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This week on People Profile: Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson (Professor, Author, and Motivational Speaker).

This week on People Profile: Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson (Professor, Author, and Motivational Speaker).
A couple of years ago, the Boston Marathon promoted its event with a series of inspiring billboards. All of them were black and white images of a runner, with a quote that expressed their reason for running. Some billboards were of fully mobile individuals and others were of those who were disabled but were determined to cross the finish line, either through a family http://peopleprofiledrc.com/
member’s or friend’s assistance, or through the use of a prosthetic device.
Each had different quotes, but one in particular really stood out: the runner’s response was simple: “Because I can.”
As kids, the “Little Engine that could” taught us a valuable tale of an extraordinary spirit, of perseverance, of determination, of believing in ourselves.

This week on People Profile we have Dr. Karlene Richardson, a professor, author, and motivational speaker.

Dr.C
Welcome to People Profile Dr Richardson.

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
You are such a terrific writer. I am so impressed with your work. There was definitely a gap and you strategically filled that.
Thank you for the welcome. And it is indeed an honor. I don’t take this invitation lightly.

Dr.C
Thank you so much Dr Richardson. It is indeed our privilege. Could you shed some light on your background as it relates to your struggles and challenges?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
I went to High School in Jamaica and sometime in the 5th form I came to America to my mother. I was raised by my grandparents. My mom had me when she was 18 years old. When I came here we lived in a kitchenette (1 bedroom, bathroom, and the living room) . . . the living room was also the kitchen, the dining room, and my bedroom. I was ecstatic to be here with my mother despite no longer having a room for myself as I did in Jamaica. My mom was newly married with a 6 month old baby, so of course I became the babysitter which I did whole heartedly. She introduced me to several of her friends’ daughters, one of whom set me up and I was raped. I was 17 years old. I found out I was pregnant. Incredible as it may sound, I did not know the word ‘abortion’. I am glad it was not a part of my vocabulary because I am not sure what options I would have sought. My mother being that strict Jamaican told me to leave. But eventually took me back in. However when my daughter was about 8 months old she told me to leave because due to conflicts between me and her – my plans to get an education prevented me from fulfilling certain responsibilities, specifically babysitting duties. My daughter and I lived on the A train for a while, taking showers at friends’ houses and at her godmother’s home who eventually found out that we were homeless and offered us a place to stay. Several months later she passed us over to a cousin in Bedford Stuyvesant. He had several buildings. We were offered a partially abandoned building to live in. The bathroom was deplorable. We had no fridge, no bed, no stove. My mom gave me a two-burner to use for which I was grateful and I found a TV in the room and used a hanger as antennae and we were able to watch Sesame Street. As a fridge Dr. C. I would put my meat in a plastic bag and hang it through the window, used the window sill to secure the bag from falling, this was in the winter of course, and that is how I preserved my meat. Don’t mess with us Jamaicans okay, we are very innovative .. hahaha. I fed my daughter first at every meal. Whatever she left, that became my meal. I had no green card at the time (mi straight now doah lol) so I couldn’t get a job. I would stand on the corners of Monroe and Nostrand in Bed Stuy and begged for quarters and that is how I fed my daughter. One day Dr. C. I was so hungry I journeyed to the basement of the partially abandoned building and looked to see if the construction workers who worked in the day, had left any lunch or snacks. They had not. However on my way out of the basement, my eyes glanced the garbage that held the empty foil containers. I picked them up and took out the bones and scraped the remains into one container and that became my dinner. And that is what I did whenever I was hungry. One day they had curried goat which was so spicy. I searched for something to drink and found a bottle of soda. When I drank it, it was pinesol. That is when I knew I had hit rock bottom, pardon the cliche. I knew I had to get out of this situation. For the first time my daughter saw my tears. For the first time I felt guilty for carrying this child into the world in which I was not able to provide for her as a mother should. And for the first time I knew I once again had to ask my mom to return home. My spirit was broken and a feeling of hopelessness took over.

Dr.C
Oh Wow! (pausing for reflection……….)
Was that your lowest point in life Dr Richardson? How did you know you had hit rock bottom?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
When I asked my mother for us to return home and she said no.
On my way back home the tears rolled down my face and I knew then it was sink or swim . . .

Dr.C
Yes, that was your deciding moment Doc. Who or what was your motivation to succeed?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
My motivation to succeed was my daughter Dr. C. I remember once we were in Rite Aid and she asked me for a Barbie doll that cost $5.99 and I couldn’t afford it. She was about 6 years old at the time. And when we left the store she said, “Mommy, I asked for one Barbie doll and you said no, and that little girl’s mommy gave her two . . .” Her statement resonated within not because she wanted a doll and didn’t get it and this could have been a moment for teaching her that not everything she wants she will get . . . but it resonated because deep within I knew I could not provide her with many things that a mother should be able to provide for a child. We didn’t celebrate Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, or Thanksgiving . . . I doubt we knew the day each fell on . . . because we simply lived to survive. Each time I felt like giving up I was reminded of the promise I made to my daughter as we exited Rite Aid . . . that one day Mommy will be able to give you a doll and more. THAT Dr. C. was my motivation to succeed.

