The Big Payback Screening

The University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice, and media partners WBEZ and WTTW invite you to join us for a screening of the newly-released film, The Big Payback, followed by a moderated conversation about reparations with Robin Rue Simmons and the film’s co-directors, Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow.

Doors open at 4:30 PM; Light refreshments will be served.

About the Film

Evanston, Illinois rookie Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons led the passage of the first tax-funded reparations bill in U.S. history for Black Americans. What follows is grief and debate as she and her community struggle with the burden to make repair and restitution for its citizens, while a national racial and social crisis engulfs the country. Meanwhile, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee faces a 30-year battle to pass H.R. 40, a national bill to study reparations and make recommendations. Both women are met with racism and resistance, as well as help from allies and abolitionists within. Together, they pressure the government to deliver monetary justice and appropriate remedies for Black Americans harmed by centuries of chattel slavery, state-sponsored terrorism, systemic injustice, and corporate exploitation. Will the debt ever be addressed, or is it too late for a reparations movement to finally get the big payback?

General Information:

  • Estimated timeframe: Film: 85-Minutes | Conversation: 45-Minutes
  • In-person event. Free to attend but registration is required.
  • General admission based on first-come-first seated. Overflow seating available.
  • Panel discussion will be record and posted to the Crown Family School Livestream website.
  • Public transportation recommended. Limited street parking available along the Midway Plaisance. The University open-air parking lots (closest located on the corner of 61st and Ellis Avenue) are free and open to the public after 4:00 PM
Robin Rue Simmons
Robin Rue Simmons

Former Democratic 5th Ward Alderwoman, Evanston, IL

Robin Rue Simmons is the Founder and Executive Director of FirstRepair, a not-for-profit organization that informs local reparations, nationally. She serves as the chairperson of the City of Evanston’s Reparations Committee. Rue Simmons is the former 5th Ward Alderman for the City of Evanston, IL, 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.

Rue Simmons was born and raised in the largely segregated 5th Ward of Evanston, a city of 75,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan on the northern border of Chicago.

She laid the foundation for her life’s work in 1998 when she became a residential real estate broker. Troubled by the wealth disparities and concentrated poverty she witnessed locally and saw in other urban communities, she wanted to help young adults begin to build wealth through homeownership.

As an entrepreneur, she launched and operated multiple businesses, including a bookstore in the 5th Ward, that also offered free afterschool programming, and a construction company in Evanston that employed Black tradespeople, developing dozens of affordable houses funded by the Illinois Neighborhood Stabilization Program. She continues to manage a handful of residential and commercial properties that she owns in Evanston.

Most recently, Rue Simmons was the Director of Innovation and Outreach for Sunshine Enterprises, a not-for-profit on Chicago’s South Side, which has supported over one thousand entrepreneurs (virtually all African American and three-quarters women) in launching or growing their businesses.

Rue Simmons served as an alderman from 2017-2021, serving on multiple committees and chairing several. During her tenure, she prioritized improving the lived experiences of and expanding opportunities for Black residents in Evanston, most notably through her work on reparations. The local reparations initiative is being funded by the first $10 million of adult-use cannabis sales tax revenue collected by the City and the first stage of the program is focused on homeownership.

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.

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.

Rue Simmons attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she majored in communications. She has two young adult children. She enjoys double dutch and forest bathing in her free time.

Erika Alexander
Erika Alexander

Erika Alexander (Co-Director) is an actress and creator, making her directorial debut with The Big Payback, co-directed with Whitney Dow, which chronicles the story of the first reparations bill in American history for African Americans. She is a co-founder of Color Farm Media and serves as a board member for One Fair Wage and Exponent.

Whitney Dow
Whitney Dow

Whitney Dow (Co-Director) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator, whose work has focused on race and identity for more than two decades. His directorial credits include I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, POV’s Two Towns of Jasper, and the Independent Lens documentaries When the Drum is Beating and The Big Payback.

Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore, (Moderator) Reporter, Race, Class and Communities, WBEZ Chicago

Natalie Moore covers segregation and inequality.

Her enterprise reporting has tackled race, housing, economic development, food injustice and violence. Natalie’s work has been broadcast on the BBC, Marketplace and NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Natalie is the author of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, winner of the 2016 Chicago Review of Books award for nonfiction and a Buzzfeed best nonfiction book of 2016. She is also co-author of The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of an American Gang and Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation.  Natalie is the author of “The Billboard,” a play about abortion; 16th Street Theater produced the play.

Natalie writes a monthly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Her work has been published in Essence, Ebony, the Chicago Reporter, Bitch, In These Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian. She is the 2017 recipient of Chicago Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award. In 2010, she received the Studs Terkel Community Media Award for reporting on Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. In 2009, she was a fellow at Columbia College’s Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, which allowed her to take a reporting trip to Libya. Natalie has won several journalism awards, including a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. Other honors are from the Radio Television Digital News Association (Edward R. Murrow), Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, National Association of Black Journalists, Illinois Associated Press and Chicago Headline Club. The Chicago Reader named her best journalist in 2017. In 2018, she received an honorary doctorate from Adler University. In These Times gave her the 2017 Voice of Progressive Journalism Award. Natalie frequently collaborates with Chicago artist Amanda Williams.

She is a 2021 USA Fellow. The Pulitzer Center named her a 2020 Richard C. Longworth Media Fellow for international reporting. In 2021, University of Chicago Center for Effective Government (CEG), based at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, welcomed her its first cohort of Senior Practitioner Fellows. 

Prior to joining WBEZ staff in 2007, Natalie was a city hall reporter for the Detroit News. She has also been an education reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a reporter for the Associated Press in Jerusalem.

Natalie has an M.S.J. in Newspaper Management from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a B.A. in Journalism from Howard University. She has taught at Columbia College and Medill. She is on the board of Seminary Co-op Bookstore and chair of the Harold Washington Literary Awards.

This event is Co-Sponsored by WBEZ and WTTW.

WBEZ and WTTW wordmarks

If you have any questions about access or to request a reasonable accommodation that will facilitate your full participation in this event such as ASL interpreting, captioned videos, Braille or electronic text, food options for individuals with dietary restrictions, etc. please contact the event organizer.