I moved to Chicago about eight years ago. I used to work in Washington, D.C. I didn’t like what I did so I up and left. My faith moved me to Chicago. I became a teacher, joined the National Guard — I’m a sergeant. I taught for three years at Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School and for three years at Walt Disney Magnet School.
Last year, I was teaching at Catalyst Circle Rock. I was teaching and all of a sudden there were gun shots. My students popped up and said, ‘Mr. Robinson, those were gun shots!’ I said, ‘No, those were fireworks.’ But I’m in the military. I’m a 13 fox [fire support specialist] and I know what gun shots are and those were gun shots. And all of a sudden, the police came. This guy was shot out in front. Some of our kids weren’t even fazed by it. They said this is just how it is. I’m just like — oh my God, where is the leadership?
I decided with a group of friends of mine to start People for a Better Chicago [a nonprofit that voluntarily manages campaigns] because we saw the travesty in our communities. I managed a campaign in the 24th ward, 4th ward and helped one in the 28th ward. People are saying where are the jobs? Not everybody can work at a liquor store or a pawn store.
The thing that also frustrated us was the whole idea that the leadership in our community was hosting job fairs. You go to these job fairs and people just drop off their resumes and that’s it. They don’t get any word back. So there’s this issue of where’s the leadership? Where are they at helping the kids and young adults of our community? What do we have to show for it? We have nothing to show for it right now.
They have those big towers downtown. What do we have? Abandoned store. Abandoned store. Our streets are rough. Our parks are disastrous. We have vacant lots. Our communities have been categorized as crime-ridden. So, there’s this frustration among people our age [Robinson is in his early thirties] and we said, let’s get good people to run and in seats of influence so we can have a change in our community.
I’m a firm believer that there are people who are elected — white, black and Hispanic — who want to keep people from voting. They don’t want our communities to come out and vote, because they know if people came out and voted we’d vote them out. They want to rob people of the hope that things will change and that things will be different someday. I think somebody has to stand up and do something.
My faith has always guided me and I’m always moved by this story of a guy who goes on top of this mountain and he says to God, ‘Why is the world like this. Where are you? I don’t understand. Do something about it.’ And God comes into a cloud and says, ‘I am doing something about it. I sent you.’
It’s all about stepping up and making change.