Home / News / Steven Rogers famously wrote a letter to his white friends in 2021. Now he has reclaimed property in Evanston from which black families had been removed.

Steven Rogers famously wrote a letter to his white friends in 2021. Now he has reclaimed property in Evanston from which black families had been removed.

Evanston resident Steven Rogers wrote the book 2021 “A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What Can You Do Right Now to Help the Black Community?” Published on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing, this book offered practical guidance on how to improve black and white racial relations; this includes whites who share the generational wealth deprived of the Black community by government policies such as slavery. separation and red line. He also asked Black people to use their money to support Black-owned ventures to help their own.

Now Rogers, an Englewood native, is doing just that as Scientist, the new owner of Second Church of Christ in Evanston. Rogers purchased the property at 2715 Hurd Ave. in December 2022 after learning the history of the land where the church parking lot is located. He bought the property at.

As reported by news outlets including WGN And Bloomberg, the Sutton family of Evanston had their home ripped out of 2931 Bauer Place in 1929 and moved to the 5th Ward, a predominantly black area of ​​town. The Suttons’ story was not an anomaly; Other Black families on the block were also relocated to the same area. Rogers heard the story and thought, “There’s a crime against Black people being committed on this property,” and set out to buy the parking lot from the church where Sutton’s home had once stood.

According to Rogers, the land would not be sold without the church. I bought them both for $1 million. (This was after a for-profit school/daycare scheme He encountered resistance from neighbors and failed.)

“I bought it because the idea of ​​returning land to black ownership was something I wanted to do,” Rogers said. “I also wanted to pay tribute in some way to the Black families who were forced to move. This was a story about Black people losing their wealth as a result. This is a community where average homes range from approximately $700,000 to $1.4 million. If the houses were moved, but those houses had stayed there, imagine how the value of the property would increase over time and what would be left to the heirs. “This is the story of Black people losing land, Black people losing value.”

This value has been seen many times Studies highlighting racial wealth gap. “Patterns of financial stability and wealth accumulation can have repercussions over 40, 50 or 100 years: The opportunities given or denied to our grandparents (or great-grandparents) can be felt today, not just in the form of inheritance (or lack thereof), but the opportunities bestowed upon younger generations.” resources in all their manifestations. Thus, wealth reflects not only differences in current opportunities but also differences in past opportunities that continue to reflect and shape the present,” says the report “Chicago’s Racial Wealth Gap” by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. : Legacy of the Past, Challenges of the Present, Uncertain Futures.”

A former senior lecturer Harvard Business SchoolRogers plans to offer the church for free as a venue celebrating black culture.

“I want to make the church an asset to the Black community in Evanston, Chicago and the Black national community,” Rogers said. “I love art. I want to host choirs from historically Black colleges as they make their annual tours across the country. “I would like to have guest speakers, prominent speakers from the Black community, book clubs, anything that has to do with the arts and the Black community.”

Five parking lots behind the Second Church of Christ the Scientist in Evanston display the street address numbers of five 1920s homes owned by Black families that once stood in the area.  A real estate developer forced the homeowners out to open new homes for white residents, and decades later the site became the parking lot for the church, which was completed in 1947.

He said he was open to listening to the ideas of the Black community; This means being open to reunions, back-to-school events, Black dance organizations, youth organizations, anything that has to do with uplifting, developing or helping the Black community. Rogers said he is installing a new electrical system, a new stage and central air for the auditorium, and new asphalt paving for the parking lot.

“If you go to the parking lot, you’ll see places with numbers on the front; those five places with numbers are addresses for Black families who were forced to move,” Rogers said. “I will continue to do things in that parking lot to pay tribute to those black families. I will write their names in the spaces.

Rogers invites people to reach out to him through his website. stevensrogers.com, to reserve a place. So far, the Fisk University Choir has performed in this space in October. The choir has ties to Sherman United Methodist Church in Evanston, but carried the event Second Church of Christ to the Scientist due to seating capacity.

“They shook the house,” said Rogers, a longtime HBCU supporter. “The windows were literally sweating.”

Stage left Donovan Mixon performs with the DJAM World Music Quartet at the Second Church of Christ, Scientist in Evanston on November 14, 2023.

On November 14 at Second Church of Christ, Scientist hosted Evanston musician Donovan Mixon and the DJAM World Music Quartet. Mixon regularly holds free concerts in his garage during the warmer months; Here people can pull up a chair and listen to music in the alley. Thanks to Rogers’ church, music can now continue into the colder months. The denomination still rents out the church to its members, Rogers said. He said he has reached out to choirs at other HBCUs to help connect with local alumni groups to coordinate possible performances at the church.

Saying that “being wronged is partially ameliorated by some form of financial compensation,” Rogers looks forward to remaining committed to lifting up the Black community and being a good Chicagoland person.

The next concert at the church is scheduled for December 12 at 7 p.m. Donovan Mixon will perform with saxophonist James Perkins, trumpeter Phil Perkins, bassist Jim Cox and drummer Jeff Stitely.

drockett@chicagotribune.com

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