2023 YWomen Honorees

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2023 YWomen Honorees

Categories: News

YWCA Evanston/North Shore has announced it’s 2023 YWomen Leadership Celebration honorees who will be recognized on Saturday, November 4th at the DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago – North Shore.

2023 YWomen Honorees:

Robin Rue Simmons

Founder and Executive Director of FirstRepair

Robin Rue Simmons is an American former politician and a dedicated national leader for local reparations for African Americans. Born and raised in the predominantly segregated 5th Ward of Evanston, Illinois, she has been unwavering in her commitment to fighting for racial justice.

From 2017 to 2021, Rue Simmons served as the alderman of the 5th Ward, during which she achieved a significant milestone by spearheading the passage of the United States’ first government-funded reparations legislation. Her groundbreaking efforts have made Evanston a trailblazer in the pursuit of reparations for Black residents. The local reparations initiative is being funded by the first $10 million of adult-use cannabis sales tax revenue collected by the City of Evanston. This pioneering program initially focuses on homeownership, aiming to provide opportunities and support to those who have faced historical injustices.

Beyond her role as alderman, Rue Simmons continues to be an influential figure in the pursuit of reparations. After leaving office, she assumed the position of chair of the City of Evanston’s Reparations Committee, demonstrating her ongoing dedication to driving change and fostering equitable solutions.

Apart from her political endeavors, Rue Simmons is the Founder and Executive Director of FirstRepair, a not-for-profit organization with a powerful mission of informing local reparations efforts at a national level. Through this organization, she has been actively engaged in raising awareness about the importance of reparations and advocating for meaningful actions to address historical inequities.

Rue Simmons’ commitment to racial justice extends beyond Evanston, as she serves as a commissioner of the National African-American Reparations Commission and is a lifetime member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. Her passion for uplifting communities is evident through her involvement as a board member of Connections for the Homeless, where she contributes to efforts aimed at combating homelessness and its impact on marginalized individuals.

Over the course of her career, Robin Rue Simmons has garnered recognition and accolades for her outstanding contributions to the field of racial justice. Her dedication has been acknowledged through various awards, and she has been featured in numerous media outlets and documentaries, including NPR, Washington Post, CNN, and the documentary “The Big Payback.”

As a visionary leader and an unyielding advocate for reparations and racial justice, Robin Rue Simmons continues to inspire and empower others to work towards a more equitable and inclusive society. Her tireless efforts have undoubtedly left a lasting impact on her community and the broader movement for reparations in America.

Tosha Wilson

Founder of Boosting Black Business, Co-owner of The Laundry Cafe, and Co-Developer of The Aux

Tosha Wilson is a dedicated community member and a shining example of someone who passionately advocates for equity, equality, and investment in her hometown of Evanston, Illinois. As an Evanston police officer and a lifelong resident of the city, she has been at the forefront of driving positive change and creating impactful solutions to address the needs of her community.

One of Tosha’s notable initiatives is the Boosting Black Businesses campaign, which she launched in 2020. Recognizing the challenges faced by small, black-owned businesses in Evanston, she took action and raised significant funds to support these entrepreneurs. Her unwavering commitment to fostering economic empowerment has been instrumental in bolstering the growth and success of local black-owned businesses.

Moreover, Tosha played a key role as a founding member of The Aux, a community space in Evanston aimed at transforming and uplifting an area of the city that has historically been overlooked and underfunded. The Aux capital campaign was spearheaded by Tosha, and it will soon become a reality, offering a direct services space that includes The Laundry Cafe. This innovative business model combines a laundromat with a cafe, catering to the needs of the community in more ways than one.

Beyond her entrepreneurial pursuits, Tosha identified a lack of opportunities for girls’ basketball in Evanston and took immediate action. In the summer of 2022, she launched a free-of-charge basketball camp for Evanston girls at Mason Park. Alongside two other coaches, she led the program, providing young girls with an empowering and enriching experience on the basketball court.

Tosha’s relentless dedication to her community has earned her numerous accolades and recognition. Her efforts have been covered by media outlets like the Chicago Tribune, where her impactful work and commitment to boosting black businesses were celebrated.

As an Evanston native, Tosha Wilson understands the challenges and needs of her community intimately. Her personal experiences have motivated her to create solutions that empower and uplift the lives of those around her. Her unwavering determination, leadership, and pioneering spirit have made her a true star and an inspiration to all.

In addition to her community work, Tosha’s dedication to her cause has earned her recognition beyond Evanston. Recently, she was honored with an Aglet Award, celebrating her important contributions to her community. This award is a testament to the profound impact she has had on the lives of others and the positive change she continues to champion.

With her remarkable efforts and tireless commitment to creating a better future for Evanston, Tosha Wilson remains a shining example of what it means to be an engaged and compassionate community member, dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those she serves.


A woman alone has power, women together have impact. That’s what YWomen is all about.

Each year at our YWomen Leadership Celebration, YWCA Evanston/North Shore recognizes and celebrates women leaders in our community for their commitment to women’s advancement and racial justice. The YWomen Leadership Awards were created by YWCA Evanston/North Shore in 2008 to recognize, support and promote women’s leadership and the impact women have in bringing social change to our local communities.

YWCA Evanston/North Shore works to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen local communities. It serves more than 8,000 people annually in northern Cook County. Learn more www.ywca-ens.org.