PEPPER PIKE — Romona Robinson, the first black woman to anchor a weeknight newscast in Cleveland, shared a message of positivity with faculty, staff, students and community members at Ursuline College on Monday.
Ms. Robinson’s lecture about her life journey as described in her new book, “A Dirt Road to Somewhere,” was a part of the Stars Among Us series sponsored by the Ursuline Women’s Center.
She told the audience that when you’re called to serve and lead, you must discern the voices of negativity. Ms. Robinson shared that when she was six years old in Missouri, her father left the family, and her mother had to take care of 11 children alone.
She was the sixth child, receiving little attention because she did whatever her mother asked her to do. She explained that her mother loved three things — Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. and broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite. Ms. Robinson began watching Mr. Cronkite anchor the CBS evening news with her mother, and decided that she wanted to be a journalist, too.
“There were still negative voices,” she said, explaining that her church congregation laughed when she said she wanted to follow in Mr. Cronkite’s footsteps. “But I wanted more, I was determined.”
Tamika Teague, 43, of Euclid said that Ms. Robinson’s message was applicable for all ages.
“She was inspiring. Her message about not listening to negative voices was good because that relates to everyone, even for students after college,” Ms. Teague said.
Ms. Robinson earned her degree in broadcast journalism from Lincoln University. She went on nearly 20 interviews before landing a job at a radio station in Jefferson City, Missouri. Soon after that, Ms. Robinson received her first TV job at a CBS station in Charleston, South Carolina.
She felt pushback from the broadcast journalism industry in Charleston, where Ms. Robinson said many women and black people were trying to enter the workforce. She was given an assignment to cover a Ku Klux Klan rally, a task that she said sounded terrifying.
“The sound was deafening,” she said of the rally, which included KKK members, protesters and police.
Ms. Robinson said that whenever there was a dangerous assignment, she covered it, including hurricanes on the coast. A manager later asked her to sign a long-term contract, she said, but informed Ms. Robinson that black people could not move into the prime-time evening slot, which is exactly what she wanted. She turned down the offer, and lost her job.
At age 25, Ms. Robinson said she realized that life was not fair. Without a job, she said that she watched her savings deplete, became depressed and received daily voicemails from creditors. She got a job selling cosmetics at a local department store.
“It wasn’t what I worked all my life for,” she said.
One day, Ms. Robinson said that she received three voicemails regarding job interviews, and one was from WUAB in Cleveland.
“God showed up and showed out,” she shared.
Ursuline senior Laci Gross, 21, of Steubenville said that she appreciated Ms. Robinson’s continuous faith in God.
“Her story was incredible. She overcame so many obstacles, like her father leaving, facing racism and doing those tough assignments,” she said. “What I liked the most was her faith in God, which led her through hard times and brought her peace of mind.”
After she got the job as a news anchor, Ms. Robinson said that she received hate mail, with letters telling her to “go back where she came from” and envelopes with pictures of monkeys and gorillas with her face.
“I decided to meet the hate with kindness,” she said. There are kind people in every corner of the Cleveland community, she added. In 1990, Ms. Robinson introduced “Romona’s Kids,” a segment to highlight children for making positive contributions to their neighborhood. In 2011, she was one of four reporters invited to the White House to interview former President Barack Obama, and was inducted into The Press Club of Cleveland Hall of Fame in 2016.