Gil Robertson: The 'Where Did Our Love Go?' Interview
Two of his past books have been nominated for NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction
Kam Williams Special To The Skanner News
February 19, 2013Gil L. Robertson IV is one of America’s foremost authorities on African-American pop culture. As a journalist, author, lecturer and media consultant, he is responsible for literary works and intellectual properties that provide platforms for social change and personal growth.
Robertson is the editor of the best-selling anthologies “Family Affair: What It Means to Be African-American Today,” and “Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community,” both nominated for NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction. He is also the author of “Writing as a Tool of Empowerment,” a resource guide for aspiring journalists, and he’s a regular contributor to The African-American Almanac.
Gil’s latest offering, the anthology, “Where Did Our Love Go: Essays on Love & Relationships in the African-American Community,” will be followed this fall by the release of his first children’s book, “Great African-American Political Leaders.” On television, Robertson has shared his expertise on topical issues for numerous networks and shows including: CNN, HLN, MSNBC, E! Entertainment Television, National Public Radio and the Tavis Smiley Show.
And he is a popular lecturer who’s speaks on issues that impact professional growth strategies and personal development. And he is a co-founder and President of the African American Film Critics Association, as well as the founder of the Robertson Treatment’s Media Workshop, an annual journalism initiative presented at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, GA and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, NY.
Robertson earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from Cal State Los Angeles. He is the founder and editor of the nationally syndicated Arts & Lifestyle column, the Robertson Treatment. Now in its fifteenth year, the column appears in 30 newspapers across the country boasting a readership in excess of 2 million.
He is a professional member of the National Press Club, The National Association of Black Journalists, The National Academy of Recording Arts & Science, The National Academy of Television Arts and Science and The Motion Picture Academy. Here, Gil talks about his new book.
Kam Williams: Hi Gil, thanks for the interview.
Gil Robertson: Thank you, Kam for giving me the opportunity.
KW: What interested you in writing Where Did Our Love Go?
GR: I wanted to know what Black people thought of the circumstances around loving and sustainable relationships in our community. The black marriage gap is a huge problem in this country and it’s no longer a secret that black-on-black relations, I won’t even mention love, has reached a low point that is shocking and potentially crippling to the vitality of the African-American community at large. As with my earlier works, my goal with this book is to stimulate constructive dialogues around this subject so that it can be better understood and hopefully find some answers.
KW: Tell me a little about the book?
GR: Where Did Our Love Go provides a forum for African-Americans to share their voices, to give their perspective and feedback on the “love problem” that exists in our community. It is broken into three sections – “Single,” “Married” and “Divorce” - to provide a balanced and diverse portrait of people’s thoughts, depending on their life circumstances.
KW: What do you think is primarily to blame for the breakdown of the black family: poverty, the dropout rate, the incarceration rate, godlessness, unemployment, the misogyny in hip-hop?
GR: Mental health. African-Americans need a BIG mental health break. We have been through so much in this country and continue to go through debilitating challenges every day. It’s no wonder we are where we are today in terms of social numbers. However, we still continue to rise. I truly believe in the possibility of greatness for all black people and through my work as a journalist and author I remain committed to passing along that message.
KW: Do you think the problem is past the point of no return, or is there reason for hope?
GR: There is always a reason for hope, which is why I organized this project. I think black people should stay the course and adapt different strategies for addressing our problems.
KW: What measures can be taken to turn it around?
GR: Truly learning to love ourselves and being open to change and different modes of conduct.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from the book?
GR: That true love is alive and just around the corner for everyone.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
GR: None. I never second guess an interview.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
GR: Constantly. It keeps me on the right path.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
GR: Happy and blessed that I get to move forward in my ambitions each and every day.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
GR: Everyday. No kidding. [LOL]
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
GR: Visiting the South Pacific.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
GR: “Wench: A Novel” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
GR: “How High the Moon” by Diane Reeves.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
GR: A tie: fried catfish and cabbage, and fried chicken with mash potatoes.
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
GR: Being around the people I love.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
GR: Levi Strauss.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first, big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
GR: No heartache – it’s all a part of my journey.
KW: The Viola Davis question: Who do you really believe you are when you go home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
GR: I am a person who works hard to move my vision forward.
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
GR: The power to walk through time… in both directions.
KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
GR: My worst: Leaving Los Angeles. My best: Moving back to LA.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
GR: Someone who lives by the courage of his convictions.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
GR: To have more time with my mom who died in September of 2012.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
GR: Being loved by both of my parents.
KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do? Would you do the bad stuff, you never got a chance to do, or would you do good stuff to make sure you make it into heaven?
GR: I would praise God for the privilege of the journey.
KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
GR: At the beginning and end of each and every day.
KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
GR: Both of my parents: Gil Robertson and Fannye Delmyra Robertson.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
GR: Never giving up, even when winning seems impossible.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GR: Patience, belief and discipline.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Gil, and best of luck with the book.
GR: Thanks, Kam.