I just got the news that Lucille Robinson passed away. Lucille was the first participant in our Just Words series about the working poor in Maryland. Hers was the story of a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren. Her daughter and son were missing in action, gobbled up by the seduction of the streets. Because of her husband’s death and her own illness, she lost her middle-class life in Columbia, Maryland and found herself back in the inner-city, raising children as she struggled through her seventies.
She was an angel, a lovely soul, with the deepest passion and commitment for children and for the well being of those with even less than she had. She told her grandchildren that they may not always have what they want to eat, but they will always eat in her home. She shared her morsels with those on her block who, if not for her, would go hungry.
She died. She should be alive. If she were not poor and Black, living in the inner city, she could have gotten the health care she needed to care for her lungs. She would still be ill but probably not dead. If she had not had to endure working conditions where she breathed in chemicals and asbestos when she was a young woman, this non-smoker might still be breathing and laughing among us.
She was a shining light. She inspired me. She inspired her grandchildren who loved to show her what they learned in school each day. When those kids, five of them, came home from school, they got their snack, then it was off to the basement to study before they went out to play. They are wonderful children. Who will care for them now?
When I interviewed Lucille around Christmastime 2006, she was struggling desperately to make ends meet on her meager social security and retirement income. She was so worried about what would happen to her children if she passed. She knew she was ill, and was holding on to life for all it was worth.
She struggled financially because the state will not support grandparents who are forced to raise their grandchildren. The state will pay for foster care parents and juvenile incarceration but not for families struggling to save their own children. Pro-family rhetoric is just that, rhetoric, with no substance in the real world.
The federal government can find almost a trillion dollars overnight to bail out wealthy Wall Street bankers but can’t afford to help strengthen the families of America. This is not the America I love.
The America I love came out in droves to help Lucille Robinson when they heard her story in December 2006. The America I love has a compassionate government which helps those who struggle to help themselves and their families.
Lucille Robinson, whose home was so warm and comfortable, did not ask for much. She just wanted enough to keep the lights on, keep her children fed and for her streets to be safe. She could take care of the rest.
Now, she is at rest.
Listen to Lucille Robinson’s story on the first 3 episodes of Just Words: