Senator Gladys Robinson has been a key voice in the NC Senate since 2010. She has lived in Guilford County since she attended college at Bennett College. She serves as the Deputy Minority Leader in the Senate.
How have you grown or changed as a leader since you’ve been in office?
Going into the General Assembly ten years ago I didn’t have a clear and comprehensive sense of the legislative process. It took a year or two to learn and I understand the dynamics of the General Assembly. Since I’ve been in office the majority leadership changed from Democrats to Republican and that has been quite an experience. As Democrats, we really can’t get a lot done, but we can impact what happens and advocate for the citizens. Overall, it has been a good experience because I have a better understanding of how strong my advocacy roles have been and this has made me a better leader. After the November election, I have an opportunity to move into a leadership role. This legislature has done a poor job of representing everyone and we can change that.
Say we expand Medicaid, ratify the ERA, and lift the existing abortion restrictions, what’s the next big move to help women and families in North Carolina?
One of the most important things that is missing in our State is raising the minimum wage to a living wage. When we do that it means that families, women, children and single woman households will be able to afford to take care of their families. Minimum doesn’t mean it’s the best one, but liveable means that lower wealth and even emergency or essential workers will be able to buy a decent house, eat, pay bills, and attend to the needs of their children. We forget that people who work in lower income jobs still have the same expenses we have. It’s extremely important to make sure women, children and all families have the type of lifestyle they deserve. Another thing we need to work on is what is mandated by the Leandro Decision; closing the achievement gap. We have to improve greatly public education for children. We must do a better job at the state level and in local education associations. During my time on the UNC Board of Governors we were a leader in education. We’ve fallen short and it is past time to address that issue.
How do you feel that the culture of the NCGA has changed as more progressive women are added each cycle?
We are still in a Republican dominated General Assembly which means that even though we’ve added more women it is still difficult to make sound laws that benefit all of our citizens. We have to be careful that as we add more women, that our women are not giving over power to the Republicans. We have to be careful that we don’t get caught up in their goals. We have to make sure that what we’re doing is paying attention to quality of life, education, healthcare, and the economy that will lift all boats. JFK said, “a rising tide lifts all board” we have to pay attention to every boat, not just the desires of the wealthy and powerful. We can improve opportunities for everyone. Affordable housing is still unattainable for the low and middle wealth individuals. Women have a central role as legislators; because women can see through the details and understand the impact that it will have on quality of life for families. If we keep that in mind and don’t get caught in the foolishness of Republicans, we will have a clear vision for North Carolina.
What is something that makes you feel hopeful about North Carolina?
North Carolina has always been a great state to me. I grew up in Georgia during segregation. So my time from I spent my college years in protests to equalize jobs and housing and opportunity. My perspective has been that North Carolina is a place where there is opportunity to achieve; it is a place where people can make a difference in the lives of others. We have a great volunteer system. Prior to the last 10 years, North Carolina has made progress in equality and justice; however, we have fallen behind recently. We have got to pick ourselves up and know that if we want NC to be a great state from the mountains to coast then we have got to make sure there is a better justice system. We have to do better in terms of why and who are put in prisons? The Second Chance Act that we sponsored is a beginning. But why are most prisoners people of color- mostly African Americans? We have work to do in our state. We can do that work with a majority and the leadership of Gov. Cooper. He’s a great leader who is sensitive to the people. Of course we realize the economy will be a challenge, but we have to keep the vision in mind. As we go into 2021 we know that our focus still has to be the quality of life for the most marginalized.
What are you doing to find joy during these times?
Easy. I have great fun reading with my grandson and allowing him to read to me. My grandkids are in Georgia outside of Atlanta. My 8 year old grandson is a math genius, but doesn’t like to read. He creates graphs and games, but almost everyday he reads to me through an app. We spend time with him reading chapters and I give him rewards. My grandchildren are my greatest joy, all of them. He and I finished an entire book of many chapters; and he started a new book about Nelson Mandela. During this time when parents must create time to make sure their children are achieving grandparents can help. I find joy in his reading to me and talking with my 10 year old granddaughter about her designs and cooking. It is really fun spending time with them. I also talk to my 21 year old granddaughter about her career and her goals. My grandchildren are the joy of my life.