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Conversations with Dana Robinson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana Robinson.

Hi Dana, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today? 

Today, I am a 36-year-old senior marketing professional and communication professor. But that’s not where my story begins. My parents Michael and Falena Robinson, raised my younger sister (Dena) and I in the Irvington community of West Baltimore. Growing up in Baltimore, like many of my peers, I was exposed to violence and substance use. This is not uncommon as many of our communities have the same disadvantages. While studies would suggest that your neighborhood context influences your delinquency, I am living proof that you do not have to conform to being a victim of your circumstances. When I was in 6th grade (1997), my father passed away due to a stroke. My mother, who at the time was only my current age (35), had now become a young widow who had a responsibility to simply survive and provide for her two young daughters while also mourning the loss of her husband. I was too young to truly understand a burden of that magnitude. I had no idea of the complexities of loss and grief. I’ve never heard my mother complain and for that, she’ll always be one of biggest inspirations. But let me take a step back to paint the picture. I’ve always been an outgoing person. I was never the loudest person in the room, but I still maintained a presence. From the outside looking in, I believe I was perceived as a bit of an overachiever. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I was a C average student at best. Education was important, but it wasn’t enforced in my household. If I passed, that was good enough. In high school, I loved participating in activities. I was class president, junior and senior prom queen. As involved as I was in school, I still had no desire to be a scholar let alone pursue higher education. One day, a friend of mine at Dunbar High School shared with me the opportunity for a “Second Chance” scholarship given by the Woodholme Foundation. As part of the application, you needed to explain a hardship in your life and why you deserved a second chance. Not sure why I decided to apply, but I am so thankful I did. This scholarship single handedly changed the entire trajectory of my life. I applied and shared details about my life growing up in Baltimore, was selected as a 2003 recipient and earned full tuition to Delaware State University for my entire freshman year. Going away to college was a culture shock for me. It was my first time being away from home, so I immediately adopted a sense of independence and responsibility. I wanted to prove to myself and my family that I could be more than a C average student. Life isn’t about where or how you start, what matters is reaching the finish line. I participated in the student government association throughout my matriculation. During my junior year, I decided to run for the 50th Miss Delaware State University (DSU). With this came a large platform where I began to discover my own social responsibility. I grew up giving back to the community. However, it wasn’t until I was Miss DSU where I began to take it very seriously. I knew during my reign that I needed to find a way to combine by passion with my life’s purpose. After graduating from college in 2007, I moved to NYC to pursue a Master of Arts degree. Since that time, I have moved back to Baltimore, where I intended to be of service to my community. I have had the pleasure of holding various marketing and communication positions within local non-profit agencies. I’ve also received several community awards as well as co-founded a mentoring program with my sister in service, Shantelle Dockett.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been many pain points in my life. I still get triggered, which takes me back to those pain points. Losing my dad at the age of 11 did not affect me at the time, or at least I believed it didn’t. I grieved as I got older. Birthdays, holidays, school events, graduations, etc. did not feel celebratory, rather they were days I wanted to avoid because I knew it would remind me of my father’s absence. It didn’t matter that my mother was present, what mattered is that my father was not. As I got older, my behavior and attitude progressively did not reflect how I was raised. Immaturely, I treated my mother as if my father’s passing was her fault, never considering the mental and emotional toll it may have taken on her. Even thinking of those times today makes me a bit emotional because my mother is so deserving of the upmost respect and in my eyes, my baby sister deserved a better example from me. I questioned a lot of things growing up. I barely understood life, let alone understanding how to cope with death. When I think of challenges I’ve had to overcome, simply put, I just wanted to live. I wanted happiness. I wanted love. I wanted to know where I fit in the world. I wanted to understand everything around me. I wanted to be good enough. I wanted to know why. But when you’re constantly in survival mode, you really can’t see beyond your current circumstances. Growing up in the inner city, you sometimes don’t believe you’re worthy of certain things. You’re not taught that the sky is the limit, and your hopes and dreams are attainable. Your responsibility is to survive. I am forever grateful to the Second Chance Scholarship, the Woodholme Foundation and Dwayne Wickham for taking a chance on me. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
In my role as senior director of communication and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, I work tirelessly to advocate for reproductive rights. I am responsible for increasing the organization’s visibility across Maryland through media relations, marketing, and communications. But this work means so much more to me. My commitment to equal rights, opportunities, and access for all goes beyond my duties as a communications professional. 

During the school year, you can also find me leading the course Fundamentals of Communication as an adjunct professor at the Community College of Baltimore County. I am most proud to spread positive messages about the complexity of being pro-choice, having the power and knowledge to pursue and achieve spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and reproductive freedom. What sets me apart from others is my ability to truly approach community issues from an intersectional lens. I hold a deep understanding of this framework and how multiple forms of overlapping oppressions – shaped by sexism, racism, poverty, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and violence – affect our lives in nuanced and context-specific ways. We do not live single issue lives, so when working to improve the quality of life for people, all of their life experiences should be considered. 

Any big plans?
I’ve learned over the years that anything is possible! Right now, I am looking forward to growing as a mentor for marketing and communication professionals whose focus is on social justice issues. The non-profit organization that I am committed to, The Society for Girls, Inc., is heading into our 12th year of service in the Baltimore/Metro DC area and even amid the coronavirus, our programming has continued to grow and we’re expecting to expand into more historically Black colleges and universities this upcoming fall semester. I have a goal to build a boutique marketing consulting firm where I’ll be able to not only create opportunities for young professionals but together, we will help to elevate Black-owned businesses and non-profit organizations. My biggest plan of all is to continue living a life that my loved ones can be proud of. To wake up each day and be intentional with how I interact with others. Making a positive impact on my community is what matters most to me! What I want your readers to take away from this is that we all have a divine purpose. We all have special abilities to help make this world a better place. Find your reason why and surround yourself with warriors who can both uplift you and hold you accountable. Inspire and be inspired. Always choose to be a voice for the voiceless. Imperfection is one of the most beautiful parts of life. Awaken each day with gratitude. Thank whatever source you feel good energy comes from. Move away from the idea of only living to survive, instead, I challenge and encourage you to go forth and THRIVE! 

Contact Info:

  • Email: dana@thesocietyforgirls.org
  • Website: thesocietyforgirls.org
  • Instagram: @thesocietyforgirls
  • Facebook: The Society for Girls, Inc.
  • Twitter: @society4girls

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