Taylor Robinson, MPP Class of 2021

As a part of Harris Public Policy’s celebration of Black History Month, we asked members of the Harris community to share their perspective on Black History Month and the importance of Black voices in public policy. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their own life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris).

Growing up, Black History Month always felt strange: to just begin and end a celebration of my blackness with the beginning and end of February. It was an awkward time where my white teachers suddenly and apprehensively shared information about Black scientists, scholars, and activists. As a young girl, it was disheartening to recognize that my history, my stories, my livelihood only seemed to matter in the month of February. It was unsettling to think that my classmates and I only got a repetitive and brief overview of Black History, usually only starting with slavery and ending with the civil rights movement.

This year, as I prepare to end my decades-long educational career, I took some time to reflect on the importance of Black voices in higher education. As a Black woman attending a predominantly white institution, situated in the South Side of Chicago nonetheless, I have come to understand that it is imperative for Black voices to be not only included but uplifted within higher education.

In 2020, the untimely and unjustified death of George Floyd was a catalyzing moment across all sectors, particularly in higher education, when administrators grappled with the question: how do we support students at this time? Unfortunately, the question was not timely enough. How is it possible to go from Black students who feel largely voiceless, unrepresented, and excluded to feeling bolstered by the university administration that doesn’t consider the unique challenges that disproportionately impact Black students? More directly, why should Black students carry out the work of making institutions a better place when those institutions don’t always have their best interests in mind?

Now is the time for higher education institutions to create meaningful and systemic change to allow for a greater and more impactful sense of diversity and inclusion to arise, starting with centering Black voices. Black History Month is the time to celebrate all the brilliance, resilience, and vision of Black people, with the intent to keep the conversations going throughout the rest of the year. Black lives, stories, joy, and history matters all year long. My hope is that there is a continuing presence of Black voices and dedication from allies to ensure racial equity is realized.

About Taylor R. Robinson, MPP Class of 2021

Taylor Robinson is an MPP candidate at the Harris School of Public Policy, graduating this June. Her interests lie at the intersection of social and educational policy. She hopes to use her policy analysis and theoretical skills to address racism within institutions. Particularly by strategizing to implement equitable policies and interventions that will disrupt systemic and structural barriers existing for many marginalized populations. Alongside classes, she is the President of the Harris Student Organization Minorities in Public Policy Studies (MiPPS) for the academic year. In that role, she works to sustain relationships between current students and MiPPS alumni. She is also a part of the Southside Housing Data Initiative (SSHDI), where she does research and community outreach to compile reports of a few different South Side neighborhoods, including Woodlawn, Washington Park, and most recently, South Shore. 

Aside from school, Taylor is an intern at The Chicago Community Trust where she works on projects and initiatives centered around reducing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region. In her free time, she likes to read, bake, and take her dog, Willow, on long walks. The views of the author are solely hers and do not belong to any employers past or present.