Minister Glenda S. Robinson, a longtime Longmont resident, received The Honorable Menola Upshaw Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023 at a ceremony Tuesday evening in Denver.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert and Humanitarian Awards, held at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Complex, recognized Robinson for her decades of dedication to civil rights.
Robinson said she was “blown away” when she found out she would be receiving the award.
“I was ecstatic,” she said. “I’ve been doing this work all my life — my parents did it, my great-grandparents did it — and they were enslaved.”
Robinson’s great-grandfather and grandmother, John Wesley and Mary Emma Hill Stewart, were born in the early 1800s and worked to improve the lives of Black people in Tennessee, where Robinson grew up. It took nearly two centuries for her grandparents to be formally recognized in Memphis for their civil rights work — a fact that was top-of-mind for Robinson as she received her award Tuesday.
“My grandfather was born in 1824 — just to be honored in 2022,” she said. “So, they’re in glory, they’re in heaven, but I know they’re in that great man’s stand watching, and just saying ‘that’s my great-granddaughter!’”
When Robinson attended college, she became involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and pushed for the right to vote and other basic rights. She marched with many of the movement’s leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“This was 55 years ago, so why are we still talking about voting rights, civil rights? We did call it affirmative action, now we’re talking about diversity, equity and inclusion,” Robinson explained. “And so it’s circling its own way around. There’s a saying that says, ‘if you neglect history of your past, you’re bound to repeat it’ — we’re repeating that past.”
Robinson has carried on her great-grandparents’ legacy of working to improve her community and advocating for equality, and during the awards ceremony, she was surrounded by the many people whose lives she has touched.
As a minister of the Second Baptist Church of Boulder and an NAACP Boulder County member, Robinson is known as a community leader and historian who has not only studied the past, but who has lived it, said Leigh Collings, a church member who came to support Robinson.
“I just love Minister Robinson a lot,” Collings said. “I’m so impressed by her energy and her devotion to the history of Black people in this country, and her work with Dr. Martin Luther King, and all she does for the church, and the projects she’s involved in are so inspiring. She does a lot in Boulder County.”
Robinson’s award, which was presented by the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, is named for Menola Upshaw, a Denver civil rights activist and leader who ignited change and dedicated her life to the movement.