“Be thankful for our wonderful city.”
Renelda Robinson’s leadership was evident through her activism and work throughout the city of South Bend and continues to live on today in the Robinson Community Learning Center, which bears her name. She loved South Bend and encouraged others to appreciate it too, such as when she admonished, “Stop complaining about our beautiful city. Look around you and see the wonders. Get out and enjoy our town.”
Renelda was born and died in the 700 block of North Francis Street, never living anywhere else. She first played ball while in elementary school on the boys’ team and continued playing as an adult. As a 16-year-old she was an original member of the “The American Negro Girls Softball League.” The team, organized by “Uncle Bill” during a time of strict racial segregation throughout the country, served as an athletic outlet for Black girls and as a counterpart to the South Bend Blue Sox. Even though Renelda and her teammates “could not infiltrate” the white teams, Renelda felt that “competition makes you a better player.” She was proud that she “played baseball on my honeymoon.”
In Renelda’s professional life she worked as an OB-GYN aid at St. Joseph Medical Center and a social worker for the South Bend Housing Authority. For nearly two decades she served as Executive Director of the Northeast Neighborhood Service Center where she was an active force in battling the war on poverty.
Renelda also demonstrated her dedication to South Bend by volunteering with numerous community organizations, including REAL Services, South Bend Water Works, Older Adult Council, YWCA, African American Women in Touch, and A.M.E. Zion Church.
Her dedication has been recognized through many awards: The Reinhold Niebuhr Quality of Life Award, United Religious Community Social Justice Award, Community Development Block Grant Citizen Award, Solidarity Outstanding Citizen Award, Hoosier Planning Award for Leadership, YWCA Outstanding Achievement Award, Women In Touch Leadership Award, Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation Community Service and Appreciation Award, University of Notre Dame Appreciation Award, and the 1998 F. Jay Nimtz Exemplary Public Service Award.
Throughout her life and work, Renelda lived by her favorite saying: “Thank you, God, for one more day, and may I do some good in it.”
Information compiled from interview with Marguerite Taylor and Myra Carter collected by the Michiana Women Leaders Project
Renelda was a 2017 CMWL honoree. Her daughter, Marguerite Taylor, is pictured here holding a photograph of Renelda.