Dr.C
Absolutely Dr Richardson, my daughters are my motivation as well. What was your very first step to start the change into the Professor/Author/Motivational Speaker you are today?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
The drink from the Pinesol. I knew I had to change our living condition. So I started waitressing. Save up my money, join a pardner (su-su) and didn’t look back. Sometimes, let the truth be told Dr.C, because I am not ashamed of my past. I hustled cannabis (really trying to sound politically correct here – nuh judge mi lol). I did. And that is how I survived the first two semesters of college until my financial aid kicked in. I began teaching at a 2-year private college in Brooklyn, New York. I was promoted to Program Coordinator of the Health Care Administration program and the Health Information Technology program two semesters later. Five years later I changed jobs and became an Assistant Dean of Curriculum Review and Design and today I serve in the capacity of Department Chair for the Health Care Administration program and as Assistant Dean of Student Success and Assessment. I shared my experience with my class on several occasions. There were tears and disbelief, emotions I didn’t expect because to me it was just another survival story, and from that I decided to publish the book I had written many years prior, that remained saved on my flash-drive, “From Gutter To Glory”.

Dr.C
Absolutely a remarkable journey Dr Richardson. Could you share with us the one thing requiring the least effort that makes the greatest difference in your journey?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
Absolutely. Forgiveness. Dr. C. for me it is a verb. Maybe for Merriam and Webster too. It is an action that enables you to move forward without bitterness. Do I have residual pain? Absolutely. However the more I share my story it seems the level of residual pain decreases. I also mentors. I mentored three of my students who are now professors at the college where I am now employed.
Passing the baton without expectations and with sincerity also provides opportunity for growth.

Dr.C
Dr Richardson i must tell you that your story is one that should be shared in all corners of the globe.
Complexities of life are a natural occurrence. When you started to feel overwhelmed by the complexities in life’s journey, how did you simplify to get where you want to be?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
I am still not where I want to be Dr. C. I take each day as a gift. And so to be honest I had to stop and think about the times when I became overwhelmed. We all have a purpose in life. Becoming overwhelmed is for me another state of mind just like happiness, sadness, joy, downtrodden. I live a very simple life. My home is very simple. No big fan fare. I no longer drive, my OPTION. I live within my means so I can focus on my purpose which for me is to ensure that everyone I come in contact with knows that with determination, focus, and the drive to succeed anything is possible.

Dr.C
If you could offer only one piece of advice about beginning, changing habits, starting fresh, what would it be?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
Be true to who you are, not in comparison to the “Jones” but true to your individuality. Don’t be afraid to fall, but know that even the greatest of the greatest did but got back up again. Failure is not weakness, it is just another opportunity to strategize knowing what not to do the second time around. It allows us to re-evaluate. Starting fresh provides the opportunity for new perspectives. Changing habits affords us to revamp, to find a better space for us to journey into our lives. Change is not always a bad thing. It can be painful, but the outcome should be worth it in the end.

Dr.C
I am in total Agreement Doc. Besides your own book, (From Gutter To Glory), what other book would you recommend to help someone find their motivation?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
Two of Malcolm Gladwell’s books: (1) The Tipping Point and (2) Blink

Dr.C
I see, what role if any, did religion played in your success?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
A huge role, huge! I gave my heart to the Lord in 1994. If it wasn’t for the Lord on my side, where would I be?

Dr.C
Yes faith can move mountains. If you could travel back through time, what single mistake would you correct in life Dr Richardson?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
If I said it here Dr. C. I would be incriminating myself lol. I use to be about THAT life. But God! Mistakes should be life lesson tools. And for me that is exactly what it/they was/were. Life Lesson Tools . . (ah boy!)

Dr.C
No No No! lol please don’t incriminate yourself, at least not here! lol.
What do you do for fun?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
Movies, eat out, write books, I lead a very boring life. But I am happy and contented with it!

Dr.C
This final question is a test of your super power, a test of your academic skills, a test of your life ‘s journey..…lol,
What did A said to B?

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
I don’t know that one. I know what did A Sushi say to B sushi . . . Wasabi (What’s up B)

Dr.C
Lol
A said to B, “contact C” lol

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
lololol hahaha

Dr.C
Yup! they didn’t teach you that in school huh? lol..
Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson, Professor, Author, and Motivational Speaker, you are an inspiration to many. People Profile would like to thank you for your time and effort in making this little chat possible. Looking forward to seeing you at the 2016 People Profile Awards in June.

Dr. Karlene Robinson Richardson
Dr.C you are something else lol! I will definitely be there! I am truly honored! Thank you!

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