City council urged to act on reparations through guaranteed income scheme for black men

Chicago was again urged on Thursday to move toward providing some form of reparations to descendants of African-American slaves, perhaps starting with guaranteed minimum income checks, focused on unemployed black men. prone to violence.

In early 2021, Kamm Howard, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, testified virtually at the city council’s first subcommittee meeting on reparations.

He then urged Chicago aldermen to use the reparations paid to victims of Jon Burge’s era of torture as a model for reparations.

On Thursday, Howard delivered a similar but more pointed message at the subcommittee’s second meeting, perhaps because those two meetings were separated by 15 months of inaction.

His PowerPoint presentation focused on Columbia University studies of two crime-ridden Chicago communities, Englewood and West Garfield Park, and the overwhelming number of households in these neighborhoods with no fathers present.

A slide in the presentation listed grim statistics on “black male labor force participation” in America’s largest cities: 12% for men ages 16-20 and 28% for men ages 16-24 year. It rises to 50% for the 16-60 age group.

No wonder so many men find themselves in “survival mode,” as Howard put it, working in an “informal economy” that relies on acts of violence.

This is followed by a slide entitled: “Reparations as public safety”.

It recommended a Guaranteed Basic Income program that “takes” black men off the streets and “significantly reduces their reliance on the violence-ridden illegal economy.”

He noted that the average income for these men is $700 to $900 a month, so a basic income of $600 to $800 would replace most of that. Income would be provided for up to two years, and only if men remain in remedial care, with the aim of eventually entering the workforce and supporting their children.

Mayoral challenger Roderick Sawyer (6th), who chairs the health and human services committee that created the reparations subcommittee, criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for using $31 million in federal stimulus funds to distribute $500 a month to 500 needy Chicagoans for one year.

Sawyer was more receptive to the two-year income program, but only if conditions are attached.

“There should be some responsibility with that. They should do something in exchange for that. Maybe an assessment. Perhaps, if necessary, behavioral assistance. Attend meetings or speak with professionals. And also maybe some work, if you will. Not something major. But something to engage in the community while you get that stipend,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer was asked why so little progress had been made on reparations in Chicago when the subcommittee was created two years ago.

“The mayor is not as supportive as I would have hoped. … Many of us want to go further. But there’s been some pushback from an administration that doesn’t think that’s the way to go,” Sawyer said.

“I keep pushing. I insisted on this for years. I will continue to make it a problem. If we do it right, we’ll see a corresponding drop in criminal activity as well as health outcomes and other things that we know of in the black community.

Aldus. Stephanie Coleman (16), co-chair of the reparations subcommittee, said a Guaranteed Basic Income program for African-American men “would give some young people the opportunity to be stewards of their communities and be agents of change.

“If we can find $12 million for gas cards, we can definitely find resources to really respond to one of our city’s most vulnerable populations,” Coleman said.

“It can really help make our city a better and safer city.”

Coleman didn’t hesitate when asked why repairs in Chicago were moving at such a snail’s pace.

“It is the only committee that is not supported. There are no resources or politics. We have nothing,” she said, especially against an already approved repair program in Evanston.

“I hope our budget department sees that the need is there. … I admire and am a bit jealous of Evanston because they laid the groundwork. In Chicago, we should be setting the trend instead of following. »

In November 2019, Evanston made history by establishing a $10 million reparations fund to repair the black population of this northern suburb for historic wrongs related to racial inequality. The money will come from a tax on cannabis sales.

The old Evanston Ald was a major driving force behind this pioneering effort. Robin Rue Simmons, who spoke at Thursday’s hearing, just as she did at the first hearing.

She noted that “more than 100 municipalities” have advanced local repair orders.

“What city more than Chicago should advance reparations for its crimes and harms against its black community?” asked Simon.

“When I conducted this work in Evanston, I did so looking at a $46,000 household income gap between blacks and whites in Evanston. I imagine that’s more the case in Chicago. In Evanston, we had a difference in life expectancy of 13 years. This data was enough for us to move the repairs forward. In Chicago, it’s 30 years.

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