A pair of Chicago siblings are set to receive $25,000 in reparations cash – as part of the first effort from an American city to make financial amends with its black residents.
Evanston residents Kenneth Wideman, 77, and Shelia Wideman, 75, are poised to collect the sums in the coming weeks – two years after their names were randomly selected along with 16 others out of a Bingo cage as part of the fledgling program.
However, while others received their reparations in a timely manner, the Widemans were somewhat left in the lurch – due to program architects’ decision to forgo direct payouts in lieu of grants to address diminished black homeownership.
Since the siblings do not own any property, they did not qualify for two of three of the repayment options – to use the $25,000 either on mortgage payments, or home repairs.
The third option was a down payment for a new home – a choice the siblings flouted in favor of cash. For months, they besieged members of the committee and city to reconsider their stipulations, leading them to toss them this month.
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For months, Evanston resident Kenneth Wideman (seen here during a recent reparations committee meeting) besieged the city to reconsider stipulations that barred cash payouts, leading them to ditch them this month
Those calls, made by an emotional Kenneth as he clutched a cane he needs to walk, apparently swayed the relatively new reparations committee, leading them to decide to dish out the first cash reparations in the history of the US
‘I do not have any property; my sister doesn’t have any property, and we were on the list,’ elder brother Kenneth said earlier this year during a public comment portion of an Evanston reparations meeting.
‘I came here this morning to ask the committee, the people that’s in charge, if possible, that you can make some changes or help my sister and I to get something out of the reparations before we are eliminated,’ the disabled veteran explained.
Days earlier, he had learned the reparations grants that he and sister were awarded were set to expire in March.
He went on to point out a flaw in the largely experimental program – which comes as other similar councils in states like California consider their own reparation policies and how to dish out the payments.
Clad in a Vietnam veteran cap, Wideman explained how he was happy in his one-bedroom rental in the city’s downtown neighborhood – where repairs are not his responsibility – and did not want to be forced to buy a home just to get his reparations.
‘Everybody maybe has gotten their money, maybe,’ he told the committee of the 14 other repayments.
‘We have not received anything since we don’t have any property, and I just want some kind of possibly, reparations, in some kind of form that will help my sister and I out.’
Those calls, made by an emotional Kenneth as he clutched a cane he needs to walk, apparently swayed the relatively new reparations committee – formed back in 2019 – leading them to decide to dish out the first cash reparations in the history of the US.
The group, comprised of both residents and members of the city council, has now carved out a fourth option for the more than 650 black residents in Evanston whose reparations applications could be picked in the next batch of repayments.
That option allows residents to elect for cash instead of grants – a decision Kenneth celebrated in an interview with the Chicago Tribune published on Monday, as he and his sister, who also walks with a cane, are now set to rake in the cash.
Speaking to the paper not far from her brother’s second-floor apartment, Shelia said she was thankful the city reconsidered their initial policies, adding that she hopes it will spread to others still waiting for their chance to collect.
‘Maybe they could somehow get ahead in life, do something that they might want to do in life,’ Shelia explained. ‘And maybe they’ll forget about what happened and move forward.’
As for Kenneth, he’s glad that he does not have to part ways with his spacious one-bedroom apartment roughly ten miles from Chicago, where the responsibility of maintaining the place falls on his landlord.
‘This is the way I like it,’ the 77-year-old – who lives two blocks from Shelia and frequently drives her to the doctor – explained. ‘Just a home being a home. It’s very enjoyable.’
More importantly, he said if a problem arises with the place’s water heater of if his front drive needs shoveling, all he has to do is call building staff – so he can ‘see them do the work.’
First approved in March of 2021, the program provides for grants of up to $25,000 for Black residents. However, in the time since, only 650 residents have applied – lass than five percent of the roughly 12,500 black residents living in the satellite city.
Still, 650 repayments of $25,000 is no small task for any city – and committee members elected to circumvent this issue by randomly plucking balls out of a lottery-style machine back in January.
Printed with on each of the balls was a number corresponding with a person confirmed by the city to be an ‘ancestor’ — a black resident of Evanston between 1919 and 1969.
The method drew some criticism at the time due to its lack of tact, but was praised by several residents who have hope at being selected next time around.
However, the date of the next drawing remains unclear – as well as if committee members will again use Bingo machine when coming to their decision.
As for the siblings, they have yet to receive the cash – and are unsure of how they will spend it when it inevitably comes.
‘I have an idea, maybe, what I would love but I don’t want to say because I don’t have — my hands are empty right now,’ Shelia said
Kenneth said he’s still mulling the possibilities, but would like to put some in the bank his grandchildren, and use the rest for rent or furniture.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk