Black-owned bank receives $17M from state’s reparations fund

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Alden McDonald, president/CEO of Liberty Bank and Trust Company. Photo by ShoppeBlack.us

EVANSTON, IL — Evanston has etched its name in history twice over.

In a landmark decision, the city established the first government-funded reparations program in the U.S. to address the systemic racism faced by Black residents between 1919 and 1969, according to Essence. Now, five years later, another groundbreaking move is multiplying the impact of these reparations.

The historic reparations fund of $17 million is being transferred to Liberty Bank and Trust, one of Illinois’ only Black-owned banks. This isn’t just a symbolic gesture. As Robin Rue Simmons, Chair of the Evanston Reparations Committee, explains, “This is a way that this repair can be multiplied.”

The money will be used to empower Black businesses and homeowners. Liberty Bank offers lending opportunities, fair mortgages, and support specifically tailored to the Black community. “A Black bank is going to give more lending power and access,” says Simmons. “[This is] a very, very big deal.”

The impact could extend far beyond Evanston. Simmons asks, “If we have inspired more than 100 municipalities to do reparations, what if they follow this model?” This partnership between reparations and a Black-owned bank offers a blueprint for nationwide economic justice for Black communities.

The reparations program is just the first step on Evanston’s journey towards racial wealth equity. Professor Twyla Blackmond Larnell of Loyola University Chicago is spearheading a study to understand how to better support Black-owned businesses. “There’s power in numbers,” she says. “[We need] resources and amenities to maintain our Black population…so they can open and support businesses, feel included, and stay.” Evanston’s commitment to reparations and Black economic empowerment is a shining example for the nation. “Let’s not be scared to dream,” urges Simmons.