Sasha-Ann Simons is the new host of WBEZ’s midday talk show Reset.
She reports on race, identity and affordability in Washington, D.C., for WAMU, the NPR member station in the nation’s capital. That reporting lens will serve her well in Chicago.
Simons also serves as a frequent guest host for WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show. She has also filled in for the host of 1A, and WAMU’s local hosts of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Simons is a native of Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in Toronto. Simons said she can’t wait to eat her way through Chicago and the suburbs, wants Chicago to fall in love with her and looks forward to hosting Reset in locations around the city.
WBEZ’s Natalie Moore asked her a few questions, so the Chicago area can get to know Simons before she starts hosting in December.
What appealed to you about this job?
It’s the job itself and Chicago. Hosting a talk show has always been a journalism goal of mine. Chicago is such a dope city. I have heard so many things about all the reasons why I would love Chicago, and they all line up with where I was raised, which is Toronto. I have been a fan of Reset since the day it … went on air. When Jenn White left the seat vacant, it was a no-brainer that I should set my sights on this opportunity. I’m going to make Chicago fall in love with me. I mean it with every fiber of my being. I want Chicago not to feel like I’m an outsider but to feel like I’m somebody who is coming in with a worldly view. I’ve lived in three countries, and I’m going to look at the issues in a different way. And I’m going to have lots of fun, and I feel like Reset is the place where I can do that. I can be myself.
How are you preparing to learn about Chicago?
I’m reading a lot of books. I just got a delivery of Fire on the Prairie. Jenn White recommended Ghosts in the Schoolyard because I’m really big on education and race. I’ve got a Chicago box on the way from the Reset team. I can’t wait to visit museums. I want to penetrate the arts and culture scene. I’m going to spend as much time as I can on the ground. That’s how I did my best for reporting in Washington. I plan on doing the same things as soon as it’s safe to do so. I plan on doing as many shows on the road as possible; I don’t want to be stuffed up in a studio in Navy Pier. As soon as COVID-19 is under control, I want to be out there meeting people.
You reported on race, identity and affordability in D.C. How will that reporting help you in this new host role?
When I was first covering race, I feel like that’s when I really got a chance to make the best connection with folks in the Washington area. It’s really sad to say how much of a contrast there is with D.C. being such a political town, and there’s a different side that people just don’t know about. But I was on the other side where I was doing local journalism and constantly trying to find out how those policies were affecting the people who live in D.C. Food insecurity is a huge issue, and it was affecting mostly Black and brown people. I’m sure that’s an issue in Chicago, as well. Education is another issue — the most students with the least resources are the Black and brown kids. Maternal mortality disproportionately affects Black women. The breadth of experience that I gained working in Washington and really exposing myself to marginalized communities is what I’m going to take with me to Chicago. Yes, I’ll be sitting behind the mic as a host, but I’m really going to attack this job as if I’m a reporter. I don’t see any other way to do it.
What are two things our listeners should know about you?
I love to laugh, all the time. Sometimes I can’t control it, and it’s one of the things that I used to try to hide it, but you gotta have fun. I love to dance. I used to dance when I was a kid in dance ensembles and hip-hop groups in high school. I still love to do it, even if it’s in my bedroom. TikTok allowed me to realize my passion all over again.