When a group of Oakland High School boys created an Instagram account targeting her friends, Active Voice fellow Sabby Robinson took to the airwaves to talk about sexual harassment. At the time, Robinson was a graduating senior at Oakland High and intern at Youth Radio, a California Bay Area-based radio outlet for young people.
On what they called “Team 15,” the group posted explicit photos of girls in her class partying, drinking, and passed out. The account was active for months. When her high school administration eventually found out about the profile, she said a whirlwind of drama followed: suspensions, a lawsuit, and state intervention.
“I don’t think my friends did anything wrong, but their experience has made me more cautious,” she said in her commentary in 2015. “I realize that sexual harassment can irreversibly damage someone’s life, and that it doesn’t just happen on the street or behind closed doors. All it takes is one jerk with a smartphone.”
Two years later, Robinson points to her time at Youth Radio as an outlet of expression important not only for herself but other people and issues as well. She covered California’s minimum wage hike on Oakland’s working youth, the state’s drought effects on teens, and students participating in a hackathon in Alameda County.
“Youth Radio got me more involved in my community,” Robinson said. “I have always been somebody who is very loud, talkative, and interested in listening to stories and telling stories.”
Over her three years at the University of Southern California, Robinson has taken every opportunity to dive deeper into radio journalism. When she’s not producing shows on a podcast called Real Talk at the USC Annenberg School, you can find her running across campus with earphones in listening to more stories.
“I feel way more connected to stories when they’re through radio,” Robinson said. “It’s so much more of an art in my opinion than any other kind of storytelling because I think that it’s incredible to paint a picture in someone’s mind with words instead of actually having a picture or video there.”
Growing up, car rides brought together her biggest influences: NPR and her parents. Her father’s Jamaican side of the family pushed her to always speak up and share stories; her mother, whom she cites as a role model and “cool lady,” heads the Ethnic Studies graduate program at University of California at Berkeley.
As someone who has never considered herself as shy, Robinson wants to inspire younger girls in Los Angeles to pursue journalism. This year in her fellowship, Robinson will be handing the mic to girls in the area and leading them through producing short commentaries on social issues. Through teaching girls how to write and produce content, Robinson hopes to help change the demographic makeup of the current journalism field.
“[Active Voice is] something that’s near and dear to my heart — being able to empower women by giving young women the tools to have voices and express themselves. I feel like especially in the USC area, it will be incredible to work with high schoolers around here because I feel like one thing that I haven’t really gotten out of my experience in LA so far has been to engage with the LA community,” she said.