Friday, November 18, 2005
Michael Robinson, 31, is wearing a t-shirt that says, "I Love Myself," when I interview him. "Born and bred" in Jackson, Robinson sharpened his public speaking skills at Murrah High School on the rap team, then went on to Mississippi Valley State University for a degree in music education. He developed a passion for outreach, education and compassion.
"I've grown from my own experiences," Robinson says. "I've learned to deal with people who don't like me because of who I love. I've learned tolerance and compassion. I've learned where it was lacking in others toward me; I needed to learn to use it to grow."
There is not a taboo question with Robinson. Anything you want to ask, he's ready to answer without judgment, including questions regarding "gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning," or as he tells me what is referred to in the African-American community as "same-gender loving."
From his first job right out of college, Project Elect, to his current position with the Nominal Group where he works in after-school programs teaching violence prevention, etiquette, health and more, Robinson's heart is for his community. He also commits his time and character to Pride of Mississippi Inc., a non-profit that houses books, magazines, Internet access, copy services and more for those who are seeking more information regarding "same-gender loving."
He says Jackson is large enough for the diversity of a city and prevents individuals from feeling like "just another number." But the small-town feel can inhibit confidentiality, he adds. With no anonymous HIV testing in the state, he's afraid that many are afraid to get tested. After losing a dear friend to AIDS, Robinson realized how dangerous shame can be.
"We lived together, and he knew me, but he didn't want someone feeling sorry for him," Robinson says.
"Pride of Mississippi is a place to help and not place judgment. I believe you give people options about their personal health, and not just bits and pieces where they would not be fully equipped to make the best choice."
Robinson is committed to the people here. He says: "We are about a community's effort toward creating a healthier Jackson. I have a sense of responsibility to share what I have learned here, and not just sit on it."
Another great Jacksonian piece that I missed. Michael is one of those rare people that you meet in life and have to make sure you really want to know what you are asking of him. We need more people like that. The way he has picked up a cause and made it his own is commendable and sets an example that we could all imitate.
- c a webb