those restrictive covenants were meant to run with the land. So it didn’t matter, ultimately, who owned it later on down the line, if there was a restrictive covenant that you couldn’t sell to a Black person, you couldn’t sell a Black person until the restrictive covenant eventually was outlawed by the Supreme Court. So they likely did have those racial identifiers on them at the time of recording, it’s within now they really have no effect or legal effect. 

Alyssa Dinberg  13:24

Exactly, yeah. Okay. And then my second question is, what are some of the, trying to think of the best way to put this, the long lasting impacts of the redlining in Evanston? What can you still see today from from what happened in the early 1900s?

Nicholas Cummings  13:43

Um, wow. So there there is, and this is, this is no specific wrongdoing on the part of the of the city with respect to what’s going on today. But there’s a there’s definitely still a huge difference in property value in the City. Right. So you have homes in the fifth Ward, generally, are not as valuable as say homes in the first Ward, which is a little further east and closer to the lake. And so those properties don’t get assessed by the by the county assessor, who determines property taxes, don’t get assessed the same. And we already know that Cook County along with some other counties, has a history of assessing property in a way that even though your property value isn’t as high the percentage of property tax that you pay is higher than someone else whose property taxes might be lower. So on a per capita basis, residents in the fifth Ward could pay a higher percentage of property taxes then other residents in a more affluent Ward who have higher property values. So these are some of the the issues that or the impact that that those, I mean the property value is the number one like, obvious thing that you can actually see, literally driving around the city of Evanston.

Alyssa Dinberg  15:23

Okay. So with that being said, can you tell us a little bit about the program that got approved, I think it was two weeks ago, three weeks ago? I don’t know.

Nicholas Cummings  15:32

About three weeks ago.

Alyssa Dinberg  15:33

Yeah, time doesn’t mean much right now. That’s what I thought.

Nicholas Cummings  15:37

City Council passed a resolution to authorize funding an initial program that the reparations subcommittee put together, to the tune of about $400,000. And that program is aimed at restorative housing. So understanding that you have residents whose property values are not as high, or you have residents that might actually need assistance purchasing a home, the program is designed to give applicants up to $25,000, to assist with downpayment assistance, to buy down their mortgage, or also to do home improvement, which is, as you can imagine, very, very tied, very much tied to home value, right? So giving residents an opportunity to invest these dollars. And it is it is not like a huge dollar amount, I recognize that. But it’s giving, giving those who are eligible an opportunity to either purchase a home in the city of Evanston and not necessarily in this specific area. And maybe even do home repair or you know, if they already have a home, buy down their mortgage. So now they actually have some space in terms of equity in their home. That’s what one of that’s the program that Evanston has now and it’s a little different than other programs. The federal government has similar programs. I bought my home in the city of Chicago using a federal program. But those federal programs usually only target specific census tracts and areas, which, for lack of a better way to describe it is de facto redlining.

Alyssa Dinberg  17:22

Right. Yeah, exactly. So I know that there has been, probably not controversy, that’s probably not the right word, but just some criticism of the program in the in the media. And so I was hoping you could briefly talk about that. And maybe at least from your experience, how you feel about the program that the City of Evanston is doing.

Nicholas Cummings  17:48

So I think that anytime you’re talking about government policy, you’re going to face criticism, you’re never going to satisfy 100% of the people 100% of the time. The criticism of the city’s program, Evanston’s program, is is fair, however, a lot of people don’t understand the constraints in which state and local government have when it comes to enacting racially conscious policy. And it’s not so much just financial constraints. It’s the constraints that the United States Supreme Court has placed on state and local government with acting on things with the race conscious lens. And one of the reasons why I pointed out the considerations that state and local governments have to make when considering a reparations program is identifying the wrong the specific wrong that they participated in, is because that’s what the Supreme Court has, has focused on. And so for the city of Evanston, with our program focused on housing, it’s because the evidence that we deduced from Evanston policies like the city participated in not necessarily the systemic racism throughout the city of Evanston that the city may not have had anything to do with. But the specific policies and practices of the city led to X, Y and Z. And so that’s why it’s very specifically narrow, and not all encompassing. And we’re facing all of this criticism, but that’s what it has to be. It has to be that way. Because, you know, six of the nine supreme court justices are going to look at this and say, well, there’s no need for this because it’s based on race. And the 14th Amendment says that you shouldn’t have race conscious programs. But in order to do that, you have to have, you know, a tie, very specific tie to the action of the city, you have to have a program that’s very, very narrowly tailored, which I’m sure we’re going to get into when we talk about the criteria for the people to apply in order for it to be constitutional. And so that’s why the program is the way it is and I get that people want to criticize it, but I I think the the larger question is, Congress, the United States Congress should dictate what race, race conscious programs should look like and the courts. It should be a legislative question and not one of judicial determination. And I think that’s where we are right now as we’re operating under judicial determination in that legislation.

