October 27, 2008

Jeannetta Robinson

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

On Saturday, hundreds of Milwaukeeans turned out to say goodbye to Jeannetta Robinson, the founder of Career Youth Development in Milwaukee. It wasn’t just about saying farewell to a prominent public figure. For everyone in attendance, it was an intensely personal, highly-emotional experience. Jeannetta touched so many lives, in such profound ways, it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee without her.

There are thousands of Jeannetta Robinson stories out there, each one characterized by the same compassion and caring that marked so much of Jeannetta’s life. As a public servant, it was my privilege to work with Jeannetta on a regular basis. Whether it was youth issues, neighborhood revitalization, or violence prevention, Jeannetta was always at the forefront, leading way. She was a passionate voice at times when many other officials were too preoccupied to get involved.

On the night of her passing, Jeannetta was working on a community counseling project for the families of gun violence victims. The effects of violence on victims’ family members often get overlooked, but Jeannetta wouldn’t let that happen. She knew that helping bereaved families was a key to breaking the cycle of violence in our communities. So she went to work, often without funding, building a program to provide emotional and psychological support for families in need.

The incredible thing about the program isn’t that it worked, but that anyone ever doubted it would. Because Jeannetta was involved, people should have known it would be a success. That’s because Jeannetta always poured everything she had into her work, into the community, and into the individuals she felt it was her duty to help. She truly believed that all of us had a responsibility to do all we could to eliminate inequality, poverty, and violence. And she wouldn’t stop until she’d done her part.

So it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee without Jeannetta: She was such a singularly dedicated person. All of us, I think, are wondering where we’ll ever find someone like her, with her passion and energy for improving our communities.

The truth is we’ll probably never find another individual to fill Jeannetta’s shoes. They’re too big for any one person. It’s only as a community that we can hope to maintain the light that Jeannetta carried for so many years. By her example, each of us saw just how much of an impact one person can make. So imagine what all of us could do, together, to advance Jeannetta’s causes.

I’m certain there is one question that Jeannetta would want us to be asking right now, “How can each of us demonstrate love in action?” I hope it’s one that all of us ask ourselves – not just in the coming days, but throughout our lives. Truly, there’s no better way to honor Jeannetta’s immense legacy.