In honor of Black History Month, Dr. Robin takes a closer look at famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Born in 1872 to former slaves, Paul grew up in a poor family with limited resources. Dr. Robin says despite his childhood, Paul overcame many obstacles in his short life and became a successful writer and poet.
When Paul was young and growing up in Ohio, his mother instilled in him a love for reading, writing, drawing, singing and storytelling. He later became the first African-American poet to receive national acclaim. Paul's story is a "great example of 'what you put in is what comes out,'" Dr. Robin says. "What we deposit into our children—into their minds, into their spirits, into their hearts—is what comes out." Although Paul's family was economically poor, they were rich in experience, Dr. Robin says, which helped Paul become successful.
Despite his childhood struggles, each day Paul lived was purposeful and meaningful, Dr. Robin says. In his young life, he wrote books and published against the odds. In 1892, he got his big break and gave a speech to a group of writers, who never thought that an African-American man would have anything to offer them, Dr. Robin says.
"He took that audience by storm," she says. "Part of why he did it is because he had a song that was singing in his own spirit all of those years when life wasn't working out well … when society around him wasn't growing, wasn't inclusive, wasn't believing in him. He still found a way to cultivate that deep passionate love for himself."
Dr. Robin says Paul's life has been a source of inspiration and admiration for her. "What it really should symbolize to you is not only can anyone overcome adversity and hardship, but that if you have the right message placed in your mind, placed in your heart and placed in your spirit, you don't have to wear a mask that grins and lies—you can replace it with a song that will feed your spirit, feed your soul and feed your mind, and then you will be able to live your best life."