Alyssa Dinberg  20:23

Interesting. So just to be clear that the criticism that the City is receiving right now is that it’s not all encompassing, not really reaching all of the systemic racism that’s happened, and it’s just touching on housing. Is that correct?

Nicholas Cummings  20:40

That’s some of the criticism. Yes, yes. I think a lot of people want to see, you know, cash payments. And what this all comes down to pretty pretty, frankly, is political will. Evanston was lucky enough to have a political will to even enact the program at all. Some cities don’t even have that, we see that we don’t even have that in Congress, when it comes to HR 40. So the political will is very, very necessary. And so cash payment, while it may be a real option, has its limitations as well, but you need political will to be willing to do that. And when I started in Evanston, and helped to advise them about this program, there was no political will to do direct payment or cash payment at the time. So, you know, that’s one of the criticisms that is not, you know, a cash payment directly to impacted individuals. But yeah, like the fact that it’s not touching on education. I mean, that’s outside of the, you know, the way Evanston is set up, it has its own District School Board that gets its own tax levy that has some funding, it’s not under the purview of city council. So, you know, those sorts of things would be outside of the scope of what we can, what we’re allowed or can do.

Alyssa Dinberg  21:58

Okay. So speaking about the specific program, how do families qualify to participate?

Nicholas Cummings  22:09

So the qualifications are specific to an individual. And there is a document on the city’s website that spells this out as well. So I’m going to reference that so I don’t screw anything up. But there are different levels of applicant that we’ve identified, first is identified as an ancestor. an ancestor is someone who, who was a resident of the city of Evanston or lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969, and experienced housing discrimination. As a result of the city’s policies and practices, the another level of applicant will be the direct descendant of an ancestor. So son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson, in the direct line of ascension, and they can prove that their their ancestor lived in Evanston, they would be eligible. And the last section is, if you can just prove you were subjected to housing discrimination, after 1969, which is when and the reason why we cut off 1969 is that’s when the city enacted its first housing discrimination ordinance that actually had teeth. And I believe it was actually used in the 90s against some of the banks to get some pretty steep fines because of housing discrimination. So if you can prove that you are a person who has suffered housing discrimination after that ordinance, and the city still hasn’t done anything about it, we would consider you eligible for that as well.

Alyssa Dinberg  23:50

So I know that you said up to 25,000. Is it on a scale? Or does, if you’re eligible, you get 25,000? How does that work?

Nicholas Cummings  23:59

I think that that’s a decision that has to be made by the yet to be seated. reparations committee. Okay. Which will be, I believe those nominations will be on the next city council agenda on next Monday,

Alyssa Dinberg  24:11

Tune in ladies and gentlemen.

Nicholas Cummings  24:15

To see who makes up that committee, it’s a committee of seven people, three aldermen, and four members of the community. And I think they will decide because they’re actually going to be the ones who determine funding. And also will come up with future programs. So it may be up to them, it’s going to be a sliding or if it’s going to be, you know, just 25,000 period. But I think the recommendation that came from the subcommittee to develop the program, was that it, you know, be 25,000 for now.

Alyssa Dinberg  24:47

Okay. So that kind of leads into my next question very nicely. I know that you said that there’s about $400,000, or there is $400,000 available. How is the program being funded right now? And is there a long term plan to continue funding it by writing it into the budget? Or what does that look like?

