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Keith E.
Democrat MN 5

About Rep. Keith
  • Honoring Mr. Robert ``Bobby’’ Hickman

    by Representative Keith Ellison

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    ELLISON of minnesota in the house of representatives Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Mr. ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of Robert ``Bobby'' Hickman, to recognize his lifetime of persistently fighting for social change and mentoring the youth of our community over many decades.

    Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Robert was a fourth-generation St. Paulite. His father was a descendant of the founders of Pilgrim Baptist Church and his mother came from a family of educators. Robert recognized the importance of his heritage and the deep rooted community ties that were instilled in him at an early age. Hickman served as a mechanical engineer in the Air Force and returned to St. Paul in the 1960's. It was during this tumultuous time of the civil rights movement that Robert became an activist within his community. In 1968 he founded the Inner City Youth League and served as the Executive Director for the next 20 years.

    Robert believed in the importance of empowering and educating youth. The Inner City Youth League taught teenagers art, black history, music, and theater. He would sponsor forums to allow African-American youth to question city officials. He even ran a public television show called ``Black Voices'' and trained community members in video production.

    Robert often came up with creative ways to protest the powers that be in his community. When the city of St. Paul razed houses for urban renewal he created community gardens out of the vacant plots. He advocated employment programs for young African-Americans, pushed for stronger schools, and protested profiling by police. After his work with Inner City Youth he teamed up with the advocacy and social services group The City Inc. in Minneapolis which opened one of the very first alternative schools in Minnesota.

    Robert was more than just an activist; he was truly a community leader. He wore many hats throughout his personal and professional life. He was a small business owner and even an occasional actor playing the role of Frederick Douglas in Minnesota's Juneteenth celebrations. He discovered Buddhism and made trips to Kenya and Ghana. Most recently he worked with the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis with young men, many of whom were referred there by the criminal justice system.

    Throughout Robert's life he always continued to overcome divisions between city officials and community members. He was able to overcome cultural, racial, and generational divides to unite people in finding common ground while consistently and persistently supporting the community's black youth.

    Robert ``Bobby'' Hickman passed away on January 28, 2015 at the age of 79. His work to improve and inspire the lives of African-American youth will resonate in the hearts and minds of the community for generations to come. He viewed his life's work as a calling and there is no nobler calling than mentoring and empowering our nation's future.


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