Our Team

Steering Committee

Justin Hansford (Civil Rights) – UN Delegate, Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) for the 2022-2024 term and Executive Director, Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, Howard University. Professor Hansford was previously a Democracy Project Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and an Associate Professor of Law at Saint Louis University. He has a B.A. from Howard University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was a founder of the Georgetown Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives. Professor Hansford also has received a Fulbright Scholar award to study the legal career of Nelson Mandela, and served as a clerk for Judge Damon J. Keith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Hansford has also worked to empower the Ferguson community through community based legal advocacy.

Linda Mann (Policy, local racial redress) – School of International and Public Affairs, Research Scholar, Columbia University. Linda J. Mann holds a PhD in Education Policy from George Mason University. Mann currently serves as the Research Director for AARN.  In 2018 Mann was awarded an Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability fellowship with Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR). Following her fellowship, Mann continued to work for ISHR establishing the African American Redress Network in collaboration with Howard University. Mann also served as Executive Director at Northeastern University School of Law and Director of Clinical Experiences at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Mann’s research focuses on the analysis of historical injustices and contemporary reparations based on the voices of those wronged to determine their restorative justice potential. Mann previously worked for the Georgetown Memory Project and the American Educational Research Association. She is a veteran educator, a conflict resolution specialist and a 20+ year grass-roots organizer.

Billi Wilkerson (Managing director) – Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, Howard University.  With fond memories of her mother blasting Billie Holiday in the living room, Bilqis Watts Wilkerson is known to most simply as Billi. Currently, Billi is the Managing Director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law. As a law student, Billi found her true calling in Human and Civil Rights. Billi brings years of experience in community activism, grassroots organizing, and advocacy. Her interests range broadly and she succinctly states that her aspiration is to improve the human experience. There are countless places and spaces where she has been privileged to advocate for peace, justice, human rights, environmental justice, and dignity for marginalized communities (including missing children, incarcerated individuals and their families, the poor, the homeless, etc). Billi has served in International Development, Community Management, the Congressional Black Caucus and for Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Elazar Barkan is Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Director of SIPA’s Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration, and Director of Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Professor Barkan is also founding Director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) in The Hague. Professor Barkan served on ISHR’s board of directors before becoming ISHR’s co-director in 2007 and director in 2008. Previously, Professor Barkan served as chair of the History Department and the Cultural Studies Department at the Claremont Graduate University, where he was the founding director of the Humanities Center. Professor Barkan is a historian by training and received his PhD from Brandeis University in Comparative European History and BA from Tel Aviv University. His research interests focus on human rights and on the role of history in contemporary society and politics and the response to gross historical crimes and injustices.

Robin Rue Simmons is a strategist, civic entrepreneur and alderman of Evanston’s 5th Ward. Ald. Rue Simmons began her career 22 years ago when she launched her first business as a real estate broker. Troubled by the wealth disparities and concentrated poverty in urban communities, she wanted to help young adults build wealth early through homeownership. Over the course of her entrepreneurial career, she has launched and operated multiple businesses, including a bookstore that offered free afterschool programming and a construction firm that employed dozens of minority skilled tradespeople, and has developed dozens of affordable homes funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Rue Simmons was elected 5th Ward alderman for the City of Evanston in 2017. Since taking office, she has prioritized improving the lived experience and expanding opportunities for Black residents. Most notably, she led the passing of the nation’s first reparations program, which will be funded by the first $10 million of Adult Use Cannabis sales tax revenue. Robin is the chairman of the Reparations Committee and a strong advocate for social equity applicants in the cannabis business.