Nicholas Cummings  25:08

So in 2019, the city passed the resolution committing money from the recreational use marijuana tax that was just coming online, it’s a 3% tax that’s essentially shared or given to local municipalities that have a dispensary. And it was the brainchild of one of the aldermen, I believe, was alderman Rainey, who said we should use this text to fund a reparations fund. And City Council has committed $10 million of that revenue to the reparations fund. So really, there’s a total of $10 million in this pot to develop programming for Reparations. But the first program we’ve committed $400,000 to and so there is definitely a plan for future programming. That is the job of this new committee that will be seated to determine future programming, going forward to figure out what to do with the rest of that 10 million.

Alyssa Dinberg  26:13

Okay. So I know that future programming, programming hasn’t been developed already, but do you have some ideas of types of things that would align with what Evanston can do?

Nicholas Cummings  26:25

I honestly have not gotten to that just yet. I do know that the equity and power commit, equity and empowerment commission, prior to the formation of the reparations, subcommittee made recommendations on the kinds of programs that can be put forward and the two recommendations dealt specifically with Housing and Economic Development. And so the what the City needs to do in order to develop that next economic development program is do an impact study with respect to economic development policies of the city, in order to gather that sort of evidence of discrimination really, to see if there’s ever been this evidence, you know, if the city refused permits, licenses, etc, to Black business owners in order for them to open businesses like that, so we have actually come up with that proof of that evidence. So I think that will be the next step in future programming.

Alyssa Dinberg  27:28

Ok. Wow, that’s really exciting. I, hats off to Evanston for actually digging in and working on meaningful change. I know this is, it’s hard work. And you’re you’re subject to a lot of criticism. 

Nicholas Cummings  27:41

For sure. 

Alyssa Dinberg  27:42

It’s, it’s amazing that this is this is what you guys are doing.

Nicholas Cummings  27:46

And incidentally, I remember my first the first meeting in which I broke it to the subcommittee that they needed to find evidence of its own wrongdoing. It was kind of like a small media story locally, like when the City’s attorney tells you that you need to find evidence of your own discrimination in order to succeed at a policy. You know, usually I’m trying to shield them from their wrongdoing.

Alyssa Dinberg  28:11

I know you’re trying not to get sued. Yeah, it’s a good point.

Nicholas Cummings  28:15

Exactly. But, in order to comply with Supreme Court requirements, in case any of your listeners are legal practitioners for local government, its City of, it’s City of Richmond v. J. A. Croson, is essentially the case that I leaned on to reverse engineer what it was that we have to do. And then in that case, the city of Richmond tried to do an economic development program that favored minority owned businesses over other contractors. And the problem is they didn’t have sufficient evidence to show that the city actually discriminated in government contracting. They had a they had a great goal. But they just didn’t have the proof that the city actually denied minority contractors, city contracts, in, in order to enact this program, so.

Alyssa Dinberg  29:09

Interesting. So I’m going to ask a nitty gritty question with regards to the Supreme Court. When you, it’s more of a process question, when you create or develop an idea like this. What does that relationship look like? Do you have to bring it to the Supreme Court to get approval? What does that look like?

Nicholas Cummings  29:28

No, essentially, what happens is, we have to get sued in District Court, fight that battle in District Court until it gets to the point where it’s appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. I guess in theory that, in legal theory, the United States Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, if it wanted to, like they could, in theory go directly to the Supreme Court, but that’s, you know, rarely ever, if ever happened in my experience. So right now it would be one of those things that someone would have to sue us in District Court for claiming that, you know, we either discriminated against them or that our policy in general violates the 14th amendment. And then we would fight that battle in the in the district court, it will go to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. And then the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals would have to rule and then the next step would be the United States Supreme Court.

Alyssa Dinberg  30:24

Interesting. Okay. Yeah, I, I am not a lawyer. So, it’s helpful to have some, some of those details that I do not know to appreciate. Sure. Before we get into today’s episode, is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. If you don’t have a short term rental regulation and enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue, and risking damage to your communities character. Granicus hosts compliance helps with everything from address identification, to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about regulating short term rentals, visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s Granicus.com for more information. Back to the show.  So can you talk a little bit about how Evanston’s program fits within the broader national conversation? All of our listeners, everyone is aware that there’s a much larger conversation nationally happening right now with discrimination and equal treatment. So I’m just I’m curious how this program fits in.

