The pivotal moment for Frankie Robertson came when Alton Sterling, a black man, was killed by one of two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers who confronted him outside a convenience store in the summer of 2016.
Robertson, 44, sprung into action after Sterling’s death and began volunteering for Dialogue on Race Louisiana, a national organization dedicated to the elimination of racism through education, action and transformation. “I, like many Baton Rougeans, was directly impacted by this injustice,” says Robertson. “And as a black woman with a black husband and a black, young boy who just made a year—he had just started taking his first steps, full of innocence—I was deeply concerned. I wanted to grasp and have a better understanding about institutional racism. To be able to communicate it better and have more confidence in my activism and my advocacy.”
Robertson, who also has a young daughter, recently started her own social justice consulting firm called the Amandla Group, which focuses on addressing health inequities for black and brown birthing people. By joining Dialogue on Race Louisiana, she sought to learn how to speak more effectively, eloquently and productively about institutional and structural racism.
Dialogue on Race Louisiana offers a series of conversations, some shorter and others taking places over weeks, on topics related to racism. Robertson participated in one of the organization’s series and was so impressed that she trained to become a facilitator where she moderated a featured topic session called “My President Was Black,” named for The Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Coates. “I loved it,” says Robertson of leading the session.
She went on to develop sessions on the black maternal mortality crisis and how police violence negatively affects the health of black mothers with Dialogue on Race Louisiana president and CEO Maxine Crump. Soon after, Robertson was asked to join the Board of Directors, where she has served ever since, she says.
One of the most inspiring parts of volunteering with Dialogue on Race Louisiana, she says, is seeing the response of those who have participated in sessions. “Seeing them speak of it and how it has impacted their lives positively and how then they go out and speak with others who then sign up,” says Robertson. “It’s just so inspirational, and it’s mind-blowing.”
Through her volunteer work with Dialogue on Race Louisiana, Robertson says she has the power to effect change. “I know that nothing will change if I do nothing,” she says. “I’m willing to use my voice and I’m willing to sacrifice myself, my livelihood, to speak out for what’s important because I believe in it and it’s the right thing to do.”