Kristina Eberbach, Director of Education at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University. Kristina Eberbach is Deputy Director of the Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at SIPA. From 2010-2019 she served as the Institute’s Director of Education. She has developed and facilitated human rights courses and workshops for university students, members of civil society and government officials in Colombia, Iraq, Myanmar, and the U.S. and has undertaken research, reporting, and advocacy work in Kenya, Myanmar, The Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda, and the U.S. She is on the steering committee of Human Rights Educators USA and is a co-founder and steering committee member of the University and College Consortium for Human Rights Education. Her research interests focus on human rights education and human rights in conflict and transitional contexts. Kristina holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Mario Beatty, Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, received his B.A. degree in Black World Studies at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, his M.A. degree in Black Studies at The Ohio State University, and his Ph.D. degree in African-American Studies at Temple University. He has taught at Morris Brown College, Bowie State University, and he served as Chairperson of the Department of African-American Studies at Chicago State University from 2007 to 2010. From 2004 to 2007, he served as an educational consultant for the School District of Philadelphia where he helped to write curriculum and to train teachers in the novel, district-wide mandatory course in African-American history. He currently serves as President of The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC). His research interests include the Ancient Egyptian language, history, wisdom literature, astronomy in Ancient Egyptian religious texts, comparative analyses of African cultures, the image and use of ancient Africa in the African-American historical imagination, the theory and practice of African-American Studies, and Pan-Africanism.

Greg Carr (Africana Studies) – Howard University, Afro American Studies College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Carr holds a PhD from Temple University. His research focus is on pan-African historiography and instructs courses on Africana Studies normative theory, Africana intellectual history, classical African history and African-American nationalism. Greg’s publication include: Towards an Intellectual History of Africana Studies: Genealogy and Normative Theory (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007), and You Don‘t Call the Kittens Biscuits: Disciplinary Africana Studies and The Study of Malcolm X (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007). As the School District of Philadelphia‘s First Resident Scholar on Race and Culture (1999-2000). Dr. Carr developed educational policymaking and curriculum frameworks for African-American History courses now required for secondary education students in Philadelphia. 

Michael L. Blakey, National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology, Africana Studies, and American Studies, and Founding Director of the Institute for Historical Biology at the College of William & Mary. Dr. Blakey was a Key Advisor of the award-winning Race: Are We So Different exhibition of the American Anthropological Association, where he held several offices including president of the Association of Black Anthropologists (1987-1989) and member of the editorial board of American Anthropologist (2012-2016). Blakey represented the United States on the Council of the 4th World Archaeological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa (1999). He is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the National Museum of African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian Institution, where he previously held the position of Research Associate in Physical Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History (1985-1994). He was Scientific Director of the New York African Burial Ground Project (1992-2009), the most extensive bioarchaeological project in the United States. The Manhattan site became a U.S. National Monument in 2007.

Kamm Howard is a Chicago businessman and real estate investor. Kamm has owned and managed over 100 residential units in the Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Washington Park and Roseland communities. In addition, to residential units, he currently owns retail and office spaces that houses the  businesses of 17 Black entrepreneurs in the Roseland community. Kamm is internationally respected for his reparations work. In 2014, he was invited to speak on the “new paradigm of reparations activism,” at the 8th Pan African Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nationally, Kamm has been a 16-year member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, N’COBRA., the longest running active organization championing the cause of reparations in US. In 2017 as a member of the National African American Reparations Commission, a commission of 18 reparations scholars. Attorneys, clergy, and grassroots leaders, Kamm was chosen to lead the team to re-vise HR 40, the federal reparations bill. Acting also as the lead writer of the new bill, the emphasis was changed from a study bill to a remedy bill.

Mélisande Short-Colomb is completing her final year as a student at Georgetown College, and, a founding member of the GU272 Advocacy Team. She also serves on the Georgetown Memory Project’s Board of Advisors, as well as Council Elder of the GU@72 Descendants Association. Mélisande is a descendant of two families sold in 1838 by the Society of Jesus to keep Georgetown College afloat. She is a recipient of a 2019 Fr. Bunn Award for journalistic excellence for commentary in support of the “GU272 Referendum to Create a New Legacy.” The referendum was passed by overwhelming student support and vote on April 11, 2019. Under the direction of Derek Goldman, Meli wrote, developed, and performed her one person show Here I Am. The play interweaves her personal story of becoming a Georgetown student after discovering she was descended from slaves sold for the benefit of Georgetown, with archival excerpts that will bring in the voices of the slaves, the Jesuits, and others around the time of the sale. Additionally, Meli will serve as a Research and Community Engagement Associate, a position for which she is very well qualified given her high media profile.

