CHAPTER SEVEN: CURRENT WORK AND ADVOCACY
Lisa: So Debbie, now you're the Executive Director in Speaking For Ourselves.
Lisa: How's the organization changed since you first joined over 20 years ago?
Debbie: Boy, it's changed a lot. Um, cause we had to change with the times I guess. I'm trying to get us back to where we were because that's what Roland wanted. Um, my focus were, is to keep our mission was 20 years ago and the purpose was Roland's cause actually when, um, his sister passed me the torch and gave me the go-ahead I didn't know I was going to be a executive director but, um, his sister, Laverne gave it to me so I'm obligated.
21:28:41:03 - 21:33:03:28 Lisa: Do you think that the self-advocates who are the members of your organization today are willing to continue that fight?
Debbie: I sure hope so. Um, I believe so. We're getting new people. Um, I think, um, we're joining forces with other groups now and we're not like in, like Speaking For Ourselves was the driving force when Mark's, Roland era's and Justin era's, we were the leaders in a lot of, a lot of things now and now there are other groups, are taking the lead, are taking the course of some of the stuff so knowing that and saying Speaking For Ourselves is not important. Yes, we've been around almost 30 years, will be 30 years next year's. Lord willing, I didn't even think we were going to last that long, um, but there are other people picking up the torches now. Um, so we're joining with them or, you know, we're still, um, important, you know, and, um, people respect us because they knew our name, um, and because of Roland. I think a lot of people are following in Roland's footstep. It's not just speaking, we all took the cause now. When Roland passed this on to me everybody else grabbed it now. People believe in it. If you believe in something it's going to be alive. It's not just us. We have other people now that's picking up in different ways and different, you know, we're out there. Uh, I mean, I just met Gary [Alexander] for the first time last week, two weeks ago and, you know, seeing other people talking about the institution. How you could fall six people with waivers. How can you do and I didn't have to say it, I had to say, you know, people's lives are at, you know, we're not even at the table when you pick up waivers. What's going on with our, you know, so what I meant by other people are taking the cause to, um, bringing up our issues because they know that's the right thing, they know, we all, everybody in Pennsylvania and the national no what Roland, Mark, Justin Dart stood for, justice for all. That's what Justin had always said and if anything, he didn't, um, even with one of his sayings were, you know, get into politics like your life depended on it cause it does and justice for all was his last statement. Justice, liberty and justice for all and that just, that's not just Justice and the, your term that's justice for this whole system, for everybody and, you know, those two things, Roland, who's in charge, Everyday Lives and just liberty and justice for all from, um, Justin Dart, those two. That's what we are all in this together and I, that's what I keep telling people. We are all in this together, we cannot do this alone. A lot of folks moved on and did other things but the fight is still there and we have other people picking up the fight now and it's not, I don't know, uh, I hope, you know, when I go, when it's my turn not to be here that somebody will take Speaking For Ourselves or, you know, and still continue after me or somebody need to take this work cause I'm, you know, I never know.
21:33:04:01 - 21:33:59:22 Lisa: How would you like to be remembered, Debbie?
Debbie: Um, I guess, um, that I, um, I did what I could to keep Roland's dream alive and what he stood for and also Justin Dart and the principle and, um, you know, make sure that this is a, um, a free world for everyone, out of institutions and choices are for everyone, not just self-determination choices period.
21:34:00:10 - 21:34:59:29 Lisa: Has your life been different than what you imagined, Debbie?
Lisa: What did you imagine and how is it different?
Debbie: Um, I guess it's different, um, because of where we are, um, that is some, we're in a different time, a different era, um, also that other people are picking up what Roland and Justin, um, stood for and fought for and died for and, you know, that's freedom and justice and equal rights for all.
21:35:00:17 - 21:36:51:02 Lisa: But in your life, could you have imagined the role you would have played in this history?
Debbie: No, absolutely not.
Lisa: Would you do it differently?
Debbie: Um, I guess yes, I would, I mean, I would try to keep, um, our, you know, um, our own members back or, um, you know, um, kept up on the, uh, you know, kept the freedom community going, um, the freedom marches. We will be getting back to those, um, you know, and kept up with the national stuff that's going on.
Lisa: But yet you've accomplished so much. Do you ever sit back and feel proud of what you've done?
Debbie: Yeah, yes. I just know there's a long way to go. Um, I have a lot to do and I don't know how much time I have or nobody does, you know. I just hope and pray that, um, somebody will continue the work. I know that it's bigger than me and Speaking right now.
More Interview Chapters
About Debbie Robinson
Executive Director, Speaking For Ourselves
Education, Freedom Campaign, Institutions, Roland Johnson, Self-advocacy, Self-determination, Speaking For Ourselves