Edward Robinson, a Cal State Fullerton African American studies lecturer, created a space for CSUF students to think critically and go beyond assumptions — a quality Robinson developed growing up in the South, said Siobhan Brooks, an African American Studies associate professor.
“That was very critical to what our students learned, I think that had a lot to do with his passion around his ancestry and his own knowledge of where he came from, by being from the South,” said Vincent Harris, CSUF lecturer of African American studies.
Robinson moved back home to be close to his family during the pandemic, Brooks said. Robinson would have been 51 on May 27 but died due to kidney failure on March 31 at Coffee Regional Medical Center in his hometown of Douglas, Georgia.
After 10 years of teaching with a specialization in cultural studies, theory and media studies at CSUF, where he also taught African American literature, history and culture, he was known by colleagues as someone who pushed his students in their academic efforts.
Brooks said Robinson brought a full understanding of history and was critical to the department as he brought his personal life to the classroom.
Robinson expected his students to be courageous and to be their own selves, said Gwendolyn Alexis, an African American studies lecturer.
Alexis said Robinson always made it known to his class that he was a proud, Black gay man, and when he would share that with his class and others, it would help many students gain the courage to come out.
Robinson was remarkable for never hiding who he was and mentored students to do the same, Alexis said.
Aside from teaching, Alexis said Robinson was also working on a novel, “Indignant Dignity,” which discusses matters of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"He coined that term indignant dignity. As Black people, we have dealt with our oppression, with dignity, you know, to get us where we are here,” Alexis, who also provided insight on his novel said. “He was just so smart, so kind and such a giving, funny person and he could converse on all topics, it was just remarkable. He was remarkable."
Natalie Graham, associate professor of African American studies and department chair, said he was serious about intellectual development and talked about what it meant to be part of a long legacy of Black people fighting for justice through their intellect.
She said Robinson helped connect students through a project for The Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation, an organization committed to helping the Black community at CSUF and across Orange County.
“He was consistent and passionate about his work,” Graham said.
Robinson's academic career began in 2004 at the University of La Verne. He traveled and taught internationally in Bangkok, Thailand from 2007 to 2009. From 2011 to 2012, Robinson taught at Los Angeles Mission College before he began his teaching career at Fullerton in 2011 and California State Dominguez Hills in 2013.
Robinson’s students said he was his authentic self when teaching and made them feel comfortable in the space he provided, said African American studies lecturer Mei-Ling Malone.
“He was just himself and you could see that shine through," Malone said.
Robinson had also interacted with students as part of the African American Resource Center at CSUF, Graham said, where he made sure he was a consistent connection for his students.
“He was the type of person who really was well known across campus. He was very present on campus,” Graham said. “I think that that's one of the legacies that I think he leaves – is a legacy of community building.”