Suggested Interview Questions

A CANDID CONVERSATION WITH BARBARA A. ROBINSON

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Whatís the one thing youíre most proud of that you have never shared before?

My family staying together and my children joining together to all take responsibility for raising my grandchildren. Itís not, "These are your children not mine. Iím not their father. Iím not their mother. Iím only an aunt. Iím only their uncle." My grandchildren are the responsibility of the entire family and Iím so very proud of that. After all the mess my husband and I went through and everything I went through, our family survived and thrived. I was out there in the streets as well. But I was also going to school. Despite remarkable circumstances, every one of my children graduated from college, each one owns his or her own home, and they are all successful in their own right.

Do you have any regrets?

I regret not learning sooner to live my life for myself and not through the eyes of others. I regret that it took so long for me to understand that I have a lot on the ball, and so much to offer. I regret being such a strong disciplinarian when my children were growing up. Only after I put my faith in God was I able to realize that I am somebody, that I donít have to be a product of my past, that I could be a product of my own choosing. I should have learned that years ago. I wasted precious time, but I donít waste time worrying over things about which worrying canít change.

What advice can you give to single mothers in the workforce today?

Go for your dreams. Donít let anyone tell you that you canít make them come true because youíre Black, Hispanic, poor and so on. Donít let anyone define your limitations and never sell yourself short. Make sure your kids graduate from high school. Realize that your children come first. Never, ever, put a man ahead of your children. Be the role model for them, be there for them. Be your childrenís hero.

What do you do now if you feel overwhelmed or down?

I contemplate about what I used to do, where I used to be, the abyss of frustration and self-destruction that once defined me. I wouldnít trade anything for my life now. I love who I am. I love who God has allowed me to become. When I feel overwhelmed, I say, "Things may not be all they should be but Hallelujah, anyhow!" Failure isnít an option for me. If I really thought about what I had to do each day, Iíd feel overwhelmed. I get up each morning, look at my schedule and take one step at a time. At the end of the day, I thank God for another day.

Whatís the most embarrassing thing that happened to you?

Things seem to happen to me when I dance. When I was younger, I was at a party and under my dress, I was wearing a half-slip and I was boogieing away. When I twirled around, my slip fell to the floor. I stepped out of it and kept right on dancing. Then, I yelled, "Somebody lost their slip...Iíll just pick it up for them." Another embarrassing moment ó once again, I was at a party, dancing. This was back in the 1960s when all those crazy wigs were in style. The best way to keep the wig from making your hair break off, or from becoming thin around the edges was to wear a stocking cap underneath the wig. When I look back, I chuckle at how ridiculous a fashion practice it was. In the middle of a twirl, my wig fell on the floor, and all that remained was the stocking cap on my head. Another person on the dance floor yelled, "Miss, you just lost your hair." I smiled sheepishly, picked up the wig and put it right back on my head ó backwards. I thought I was such a diva. Good grief.

Whatís the most humbling experience youíve ever had?

There are two such experiences. I host a weekly radio talk show. One afternoon while I was shopping, an elderly man overheard me talking to a sales clerk, and he recognized my voice from the radio. He looked at me with a huge smile and said, "Youíre Barbara Robinson....I just want you to know that because of you I have my own business. I was listening to your show one night and you were talking about your past and how you struggled against such awful odds. I remember you said, ĎDonít let anybody tell you that you canít achieve your dreams. It might take you a little bit longer than it takes somebody else but never let it go. I used to be homeless and on drugs.í Thank you for telling your story that day, because it was my story, too." Later that afternoon, I left for a book signing and it was raining like mad. When I arrived at the signing, the same man was standing there, soaked to the skin, waiting for me. "I just could not leave until I gave you a hug," he said. This man had been abused by his uncle, and suffered tremendously as a child. Another experience was when I received an email from someone and she wrote, "Mrs. Robinson, you probably donít remember me, but when I was eighteen years old, I attended a lecture you gave. You shared your story about abuse and drugs. I listened to you and it was like I was hearing my own story. You also said to follow your dreams and never let anyone make you believe that you canít achieve your goals. I also listened to you talking about how long it took you to earn a Bachelorís degree. Well, I am now twenty-eight years old, I have earned my Bachelorís degree, a Masterís degree, and a Ph.D. I am also the pastor of a church. I would be honored if you could come to the opening," and gave me the address. That hearing me could have impacted the lives of these two people is the most humbling thing that ever happened to me. I carry it in my heart, always. Your memoir AND STILL, I CRY, is disarmingly honest.

What was the hardest component of unleashing so many truths?

The hardest thing was letting people know that I came from a background of abuse, drugs, infidelity, emotional and physical pain, and all the rest of the junk in my trunk. When people see me now, they see me as a successful woman. I wanted people to know that I didnít start out this way. The toughest thing for me to do was to admit the truth of my less than innocent past. Once the book was published, so many readers thanked me, because they found their own stories in mine. That made all the hell of opening up old wounds worth while. The message of my book is that your condition does not have to be your conclusion. I thank God for giving me the courage to tell the truth. If I could make it against the odds, others can too, and there is nothing more affirming or healing. You canít appreciate how far youíve come if you donít acknowledge where you were.

How do you see your role as a grandmother?

My grandchildren are my best friends and my absolute joy! And yes, I bake cookies, but after I rest from work. Iím not a traditional, "stay at home grandmother." But the most important thing I can do for my grandchildren is to show them by example how to follow their dreams. I want my grandchildren to know that they can be whoever they want to be. Iíd like for my grandchildren to work with me in my business. I want my family to know that Iím leaving something for them. After Iím gone from this earth, I want them to say of me, "My mamma was a humdinger, but she looked out for us." I want to leave my grandchildren a legacy that transcends financial security, but that imparts to their very hearts and souls the confidence they need to manifest their individual destinies.

 

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Barbara A. Robinson
P.O. Box 7667, Baltimore, Maryland 21207