For several decades now, Morris “Dino” Robinson Jr., has played an integral role documenting African American history in Evanston and other North Shore communities.
But soon he will become part of historical record as well.
Members of the City Council Human Services Committee unanimously approved a resolution designating a portion of Church Street between Hartrey and Grey avenues with the honorary street name sign, “Morris ‘Dino’ Robinson Jr. Way,” in honor of Mr. Robinson’s contributions.
“His work has been tireless and at his own expense and sacrifice,” said Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, who nominated Mr. Robinson for the honor.
“He has educated our community. He has supported our legislation more recently with historical context and data and information, and he has lifted up the Black experience in Evanston, as well as preserving our rich history as well.”
The resolution adopted into the record took note that “Morris “Dino” Robinson Jr. has been a vital member of Evanston’s community by preserving and educating the world about Black History on Chicago’s Suburban North Shore. Committee members approved forwarding the recommendation to City Council, where it will likely be considered next week.
“Mr. Robinson established the African American Heritage Sites program which honors historical locations throughout Evanston with historical insights available to the public,” the resolution read, and established “a resource center, the Shorefront Legacy Center, that services Evanston and the surrounding areas, which has engaged hundreds of students, organizations and community based initiatives at the Shorefront Legacy Center annually since 2010.
“Mr. Robinson, through the Shorefront Legacy Center, has allowed local residents to find a secure home for their trusted memories and mementos,” the resolution further noted, “receiving global recognition due to its vast information and thorough archives.”
In addition, the resolution reads, “since 2018, Mr. Robinson co-established the annual Black Evanston History Makers presented at the Evanston Civic Center that involves a recorded publicly attended session with honored guests of multiple generations.”
The resolution further noted, “Mr. Robinson provided invaluable resources related to the Evanston Reparations Initiative to City officials and community interest groups.”
During the citizen comment portion of the meeting held earlier, Bill Geiger, who served as president and CEO of the McGaw Y from 2003 to 2014, was among the speakers, enthusiastically lending support to the Committee’s action.
He spoke of Mr. Robinson’s work enabling the YMCA in to bring long past due recognition to the Emerson YMCA in 2004.
The facility had served as a key gathering place for Evanston’s Black community during segregation when the white and black communities had separate facilities. (For the full account as well as historic photographs, read Mr. Robinson’s account in the Shorefront Journal, at shorefrontjournal.org).
Until that time, Mr. Geiger told the Committee, “There was little formal recognition of the enormous impact of the Emerson Street branch YMCA on the Black community in Evanston – without Dino’s research, and more importantly his deep passion for telling this story.
“Working with Dino, I deeply appreciated his spirit of partnership and of truth telling,” he said. “I grew up greatly in my understanding of Evanston, unlearning, and learning, the real history of my hometown.”
Mr. Geiger told the Committee that Mr. Robinson also played a key role in the community celebration of the YMCAs 125th anniversary in 2010, contributing to the creation of the award-winning documentary “Unforgettable.”
The film chronicled the 60-year history of the Emerson YMCA and its legacy and impact on Evanston’s African American community.
The City established the honorary street naming program in 1996 to honor people who have contributed greatly to the City of Evanston through cultural, historic, or humanitarian acts.
Under the program, administered by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, honorary street name signs are displayed for a period of ten-years on the portion of street so designated.