Nicholas Cummings  31:39

So there’s it’s really two prong. The first is that, like we talked about the beginning of the show, reparations is really about rectifying a harm, a past harm. And so at the base of it, Evanston’s program is trying to repair wrong that it admitted, it essentially is admitting that it did to its Black residents in the past. But the second problem is not related to slavery at all. So the larger conversation regarding reparations in the country is about the descendants of slaves and former slaves. Evanston, while it did pass a resolution some time ago in support of HR 40. It did not take on this step with the understanding that it was tied to slavery, right? It’s it’s specifically tied to what part did our city play in discriminating against Black people and, and to be quite frank, I use that term specifically and intentionally because it when you use the term Black, it’s it’s inclusive of a wide range in terms of diaspora. It includes, you know, like Afro Latino, it includes, you know, immigrants from Haiti, it includes descendants of slaves. It’s not just a subset of that. And that also was a criticism. One of my good friends is a very big proponent of national reparations, but only for specifically descendants of slaves and not from like, you know, African immigrants or Caribbean immigrants, or, although, historically, those from the Caribbean and those from South America came over on some similar, if not the same boats, and just got dropped off in different places, right. So Evanston’s view on that is a lot broader, because in the City’s mind, the discrimination, it didn’t matter if you were an immigrant. It really was based on the color of your, your skin. So I think that’s how it fits into the national conversation. It is trying to do exactly what reparations are supposed to do. But it isn’t in line with the broader, general, national conversation when it comes to the descendants of slaves. 

Alyssa Dinberg  34:08

Interesting. Okay. What, and this is also a fairly broad question, but I’m hoping you can answer it. What else is Evanston doing in terms of equity in your community right now? 

Nicholas Cummings  34:23

So, that is a really, really broad question. So I know that the city manager has has definitely made equity a huge part of her initiative in terms of running the city, right? So it’s a matter of looking at all of our policies to make sure that they’re being applied similarly, across the board. Just as an example. Recently, we had a request for well, essentially, it’s a it’s a land use request, right? And so that requests came in. And we have to look at it and say, Okay, well, if we allow this particular land use in this area, how are we going to apply this to the rest of the city? So that other people, so it’s it’s done fairly, right? That’s one thing. I know that there’s still an equity and power commission out there, I don’t know if they’ve actually dissolved, but I do know that our deputy city manager works on a lot of those equity initiatives. And so there are lots of different things that the City is looking at equity broadly.

Alyssa Dinberg  35:34

Okay. Great.

Nicholas Cummings  35:36

I can only speak to what I’m doing with my department, specifically now that I am Cooperation Council. But I mean, I know that it is something that’s a major goal of the city generally.

Alyssa Dinberg  35:46

That’s great. Well, again, hats off to you. I’m really impressed with this program and all the work that Evanston is doing. So thank you. I think that’s all I have. Is there anything else that you you think our listeners need to know about reparations or reparations in Evanston?

Nicholas Cummings  36:03

Not that I can think of, I think that we covered on pretty much everything. Just know that anytime, anytime that there’s been an attempt at change to make our country more equitable, there’s been resistance. And I commend those who are willing to take the steps to withstand that resistance, including our outgoing city council and their vote a few weeks ago. You know, I hope that we don’t see the same sort of resistance that was in the 1860s in the 1960s. But I fully expected all the same and we have to be brave in trying to advance where we’re going. So that would be the only other thing I want to leave your listeners with, is to be brave.

Alyssa Dinberg  36:51

Beautiful parting words. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for coming on today’s ELGL Gov Love Episode. I really appreciate it. This has been really interesting for me and I know our listeners will really enjoy this. Before we leave. I do have one last question for you. If you could be the Gov Love DJ for today’s episode, what song would you pick as our exit music for the episode?

Nicholas Cummings  37:16

I probably have to go with Sam Cooke. Change is Gonna Come. 

Alyssa Dinberg  37:21

That’s a good one. Beautiful. Well, that ends our episode. Thank you again. I really appreciate it, Nicholas. Gov Love is produced by rotating cast of amazing ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. You can reach us at ELGL, You can reach us at ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter at @GovLovePodcast. Thanks for listening. This has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.

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