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Lawrence H. Robinson On ‘Sistas’, Resilience & Why He Prefers To Do The Catering In Relationships

"I don't like to be catered to. I prefer to do all the catering. That's what I do."

#xoMan

Lawrence H. Robinson is having a moment. Like, a really good moment.

And I'm not just saying that because he recently made his well-received debut on the new BET hit series Sistas. Nor am I saying that because he's got a new movie slated to come out around Christmas time that promises to be equal parts feel-good and funny. No, the moment Lawrence is having is one of those rare moments, where your dream slowly but surely starts turning into your reality. It's a little after 5pm when our call connects and the Philly native is in good spirits. He's inviting and easy during our conversation. (Easy on the eyes too, am I right ladies?) But as he begins to recount his journey to me in our half-hour chat, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Lawrence is a man full of persistence and perseverance. He doesn't believe in giving up. And while humble beginnings working at the airport and going to community college may have been enough to deter any other person from pursuing their heart's desire, for Lawrence, it only fanned the flame for him to keep going. And that's exactly what he did. "I've always known I wanted to do something in entertainment, ever since I was a kid," he tells xoNecole. "I just didn't know what my path was going to be."

"I didn't have a bunch of money growing up. I wasn't the smartest kid growing up but I've always been super hardworking. And if I could look back, I would just say my drive is the same. That never changed."

So how did he go from handling bags to securing bags with BET & Tyler Perry? xoNecole recently got the chance to chat with the Sistas star to find out.

xoNecole: Describe your character Chris [in ‘Sistas’].

Lawrence H. Robinson: Chris is in his early thirties and had a rough childhood growing up. He was raised by his aunt, but she passed away when he was 16. So from 16 on, he got caught up in the streets and eventually went to jail for attempted murder. After he got out, he opened his own business doing construction and now he has a million dollars in his bank account. He's a solid, good brother dating an older woman who's being played by the legend, Shari Belafonte. And he's basically getting introduced to Zach, who's played by Devale Ellis, to try to get him on the right track.

Did you always know acting and modeling was going to be in your future or was this something you kind of stumbled upon?

You know, I was actually like Zach [in the show], Devale Ellis' character--I worked at the airport for six years. I was just a hard-working dude from Philly who was just a baggage handler, but I always wanted more. So in the midst of that, I took acting as an elective because I really wanted to do it. Then I took Tasha Smith's workshop in 2011, moved to New York in 2012, and then I booked my first commercial with Diddy for Macy's. I made a lot of money and I thought that was going to be my way in. I ended up getting fired from my job on purpose so I could pursue acting full-time and I went on that. So I've always been into acting but modeling and acting go hand in hand for me.

I was still modeling like for Macy's and Pepsi, a lot of the commercial stuff. I wanted to be an editorial model but I guess I had a more commercial look. But fast forward to now, I'm in LA and still chasing it, doing the modeling and the social media stuff--that's always going to be there but my passion was always TV and film. I'm just grateful for Tyler Perry for giving me my first character.

What have you learned about yourself thus far throughout your journey?

I've definitely learned that I'm resilient. And that I don't believe in the word 'no'. The word 'no' doesnt doesnt scare me, I'm not afraid of it. It makes me want to keep going until I get [a] 'yes'. Some people are really intimidated by that word. And I love when people underestimate me, I love that. I've always been one of those people that you may see me on social media flexing and working that market but I've always [been] in the background taking acting classes. So I knew when it was time for me to hop on-screen, I knew that I was going to be invested and my character was going to make an impression because I've always been willing to do the work.

Let’s switch it up a bit and talk relationships now. How are you handling dating during quarantine? Are you doing the whole Zoom dates and...

I actually haven't been on Zoom but I've had a couple Facetime calls. It was random though! I've just been watching shows and I'll go through my DMs sometimes and if I see something that catches my attention-- then we'll have a conversation. So it's just been a lot of casual conversations and a few 'Facetime dates', but for the most part I've just been dating myself. And really trying to figure out what I want for my life. Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally.

Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson

"Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally."

Gotcha. So when it comes to red flags, what are some major ones you look for when it comes to dating?

It's definitely a red flag if you're not a kid person. Another one is if you don't believe in God. Everything I do is based on my faith. I respect everybody but I can't imagine having a conversation and going back to my faith and you don't believe in God. That's uncomfortable to me. Another one would also be lack of drive. You have to be clear about what you want in life and actively go towards it. You don't have to be an actress or in Hollywood--I would love to date somebody who's not doing exactly what I do. But you definitely need to be trying to work towards something and know who you are.

Understood. I know you have a little one, your son Aiden. Has fatherhood affected what you look for or what you’re attracted to when it comes to dating?

Absolutely. You have to be into kids and like kids. And you have to ask about my kid. You can't check on me and not check on Aiden. My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way.

Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson

"My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way."

Do you know your love language(s)?

I don't know for sure but I'm big on affirmations, for me and for her. I need to tell you I love you and I need her to tell me she loves me. I need all the compassionate words, the compliments, I need all that.

So when you’re in a relationship, how would you best like to be catered for by your partner?

I don't like to be catered to. I prefer to do all the catering. That's what I do. Besides the affirmations, that's all I need.

OK, well let’s flip it. How do you best cater to your partner?

By being there for her to provide whatever she needs so she knows 'I got you.' Any kind of support. No matter what. And that's honestly why when I was struggling as an actor, I wouldn't date. I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else.

Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson

"I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else."

Last thing before we wrap and this is a two-part question: What frustrates you the most and surprises you the most when it comes to finding love or about love in general?

Mmm. That's good. What frustrates me the most is not knowing when the right time for it is. I'm so focused right now and locked into my career and I feel like love can either help you or knock you off your track. And what surprises me the most is how it feels like fate. The perfect situation can really come your way out of nowhere one day and you weren't even looking for it. That's what I would say.

Season 1 of Sistas is available to stream on the BET Now app. And for more of Lawrence, connect with him on Instagram: @lawrencehrobinson.

Featured image courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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