Love, memory and gratitude were the notes of Life Portrait and Libations, the virtual memorial for writer, activist and poet Colin Robinson. Held on Sunday, the event was a celebration of his life and how he affected others.
Robinson, who shared much of his journey after his diagnosis of terminal cancer through his column in the Newsday, died on March 4 at the age of 58.
The memorial was a sweeping look at the breadth and depth of Robinson’s life, from his family relationships, to his activism in the US and in TT, to his writing and work in academia.
His sister Charmaine shared stories of their life growing up together, as he was born when she was 18 months old.
“We became partners in crime, who invented our own language. We were always close, even though we spent years apart. He had a quiet magnetism, made being lovable seem so effortless, and he always had friends who would help him out.
“Colin was gay, and I remember the prayers and the psychiatrists. And I realise now it must have been traumatic for him until he escaped abroad. He was patient with me during this awkward time and tried to educate me by sending me books and pamphlets. To this day, in certain circles, I have no identity except as Colin’s sister, and it’s a title I’m proud to bear.”
She said Robinson, who moved to Maryland, USA to live with her while undergoing treatment for his cancer, worried about being a burden on her, “but I was glad to sit beside him like he did when I had breast cancer treatments.
“I got to spend time with him communing with each other in nature, and it was a wonderful gift that I will always treasure. Colin brought joy to those around him and he embraced the people and principles that mattered to him and he lived his life accordingly.
“One of his favourite slogans sums it up: love more, judge less. He was my lovable, inimitable, vulnerable, irreplaceable brother.”
Robinson’s uncle, Carol “Uncle Bunty” Robinson shared his memories of Robinson from being a child in his mother’s arms to his toddler years, where he was known as “Colly Wolly,” to the joy felt by the family when he won an open scholarship in languages in 1980, to remembering his Carnival photos and conversation on life issues later in his life.
Tributes followed from people who had worked with Robinson as a poet, as an activist, as a friend. These included long-time friends Anton Nimblett, Johnny Manzino, Anand Ramkissoon, writers Kevin McGruder and Wayson Jones, Guyanese activist Vidyaratha Kissoon, publisher Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press, which published Robinson’s poetry book You Have You Father Hard Head, CAISO co-director Dr Angelique Nixon, South African activist Sibongile Ndashe and TT activist and poet Brendon O’Brien.
A common thread was how Robinson connected people, how he invested in people, and left them better off, and how passionate he was about his work.
There were also video tributes and songs which were particular favourites of Robinson’s. People tuned into the tribute from the Netherlands, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Toronto, Montreal, London and various parts of the United States, including Maryland, Washington DC, California, Chicago, New York, and Georgia.
Also present were representatives from various organisations Robinson had founded or inspired, including the Audre Lorde Project, Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), Caribbean Pride, Adodi and Adodi National, Black Gay Men’s Network, National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, Advocates for Gay Men of Color (AGMOC), Voices of Color against AIDS and for Life (VOCAL), the Caribbean Equality Project and others.
In a video recording played at the end of the memorial, Robinson shared his philosophy of love.
“I just think we’re wired to love, and there’s got to be something good about that, some sort of intelligent design or evolutionary purpose to that. But I think the reward of the loving, on balance, as I look back, outweighs the pain, not for everyone, not in every instance, but on balance.
“And I think our challenge is how to love better. There’s always risk in loving and it’s also about finding different ways to love, different as in plural ways to love, so that we experience love with different people differently and so it doesn’t become just one thing. So as love threads through our lives, some of those threads may burn, some of those threads may pop, but there are other threads that are strong and weave together.”
You can support Colin’s legacy by making a donation to the Colin Robinson Hard Head Award at https://rustinfund.org/2021/03/25/colin-robinson-hard-head-award/
Donations via this site are in US$ and US-tax-deductible. The award honours exceptional leaders who, like Colin, connect political advocacy, creativity, and coalition-building.
To make donations in TT$ or other currencies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend and comrade in community with Colin has pledged to match donations up to a year’s worth of the Hard Head Award ($15,000TT/US$,2500). Please consider donating what you can through this link or by e0mailing email@example.com
US$ donations: https://rustinfund.org/2021/03/25/colin-robinson-hard-head-award/