Randall Robinson

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Randall Robinson


Randall Robinson is a long time racial activist.

Taught by Harold Washington, Jr.

Randall Robinson, a noted social justice advocate, author and Penn State law school professor, took courses under Harold Washington, Jr. enroute to a 1970 Harvard law degree.

“I had Hap in a seminar class where we were talking to prisoners who were incarcerated at Walpole [Cedar Junction], and we would help them with drafting appeals and other papers,’’ he said. “He was tremendously engaged, very much a people person who was very much concerned with the general human condition.

“He was perfect for this course because he took law off the page and gave it a human face and did that more effectively than any teacher I had at Harvard Law School,’’ said Robinson, a founder of TransAfrica Forum . “He was a likeable person, and I came to call him a friend. I respected him a great deal, and he contributed significantly to my development.’’[1]

Free South Africa Movement

What was called the Free South Africa Movement began on Thanksgiving Day 1984, when then-U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, TransAfrica Forum executive director Randall Robinson, then-D.C. Congressman Walter Fauntroy and current-D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (then a law professor at Georgetown University), were granted a meeting at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The group called for an end to apartheid and the release of all political prisoners in South Africa. When their demands were ignored, the activists staged a sit-in at the South African embassy located on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

All but Norton were arrested for trespassing and their actions made national, then international news.

“There were already protests before, but no one got any momentum,” Berry recalls. “We wanted to get arrested. And we tried to get people lined up to get arrested the next day.”

They were arrested the next day, the day after that and the following day. In fact, every day for a year, the Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) held demonstrations at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.[2]

Cuba visits

Randall Robinson first went to Cuba in the early 1980s and met with Fidel Castro, describing him and his regime favorably in Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America.

A salient aspect of the Cuba chapter is its oscillation between anti-American vitriol and effusion over Fidel Castro. For instance, Robinson describes the U.S. embargo of Cuba as a crucifixion ("Why is our country … crucifying this small, largely black country of 11 million people?") and derides Senator Robert Torricelli as "a gnomish mean-spirit from New Jersey."

Conversely, Robinson's recollection of his most recent meeting with Castro in 1999 reads like something out of a romance novel. (Others joining him on the trip included Danny Glover and Johnnetta B. Cole.[3]

Opposing loans to Chile

In 1987, Joanne Landy, Thomas Harrison and Gail Daneker, Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, New York, circulated a statement Against Loans to Chile calling upon the Reagan Administration to oppose all loans to Chile.

It has been signed by leading "peace, labor, human rights, religious and cultural figures from the United States, Western Europe and Latin America." They were "joined by a large number of activists and writers from the USSR and Eastern Europe, many of whom have been persecuted in their own countries for work in independent peace and human rights movements."

Randall Robinson endorsed the call.

The majority of signatories were affiliated with Democratic Socialists of America.[4]

Institute for Policy Studies

In 1993 Randall Robinson was listed among former "Trustees" of the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC[5].

Hunger strike for Haiti

In the early 1990s Randall Robinson strategised with radical publicists Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell to embarass the Clinton Administration into pressuring Haiti's military rulers into re-instating that country's deposed Marxist President Jean-Bernard Aristide.

The trio hit on the idea of a hunger-strike[6].

Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell had one basic question about the hunger strike: Would it play in the press?
It was early December, and the partners in a public relations firm were having lunch with Randall Robinson, executive director of the lobbying group TransAfrica. Robinson was determined to force a change in U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees, and after finishing their salads, the three chewed over the notion of a hunger strike.
Perhaps celebrities had to be involved. "The question was, would Randall's hunger strike alone be enough to gain attention?" McDowell recalls.

After 27 well publicized days, the White house caved to media pressure and Haiti's military dictators were forced to re-install Aristide[7].

Randall Robinson conducted a dangerous but successful hunger strike that changed the Clinton Administration's policy on Haiti. PR for the fasting activist was handled by the DC firm of McKinney & McDowell, whose other clients include President Aristide...

TranAfrica Nigeria letter

In an attempt to prod the military government of Nigeria toward a return to civilian rule, TransAfrica Forum's Randall Robinson enlisted the aid of politicians, educators and celebrities in order to focus the eyes of the world on human-rights abuses in Africa's most populous nation and return democracy to what many consider Africa's best hope. In a March 1995 letter to General Sani Abacha, who came to power in a 1993 military coup, Robinson accused Abacha of killing political opponents and shutting down the press. Robinson beseeched Abacha "to expedite the restoration of democracy" to Nigeria's 100 million people or face "incalculable damage" and "eventual economic and political isolation of your regime."

