My offering to Black History Month is dedicated to a man whom I knew and by whom I had the pleasure of seeing history being made right before my eyes. His words rang out in prose and song on the initial occasion of our meeting in Philadelphia in 1999.
On many occasions thereafter, I was blessed to share meals with him, listen to his speeches, learn from his wisdom, and enjoy the splendor and “shade” of this tall, deep-rooted, majestic tree known as Edward Robinson, Ph.D. (1918-2012).
Not as well-known as other Black historical figures but equally important, Robinson is known for his unrelenting dedication and commitment to teaching the history of the African continent, with a very special emphasis on assuring that our young people know and appreciate their African history.
My limited knowledge of this giant will certainly not limit everyone from knowing more about him because there is an upcoming television docudrama on his life and work planned to be released in this summer.
Co-author of the book, “Journey of the Songhai People,’’ Robinson always emphasized the importance of Black people dealing with the problems we face rather than their symptoms. One major problem he always reminded us of is that we (and others) have been programmed to hate everything African about ourselves.
He worked hard, through writing, lecturing, and film to teach us African history; he had a unique sense of self-love and an exceptional ability to connect with people. His mantra centered on “race esteem” among Black people.
Robinson believed very strongly in African-centered education and worked for years to get the curriculum he developed taught in the Philadelphia public school system. As a result, he was successful in making the teaching of African history mandatory for the 180,000 student population.
Teach African history
Mentor to brothers and sisters of all ages, Robinson always made time to assist others with their programs, projects, and initiatives. He was a central figure in the formation of the MATAH Network, a Black-owned and operated national distribution company, founded in 1996 by Kenneth Bridges and Al Wellington and comprising thousands of members across the country.
Robinson was unapologetically African centered and worked every day to share his knowledge with his protégés and the general public. To that end, he developed and nurtured relationships with individuals and organizations, which propelled him to prominence in a variety of local and national educational, economic, professional, and social circles.
An author, vocalist, corporate CEO, professor, and teacher, Ed Robinson is definitely someone you should know, not only for Black History Month but for the rest of your life. And you should teach your children about him as well in an effort to replicate and sustain the work he began. He understood how important it is for us to love ourselves, to value ourselves, to respect ourselves, and to learn about ourselves.
He understood more than most the power and importance of self-determination and defining ourselves rather than allowing others to define us.
For the majority of his 94 years, Robinson worked toward one goal: To effect a positive change of attitude toward the ancestral value of people of African descent by the total world society by dramatically exposing the beauty, grandeur, and sophistication of ancient Egypt and the Songhai Empire.
There is and African aphorism that states: Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. Robinson was a lion and we must be his historians; we must tell his story; we must glorify this lion – our lion – because the hunter never will.
See www.drrobinson.org for more information on the life of this elder.
Jim Clingman is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.