Anderson Flen, VP of C.H.E.S.S. Anderson has prided himself as a bridge builder in his personal and professional life. He was born in Magazine Point Alabama (Africatown) and is a 1968 graduate of Mobile County Training School (MCTS). Anderson has played a foundational role in the formation of all the current community organizations in the Africatown Community, including the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association (MCTSAA). MCTSAA has served as the flagship organization of the Africatown community. In 2019, Anderson help cofounded the Africatown Heritage Preservation Foundation (AHPF) to operate as the umbrella organization to assist in revitalizing, restoring, and facilitating the history and pride of the Africatown community. Anderson has played a key role in organizing the Africatown Community Development Corporation (ACDC), which was formed out of the MCTSAA. He assisted in the formation of Africatown C.H.E.S.S. which stands for Community, Health, Education, Sustainable, and Safe. He helped initiate the Africatown Connections Blueway Project with the National Park Service (NPS), as President of the MCTSAA, signing the technical assistance grant in 2016 with NPS.

Valethia Watkins (Afro American Studies). Dr. Valethia Watkins is Director of the Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate Program and Associate Professor of Africana Studies in the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University.  Dr. Watkins earned her Ph.D. in African American Studies at Temple University and a Law Degree at The Ohio State University College of Law. She has previously served as an educational consultant for the School District of Philadelphia, where she was a member of a team of scholars who wrote curriculum and trained teachers in the district-wide required course in African-American history for public high school students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, Dr. Watkins is the former National Secretary for the Association of Black Women Historians. She currently is a member of the editorial board of The Compass: Journal of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. Her research interests include Black Women’s Intellectual History, Africana Gender Studies, the Politics of Race and Racism in American Feminist Thought, and conceptualizing Africana Studies approaches to the study of gender.


Student researchers are the backbone of the AARN. They provide vital support to local redress efforts and sustain our technical assistance partnerships, lead ArcGIS mapping efforts, and maintain communications with AARN members.

What students say about working at the AARN:

“I really enjoy and am constantly inspired by the work and allyship we provide at AARN. As a non-Black POC in America, I believe that my time and labor should be used to support reparation efforts and amplify Black voices” (Cher Lau, Barnard College 2022)

“As a human rights major, I have always been passionate about addressing injustice. While I was historically more focused on international human rights, I was immediately enamoured with AARN’s mission and efforts, which I learned about through Columbia’s Global Research and Consulting Group. I believe that the work is AARN is absolutely necessary, and I’m incredibly honored to be a part of it” (Safia Southey, Columbia University School of General Studies 2021)

“I was passionate about joining the AARN team because of its important work in documenting and supporting local redress and reparations efforts throughout the country. Such efforts to address historical racial injustice in the United States are long overdue, and AARN helps to meaningfully facilitate this process through collaboration, education, and advocacy” (Ilana Hamer, Columbia University School of General Studies 2022)

“I joined the African American Redress Network because I empathize with the goals of the organization. This project is conducting important work that can fix some of the longstanding racial issues that have affected this country for generations. I felt compelled to be a part of such important work” (Avery Brown, Columbia College 2022)

“I joined the African American Redress Network because I was disturbed and angered by the continued inaction towards addressing the generations of enslavement, dispossession, lynching, and systemic discrimination perpetrated against Black communities in the United States. I was also particularly drawn to AARN’s human rights framework, as domestic racial justice issues are often excluded from international human rights discussions” (Claire Choi, Columbia College 2023)

“Racial and social justice are an important part of my professional and personal life. When I learned about the AARN project, I knew I had to be involved. In order to create an equitable society, we must acknowledge our past wrongs and make amends, that is what reparations means to me and the reason why the work of AARN is so important” (Kathy Santana, Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs 2022)