Interview: Gil Robertson

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Gil L. Robertson, IV is the creator and CEO of The Robertson Treatment, a 10-year running, nationally-syndicated Arts & Lifestyle articles column which appears in 30 newspapers across the country.

Boasting a national readership in excess of two million, Mr. Robertson's byline has also appeared in a long list of publications that includes Essence, Billboard, The Source, the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Robertson, who received a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Los Angeles, is not your typical journalist, wearing a variety of hats in the worlds of media and public relations marketing. The talented Renaissance Man is also a consultant, an entrepreneur, and a lecturer with the vision to develop academic curriculum and learning tools necessary to stimulate Growth in mass media-related vocations. Most recently, he's added authorship to his repertoire.

Here, Gil talks about his latest endeavor, editing a touching collection of memoirs about the spread of AIDS across the African-American community, entitled, Not in My Family. To order a copy of the book, contact Doug Seibold at (847) 475-4451 or at [email protected]

BSN: What inspired you to do this book?
GR: As a journalist, I felt that there was a need for members of the black community to address the impact this disease was having. My goal was to dig beneath the surface to give readers an understanding of how and why this epidemic has taken hold in our community. I also wanted to introduce positive messages that address what our response to this disease should be as a community.

BSN: How hard was it for you to get folks with AIDS or HIV+ to go public and share their stories, given the stigma?
GR: It wasn’t that difficult—That’s not to say that I didn’t encounter some folks who had a hard time with opening up and putting their emotions on paper. I worked with each and every contributor to frame what they wanted to say and in some cases, I offered direction as to how they should say it.

BSN: How did you get contributions from so many celebrities?
GR: I come into constant contact with celebrities as an Arts and Entertainment journalist so I just asked them. Some said “no,” but most were very positive. In the end, I had to actually cut some of our well-known talent to make room for the voices that I wanted to capture from other areas within our community.

BSN: What was the most difficult aspect of this project?
GR: Getting some of our contributors to open up and honestly share their innermost feelings was, at times, challenging. We lost a few parties who expressed interest, but for the most part everyone stepped up to deliver their message.

BSN: What was the most satisfying aspect?
GR: Really just to have it done. This project had been floating in my mind for some time, so to finally see it out there in the marketplace as a resource to help other people has been very rewarding.

BSN: What do you hope to achieve with the book?
GR: My goal for Not in My Family is to stimulate dialogue on this disease that will bring about change in the attitudes and behavioral patterns engaged in by many in the African-American community.                                                            

BSN: Which of the entries is your favorite? Why so?
GR: I really like them all. Now I know that sounds cliché but each piece reflects a variety of sensibilities and viewpoints that engage me in different ways. I think most readers will agree as well.                                                                       

BSN: How is your brother doing?
GR: Considering his condition, my brother is doing very well. Of course, he’s on medication but has been very lucky to escape many of the hazards associated with this disease.                                                              
BSN: What has been his biggest challenge?
GR: Probably adjusting to the various medical regimes he’s had to undergo in order to survive. He’s been involved in many clinical trials, some of which come with many side-effects and risks. However, he’s come through all of them well.

BSN: How did his contracting the illness affect you and your family?
GR: It was devastating for all of us and the process of getting through those emotions is one that we each had to live with alone. Every individual handles crises differently but, fortunately, we had each other to lean on. But it was tough. Over time we have learned to accept his situation and have adjusted to living with that reality.                                                              
BSN: Why do you think that AIDS has come to be primarily an African-American disease in this country?
GR: Because we didn’t take the steps to prevent it early on. There are a plethora of reasons why this disease has taken such a firm grip in our community. Dysfunction, misinformation, denial and plain ignorance. When this disease first captured the spotlight, it was considered a gay, white male disease, a label that unfortunately gave many in our community reason to think it couldn’t happen to them. My logic was always that a social disease can spread anywhere, which is why I wasn’t surprised when HIV/AIDS started making inroads in our community.

BSN: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
GR: To remain committed to their ideas and to hold firmly to their goals and vision.

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