State Rep. Isaac Robinson was an ardent advocate of environmental justice, especially for residents of Black, brown and poor communities.


Rose Mary Robinson



By Diane Bukowski

March 31, 2020

DETROIT– The outpouring of tributes to Michigan State Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit, Hamtramck), has been massive and unending, coming not only from his constituents and colleagues, but nationally and world-wide. Robinson, 44, died March 29 at Detroit Receiving Hospital of evident complications from COVID-19.

Michigan State Reps. (l) Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) and Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit, Hamtramck) were frequent allies.

Robinson had most recently been campaigning for his constituents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, co-sponsoring with State Rep. Jewell Jones a bill proclaiming a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, utility shut-offs and other issues.

As this crisis expands, we must take swift action to protect our senior citizen population and those economically impacted,” said State Rep. Isaac Robinson. “We must defend the public health of all people including our most vulnerable residents and low-income families. The working families and students in my district already slammed by excessive car insurance costs are being devastated by the impact of this Pandemic. Every event that is canceled puts the livelihood of my constituents in question. One of my residents texted me that she lives off tips. With a lay-off, she won’t be able to pay all her bills. During this economic meltdown, please join with me in calling on state Reps and Senators to move this legislation quickly.”

VOD had just spoken with several former Michigan prisoners about the explosion of COVID-19 inside the walls. They had planned to contact Rep. Robinson for assistance, due to their worry about those they left behind and reports about unsanitary conditions.

Rep. Isaac Robinson with Abner Hines, now 65, who served 45 years in prison although he killed no one. Rep. Robinson helped him get commutation.

“Rep. Robinson was in my view the apex of what a politician should be—someone who cared about his district and people in general,” said Abner Hines, whose sentence was commuted last year after he spent 45 years in prison.

“Many people are going to miss him, including myself. He proved to be a politician that actually cared about people, especially prisoners in this injustice system. He came to my assistance when I appealed for commutation of my sentence to the governor, and did not hesitate to recommend me.  It’s because of him that I’m free today, and I’m forever grateful for that. Many prisoners who have been represented by his mother attorney Rose Mary Robinson are feeling her pain. Rep. Robinson was a carbon copy of his mother as an advocate for all of us against injustice. God Bless her and the rest of his family.”

Charles Lewis with mother Rosie in 1978 

In 1981, Atty. Rose Mary Robinson won a key appeal for a Pearson evidentiary hearing in the case of Charles Lewis, a Detroit juvenile lifer whose re-sentencing under U.S. Supreme Court orders outlawing mandated juvenile life without parole was covered in great detail by VOD. When Atty. Robinson returned to court to represent Lewis in the hearing, however, then Recorders Court Judge Edward Thomas illegally barred her from further representation.

He replaced her with an attorney who was not familiar with the case, and gave him only a half-hour to meet with Lewis prior to the hearing. Afterwards, the attorney withdrew from the case rather than challenging this miscarriage of justice.

Lewis finally won his freedom last year, in what was clearly a frame-up. VOD had  published more than 40 stories on the initial case,  and subsequent legal travesties visited on him, which many held responsible for the prosecutor’s office finally backing down and letting him go. As Hines says, Isaac Robinson carried on his mother’s legacy.

Rep. Isaac Robinson (center) with former prisoners (l to r) David (Dawud) Clark, Edward (Barca) Sanders, Abner Hines, Rick Jordan (recently passed) and Steve Rucker.

As state co-chair of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign, Robinson stressed the need to replace “establishment Democrats” whose pockets are lined with contributions from banks and corporations, with an unbought leader who would fight for the people, as capitalism-in-crisis intensifies its economic and military wars on them across the globe.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for U.S. President

“Jane and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of State Rep. Isaac Robinson,” Sanders said in a Tweet. “He served as a vice chair for our campaign in Michigan and believed strongly in a fairer future for all. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Joining Sanders in his message was first-time U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who is Palestinian-American and one of the original group of four first-time women Representatives of color to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about the passing of State Representative Isaac Robinson,” U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) told the Arab-American News. “Isaac cared deeply for the community and his passion to advocate for our most vulnerable is what I will remember the most.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit

“Isaac’s smile and sense of humor brighten any room. When I first met William Isaac Robinson in 2008 as a young activist in southwest Detroit and candidate for state Rep., he was the first to support my work against environmental racism.

“Isaac always showed up for the community and never backed down from fighting for the people. Our community will not be the same without Rep. Robinson. I pray his mother, Rose Mary, and his family find the strength they need during this difficult time.”

Tlaib is also part of the Bernie Sanders campaign for President.

Isaac Robinson, co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, with other organizers.

Abraham Aiyash, a former candidate for state senate and long-time friend, told the Arab American News that Robinson was an “honorary Arab.”

“Isaac had an extremely unique gift in that he dignified people in every possible way he could when he saw them,” Aiyash told The Arab American News. “For him, it didn’t matter if you were Muslim, Christian, an athiest, if you were black, Bengali or Arab, if you were human, that was enough for him, and he really lived by that radical (code).”

Rep. Isaac Robinson with joyous members of metro Detroit’s Muslim and Arab community. Photo: Arab-American News

“There has never been a greater prince of a man than Isaac,” newly-elected Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said of him. “No one who worked harder or loved his community more. No better person who has walked this earth. My heart is broken.”

Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, wrote on Twitter, “There are few willing to stand against a strong tide when it is right,” “Few who have the moral fortitude to take up a righteous fight that is unpopular. Few whose convictions compel them to speak with the voice of giants through a blistering headwind. Isaac, you will be missed.

Speaker of the Michigan House of RepresentativesLee Chatfield called Robinson “a tremendous friend and colleague.”

“I will remember Isaac as a proud son of Rose Mary, an accomplished attorney, and a talented and effective representative of the people.

“But most of all, I will remember him as a passionate defender of the City of Detroit and the people who lived there. He cared deeply for that city, and his genuine love for its residents shined through in everything he did and in every decision he made,” Chatfield said.

“This will be a difficult night, and we will all miss him for a long time to come. But I hope in time we are all able to remember his enthusiasm, his laughter and the passion with which he lived his life.”

The American Human Rights Council said in a statement, “Rep. Isaac Robinson was a founding member of the AHRC. He was a devoted public servant who served his district and the people of Michigan with honor and selfless dedication.

“He was a tireless fighter and a strong advocate for social justice and equality. Even though he was a man with a sense of humor and an easy smile, he had steely determination. He was a big brother to all who knew him. He never hesitated to give a helping hand to anyone who asked him assistance. He was a straight shooter, and blunt but with utmost respect and professionalism.”

Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, remembered Isaac Robinson with passion. Robinson in his early career was an organizer for the Teamsters Union and always supported the union movement as it was attacked and decimated by the corporations.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield issued the following statement:


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  1. Gwendolyn Winston says:

    What’s mail address 2 send $–not onlinr

    • I would think it would be his mother Rose Mary Robinson but I don’t know whether she still lives on Commonwealth. She does have a Facebook page; perhaps you could reach her through a message on that page. Diane

  2. Gwendolyn Mingo says:

    Thank you for acknowledgment of this awesome and wonderful young man. Shock! Miss you already Isaac….The Congressman with a Posse’. RIP

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