Rep. Oliver Robinson (D-District 58, Jefferson) delivered the keynote address at the book event for Let Me Tell You About Me on the Department of Youth Services Vacca Campus on November 3. Robinson, an NBA veteran, encouraged the student writers with stories from his youth.
“About fifteen percent of my life has been real good,” said Robinson. “The rest of it has been pretty difficult. But it didn’t matter that most of the time our mother raised us alone. It didn’t matter that I grew up in the Gate City housing project. I knew deep inside that I was going to be a special person.
“There were difficult times in my life when I had to take an opportunity and do the best I could. Life is going to be difficult, but because life is difficult you don’t have to make the wrong decision. Even today with all the success I’ve had, everyday is difficult, but it’s a blessing to go out every day and deal with this life.”
Robinson, who played for the San Antonio Spurs and was the first student athlete awarded a scholarship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), further emphasized his commonality with the students.
“There’s not much difference between you and me,” he said. “At your age, I made some good choices, and that’s the only difference between you and me. I never thought I’d make it to the NBA. For me to have that opportunity is something that most young men in the world don’t have. Make good decisions and seize opportunities.”
Elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1998, Robinson received his BS in Urban Affairs from UAB. He is a member of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Phi Beta Sigma, and the Birmingham Public Park and Recreation Board. He was also distinguished as the Birmingham Business Journal's Top 40, Under 40 in 1996.
One newly published writer read his poems from Let Me Tell You About Me. Seven members of the new class read their favorite poems from the anthology and samples of their new work.
When introducing the students, teaching writer and the book’s editor Tony Crunk said, “Each of these writers is a creative person. Each is an intelligent person. Each has surpassed the bounds of the imagination.”
Writing Our Stories is an award-winning creative writing collaborative program whose partners include the Alabama Department of Youth Services, the ABSOP project, and the Alabama Writers’ Forum. Additional funding has been provided by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The Children’s Trust Fund provided funds for the WOS Curriculum Guide.
Copies of this year’s anthologies are available from the Forum for a $5 shipping and handling charge for each book. To order, contact the Forum at 334-265-7728, toll free at 866-901-1117, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are two sample poems from Let Me Tell You About Me:
The frozies my grandma makes are sweet,
Like licking Kool-aid powder off your hands.
The barbecue smell is attractive,
Like a free rib buffet.
The music is always loud,
Like the battle of the bands.
The babies crying
Are like a hospital.
Everyone wants to be hard,
Like a boxer throwing punches.
The gunshots are random,
Like picking a bingo ball.
The bullets on the ground are like a battlefield,
Like walking on rocks.
The girls fighting are like a war,
Every five seconds somebody falls.
The cars are like roller coasters,
Everybody wants to ride.
The abandoned houses are like junkies,
All torn up.
The dope dealers are like roaches,
Moving from corner to corner.
The police are like tornadoes,
When they come everybody hides.
The Feds are always catching someone,
Like throwing a fish net.
To me, it’s just another day in the projects.
I ask myself, why me?
Why didn’t I go to school?
Why didn’t I go to court?
Why did I disobey the law?
Why did I lie to my father?
Why did I have a gun?
Why did I rob that person?
Why am I locked up?
The answer is,
I made some bad decisions.
Photo of Rep. Oliver Robinson by Robin Cooper