A note from UF College of Journalism and Communications Dean Hub Brown:
I am very saddened to announce that the CJC family has lost a special student and an extraordinary human being. Doctoral student Rakeem Robinson passed away Oct. 25 from natural causes at the age of 27. He struggled with some health issues and survived a horrific truck accident, but he did not let that deter him from pursuing his dreams.
Rakeem was a graduate of our master’s program and was preparing for his qualifying exams for his Ph.D. His Ph.D. research focused on counter narratives for minority communities regarding mental and physical health. Through his graduate school research, he helped draw connections between public interest communications and the activism of Black feminist organizers and practitioners. He wanted to celebrate how their unique perspectives as Black women pushed movements and movement organizations to be more intersectional, an essential strategy of the Black Lives Matter movement. Through his research, he was committed to making space for open, hard and vulnerable conversations about injustice and belonging as a path toward racial justice.
Tom Kelleher, who worked closely with Rakeem, shared what many of us were fortunate to experience. “Rakeem inspired us all – his classmates, his colleagues, faculty, staff, and administration. His passion for communication to improve individual lives and society at large was a model for how we all should approach our scholarship. I couldn’t wait until the day I could address him as Dr. Robinson. It would have been an epic milestone, and I pictured his next degree from CJC as just the next step in a life of high-impact work. But he had already accomplished so much just in what he did for our graduate program and college. We are a better, more enlightened college because of him.”
His passion for helping others is eloquently displayed in this video: Overcoming through the spirit.
Rakeem was a prolific research fellow for four years with the Center for Public Interest Communications. During that time, his work included helping the United Nations Refugee Agency apply systems thinking to their work to protect and serve refugees, and supporting the Center for Coastal Solutions in understanding how to communicate data to decision makers and protect Florida’s estuaries and coastlines. He conducted research on how to communicate about poverty, wealth, housing justice and issues affecting people who are unhoused, and research for the UF Chief Diversity Officer on how to understand ways we can increase the number of Black students attending UF. Rakeem also led literature reviews for the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America to identify ways to decrease tobacco use among rural populations, and recruited focus group participants for a project to increase diversity of audiences attending performances at the UF Performing Arts Center.
He also was part of a team that used data to attract more clients to The Agency.
Center for Public Interest Communications Research Director Annie Neimand, who mentored Rakeem, said of him: “Rakeem Robinson packed his life with opportunities to make the world better. Through his spirituality, scholarship and activism, he wanted everyone to feel love and belonging. He saw every minute as a chance to grow and learn and become the best version of himself and help people around him do the same. He wanted to make his family — at home, church, and UF — proud. He worked tirelessly to serve the Gainesville community as a basketball coach in East Gainesville and a faith leader among students. He was an inspiring thinker, communicator and community leader and we will all miss the joy and curiosity he brought to each moment.”
In addition to his studies at CJC, he was learning leadership skills at the International College of Christian Ministries in Tampa.
Rakeem was very active in community service and volunteered at a variety of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity in Houston; Bridging the Gap Urban Ministries in Akron, Ohio, a local outreach to kids in urban areas; Park View, a poverty alleviation program in Lynchburg, Virginia; Peaceful Baptist Church in Lynchburg as youth coordinator; and a basketball coach for Gainesville Elite.
I will always remember his energy, optimism, and commitment to others. Rakeem was the real deal, and it was a good day whenever I got a chance to talk with him. I join you in feeling this huge loss.
More information will be forthcoming on donations to help the Robinson family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Rakeem’s family, friends, classmates and colleagues, and all of those whose lives he touched.