The Big Payback, a new documentary about longtime efforts to promote reparations for African Americans, premiered Monday, June 13, at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie spotlights Evanston’s reparations program, which “for the first time in American history,” provides a funding mechanism to launch reparations payouts.

For more information on the movie, click here. (Scroll down on the page to the movie description, and look at the second rectangle ticket on the righthand side, which is labeled: HOME. The total cost will be $20 to view.)

Robin Rue Simmons Credit: Genie Lemieux

This is the movie’s description on the festival’s website:

For the first time in American history, a tax funded reparations bill for Blacks is passed in Evanston, Ill. Funded by a tax on cannabis, the program is set to deliver $10 million as a correction for the systematic bias historically inflicted upon its Black constituents.

The film follows the fight of rookie alderman Robin Rue Simmons as she leads the community in an uphill battle to obtain this ‘big payback’.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the formidable Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee continues the fight to pass HR 40: a national bill languishing in Congress for 30+ years, to examine the merits of introducing reparations for slavery to African Americans. While the racial reckoning of 2020 plays out it the background, the two women navigate supporters and detractors, Black and white, in this quest towards correcting historical wrongs.

Erika Alexander (actress, Living Single and producer of John Lewis: Good Trouble) and Tribeca Festival alum Whitney Dow co-direct this journey of a Black woman stepping into her power and creating measurable change.

With a cameo by TaNehisi Coates, this informative, insightful window into the legislative process brings with it an uplifting message championing the rights of citizens to challenge the status quo and gives needed exposure to the conversation around reparations. —Karen McMullen

To reserve a ticket for the conversation Tribeca Talks x Blackhouse: Filmmaking and Activism: From Civil Rights to Reparations please click here.

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...

One reply on “Documentary on Evanston’s reparations shown at Tribeca Film Festival”


    We are witnessing the creation of the reparations industry. White people using Black faces are determining what repair will look like for Black descendants of slaves. These people go around discussing policies that provide absolutely no impact. Evanston is being discussed as if something has really happened here. There is a misleading impression that lives are being changed and that there is real impact.

    The film (The Big Pay Back) is not so much a documentary about the social history of the reparations movement but more so propaganda for individuals that want to set up nonprofit organizations to capitalize on possible municipal contracts.

    It’s why most Black people would prefer the check they are owed. We don’t need intermediaries concerned about their own enrichment.

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