How the Next Generation Can Lead on the Road to Reparations

Robin Rue Simmons
Student Union, Multipurpose Rooms

The debate about reparations in the United States remains a heated one, but a movement towards more and greater compensation for Black Americans for the lasting legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination in the nation continues to grow. 

Robin Rue Simmons, founder and executive director of FirstRepair and a Pritzker Fellow at the Institute of Politics of The University of Chicago, will visit campus to discuss with students and faculty the role young people can play in that movement and the importance of continued discussion, and vigilance, in the search for fairness for all citizens of the United States. Her visit is being organized by the Politics, Economics and Law Club, a student organization on campus. 

Rue Simmons is the former 5th Ward Alderman for the City of Evanston, Illinois, where she led, in collaboration with others, the passage of the nation’s first municipally-funded reparations legislation for Black residents, which began disbursements in January 2022.  She served as an alderman from 2017-2021 and prioritized improving the lived experiences of and expanding opportunities for Black residents in Evanston, most notably through her work on reparations. To date, $20 million has been committed to reparations by the City. She serves as the chairperson of the City’s Reparations Committee which oversees its initial Restorative Housing Program, which began disbursements in January 2021. Several other governmental entities across the country are actively seeking to follow Evanston’s example.

After declining to run for reelection, she founded FirstRepair, a not-for-profit organization focused on helping state and local governments shape reparations initiatives. 

Rue Simmons has received numerous awards for her reparations and other public service work including a proclamation from the Evanston City Council recognizing her reparations work, the Urban One Honors’ Reparations Ambassador Award (Stacey Abrams and Nikole Hannah-Jones were among those also being honored); the Dearborn Realtist Board’s Vernon Jarrett Legislative Award; the Democratic Party of Evanston’s Liz Tisdahl Award; the Route Fifty Elected Official of the Year Award; the Realtist Women’s Council of Illinois’ Community Impact Award; and the Family Focus Community Leadership Imani Award. She has also been featured in numerous national and international publications, on television and radio, and in podcasts for her work on local reparations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Guardian, ABC’s Nightline, and CNN. Rue Simmons is also featured in The Big Payback, a documentary co-directed by Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow which premiered at the Tribeca Festival in June 2022.

Further, Rue Simmons is a commissioner of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), a lifetime member of NCOBRA, a board member of Evanston’s Connections for the Homeless, and she previously served as a board member for the National League of Cities’ National Black Caucus of Local Elected Leaders and the President of the Evanston Black Business Alliance.