Darren E. Bryant takes office in the village of Robbins as the youngest Black mayor in Illinois history

Robbins, Illinois is among the oldest Black incorporated communities in the U.S.; Bryant takes office after a surprise victory in an April election

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Darren E. Bryant became the youngest Black sitting mayor in Illinois history last month when the 29-year-old took office as mayor of Robbins, a historic Black village outside of Chicago.

Bryant, a Kentucky State University alumnus, with 52% of the vote defeated incumbent Mayor Tyrone Ward in an election for the seat a month ago, according to Chicago Defender. Robbins is among the oldest African-American communities in the country.

Just southwest of Chicago, Robbins holds high esteem in Black history as the sixth oldest African-American incorporated community in America, as well as being the home of the country’s first Black-owned and operated airport. Actress Keke Palmer and retired NBA superstar Dwayne Wade also lived in Robbins during their childhoods.

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Bryant is excited to have been voted for mayor and looks to continue the Cook County village’s rich tradition.

“Robbins has a history of African American pioneers, and once being a center of black culture in Illinois is astonishing,” Bryant told the Defender, one of the longest-running Black publications. “This is the people’s victory more so than mine, and it feels amazing to get it done for the people.”

Despite the proud history of Robbins, the village has seen dark times since the turn of the century. According to Chicago Magazine, in 2014, a year after Ward was elected mayor, Robbins’ median household income stood at just $21,800, well below the national average of $54,600. Between 2008 and 2012, Robbins had a 30% unemployment rate, which was much higher than the national average of 12% at the time.

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Bryant acknowledges that the village has problems and hopes to address the issues head on.

“We have a 38% poverty rate, 41% non-homeownership, and 15% higher education rate, and that is a problem,” Bryant said in the Defender. “What I plan to do is move the municipality as an investment machine that will empower people through residential development, job training, and creation.”

In addition, Bryant plans to implement an economic development plan to address five keys areas in Robbins: Commercial/Industrial Development, Residential Development, Financial Development, Educational Development and Job Training and Creation. He plans to re-establish the village’s newspaper, television programs and radio stations as well.

Bryant, a lifelong resident of Robbins, previously served as the village’s park district commissioner and vice president and, at age 25, was elected village trustee. He says both his parents served as elected officials in the community and wants its citizens to remember and live up to the tradition Robbins first established.

“The community of Robbins is a family-orientated culture,” Bryant said. “It’s a culture of pride, and hard workers and history repeats itself. To understand the future, you must have knowledge of the past. We will restore the Village of Robbins into the dominant, culture-filled, prosperous town in which it once was.”

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