The letter was signed by a host of prominent Blacks: author Maya Angelou, actors Danny Glover, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery; musician and composer Quincy Jones; TV personality Bryant Gumbel; acting NAACP head Earl T. Shinhoster; International Human Rights Group director Gay McDougall; Harvard Law Professor and former Judge Leon Higginbotham, Jr.; National Urban League president Hugh Price; and a majority of Congressional Black Caucus members, including Chairman Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), both House Subcommittee on Africa members.[8]

Reparations Coordinating Committee

In 2000 Charles Ogletree joined the Reparations Coordinating Committee, which sought to win "reparations" for descendants of African slaves[9].

The committee was convened by the TransAfrica Forum, a partner organization[10]of the radical Institute for Policy Studies. The committees objectives were;

To ascertain, document, and report comparative repair and restitution in the United States and abroad on behalf of the contemporary victims of slavery and the century-long practice of de jure racial discrimination which followed slavery;
A. To detail a range of feasible relief, reform, reconciliation, and restitution initiatives to make America better for everyone.
B. To identify and structure causes of action that would be cognizable in domestic and international tribunals and courts;
C. To begin a comprehensive review of such initiatives with leading domestic and international institutions;
D. And to work cooperatively with other groups pursuing reparation claims.

The committee, which Ogletree co-chaired with Adjoa Aiyetoro was a mixture of top trial lawyers and seasoned radical activists, including;

James Lloyd, Alfred Brophy, Michele Roberts, Kimberly Ellis, Johnnie Cochran, Randall Robinson, Dennis Sweet, Eric Miller, Sharon Cole and James Goodwin.

Forum on race

Human rights activist and attorney Randall Robinson discussed "The Role of Race in U.S. and Foreign Policy," Feb. 2005, at a Black History Month program presented by the Metropolitan Black Bar, at the offices of Verizon, 1095 Sixth Ave. (near W. 42nd St.) in Manhattan.

Robinson, former head of the black American-Caribbean-African lobby TransAfrica Forum, is the author of several books, including "Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America," "Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from His Native Land" and "TransAfrica Forum: The Case for Black Reparations.

Ron Daniels of the Center for Constitutional Rights was keynote speaker. Other scheduled speakers included Jamaica diplomat Basil Bryan, City Council members Yvette Clarke and David Yassky, Ambassador Ahmed Abdi Hashi of Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania and Imam Abdur Rahman Farrakhan of Ocean Hill-Brownsville. [11]

"THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL: A NEW DAY, A NEW WAY"

A national symposium on issues affecting the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their families that will bring together an impressive array of well-known speakers, September 24, 2011:

Rev. Al Sharpton; Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker, named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People; CNN journalist Soledad O'Brien; Randall Robinson, best-selling author and social justice advocate; Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; "Chef Jeff" Henderson, formerly incarcerated motivational speaker, author and star of the Food Network; Rossana Rosado, CEO of El Diario La Prensa, one of the nation's top Spanish- language newspapers; Khalil Muhammad, noted historian and new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Alan Rosenthal, co-director, Justice Strategies, Center for Community Alternatives; Terrie Williams, youth advocate and author of the book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting, CBS national correspondent Byron Pitts; and Marc Lamont Hill, a leading hip-hop generation intellectual and host of the nationally syndicated television program, Our World with Black Enterprise.

Location: The Riverside Church, W. 120th St & Riverside Dr. NYC

The "Think Outside the Cell: A New Day, A New Way," symposium is made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, which was founded by Sheila Rule. It is being presented in partnership with the Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, the College and Community Fellowship and the Riverside Church Prison Ministry.[12]

Human Rights Watch/Africa

Human Rights Watch/Africa personnel in 1998 were;

Advisory Committee

William Carmichael, Chair; Roland Algrant; Robert L. Bernstein, Julius L. Chambers, Michael Clough, Roberta Cohen, Carol Corillon, Alison L. DesForges, Adrian W. DeWind, R. Harcourt Dodds, Stephen Ellman, Aaron Etra, Thomas M. Franck, Gail M. Gerhart, Jack Greenberg, Arthur C. Helton, Alice H. Henkin, Robert Joffe, Jeh Johnson, Richard A. Joseph, Thomas Karis, Stephen L. Kass, Vincent Mai, John A. Marcum, Gay McDougall, Toni Morrison, Samuel K. Murumba, Muna Ndulo, James C. N. Paul, Robert Preiskel, Norman Redlich, Randall Robinson, Sidney S. Rosdeitcher, Dirk van Zyl Smit, Howard P. Venable, Claude E. Welch, Jr., Maureen White, Aristide R. Zolberg.

References