Sylvia M. Robinson



Sylvia departed this life September 1 8, 2017, in a peaceful transition surrounded by her family and friends. Born on August 14, 1961, in Washington, D.C., Sylvia Robinson was the daughter of Raymond Alfred Robinson of Atlantic City, NJ and Mary Willie Davidson Robinson of Charlotte, NC. Sylvia grew up at Quincy Street NW in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Her parents were educators and set high standards for Sylvia and her older sister, Sharon. She was very smart and barely had to study.


When Sylvia was very young, her teachers recognized that grade-level school work was not challenging enough for her, so they skipped her on to the next grade. From this point on, she was always the youngest and smartest in her classes. She began her education at Raymond Elementary School right behind the house where she lived, and later attended private schools in Arlington, VA where both of her parents were public school teachers. In

1978, Sylvia graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School. In 1982, she graduated summa cum laude from American University with a degree in Computer Science, and she went on to practice her profession at General

Electric in Rockville, MD.

Ithough very successful, at age 38, Sylvia realized working in the corporate world was not her passion. As she said man years later at a celebration of neighborhood leaders, "Life is . . . about living in joy—waking up with purpose, feeling our creative energy, answering your calling." Sylvia left her comfortable life in Silver Spring, MD and chose to pursue her vision of designing and creating a welcoming community space that integrated traditional and non-traditional arts, education, social services, civic engagement, metaphysical workshops, sustainable environmental practices and spiritual services.

Sylvia returned to Washington, D.C. and found an old abandoned building at 733 Euclid Street, NW, that had no  heat, broken windows and was in an extreme state of disrepair. Despite its appearance, this building turned out to have a history that made it the perfect site to fulfill her vision. Originally, the building was the home of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, which was founded in 1863.

Orphaned children were housed and educated in the building after the Civil War. Sylvia opened the Emergence Community Arts Collective (ECAC) at this location and, as its Founding Executive Director, she had to become an expert  in grant writing, fundraising and drawing on resources from a wide variety of benefactors to purchase,renovate and maintain the facility. Sylvia also became adept at community building, and she embraced people of all ages, races, abilities and backgrounds.

ECAC was the fulfillment of her vision and much more. Sylvia was not only the founder of ECAC but also a tireless leader for the entire lower Georgia Avenue community. She was one of the founding members of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, the working group leader ofthe Georgia Avenue/Pleasant Plains Heritage Trail, the visionary project director of the Georgia Avenue Window Walk, and the community leader who helped save the temporary Bruce Monroe Park site from becoming a parking lot.

Sylvia was the lead organizer of the biannual community development reviews at Howard University. These were day-long events that informed residents, business owners, city officials and other stakeholders of planned development projects in the Georgia Avenue corridor. Sylvia believed that ordinary people should have their voices heard before development takes place in their communities, and that they should be celebrated for the quiet, often unheralded service they perform. Consequently, Sylvia initiated annual awards banquets formerly In Her Honor that celebrated more than 50 leaders in the Pleasant Plains and Park View neighborhoods for their outstanding community service. Sylvia's spirit and legacy will continue to inspire this community for many years to come.

For years, Sylvia trained in the martial arts, Capoeira Angola (for which she obtained multiple trophies), Qi Gong and Tai Chi. She was an instructor in these arts at ECAC and at the Covenant Christian Community, a mediiåiiveChristian Church with which she became affiliated. Sylvia was also part of a loving and supportive women's group own as the Free Radicals and was one of the "Instigators" of a small funding organization called the Diverse City Fund, which supports small minority-led groups that are change agents in their communities.

In her spare time, Sylvia enjoyed visiting with friends, watching movies and playing Scrabble. She was very good at Scrabble and was hard to beat. Although her work at ECAC kept her quite busy, Sylvia always made time to be with her family for special events and celebrations.

Sylvia leaves to cherish her memory: her sister, Sharon Ledbetter; brother-in-law, Titus Ledbetter Jr.; nephew, Titus Ledbetter Ill (Rachel); nieces, Cherice Ledbetter Ward (Akil) and Crystal Ledbetter; and her partner in life and her anchor, Jabari Zakiya, in addition to a host of other friends. She is preceded in death by her parents Raymond and Mary Robinson and her aunt Evelyn Davidson White.

Words From Friends 

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of community activist and cultural bearer, Sis. Sylvia M. Robinson. I was introduced to Sylvia by Faye Williams, Sisterspace and Books. Sylvia was totally dedicated to educating and healing the community through her work at the Emergent Community Arts Collective (ECAC), so much so, that I can’t recall seeing Sylvia outside of ECAC, as it was her work and her home. Love, Light, and Peace to the Family and Friends. We give thanks for a life well-lived. Rest In Peace.
— Rev. Dr. D. Amina B. Butts