Day 25, 2019

Dream Teams (Of Love and Community)

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Twenty Fifth Day of Thanks Everyone! 

Today I give thanks for the many dream teams (power couples) who build love, life and community together.  God is so good and always on time! I was trying to gather my thoughts and write about this theme and center it around my Mama and Papi’s love and life story for a few days. Every time I tried to write, I’d get passed the introduction and get stuck. Since it wouldn’t go where I wanted it to go, I’d put it down and started working on another “Pretty, Ugly Christmas Sweater” or content for another theme of thanks.  I started talking to God in my morning prayer and asked why this particular theme of thanks wasn’t flowing out of me like the others were.  Several minutes later, at 5:04 am, I looked at my email and saw that my Mama had sent me her long awaited theme of thanks reflection.  Guess what? (I don’t even have to tell you because you are about to read it for yourself.) She had the complete content of my theme of thanks sitting in my inbox.  Talk about my mama always being in sync with me. All I had to do was be patient because the “perfect” story about my theme was coming and told by the woman herself. And thanks to another dynamite woman, who I had only heard about and finally got to meet two years ago, Ms. Tina Roberts, who encouraged me to stay focused and pursue the community center.  She has the model of what I want and have dreamed of… the black marriage and community center wrapped in one. Please welcome to the stage my Mama, Ms. Kathyrn Hall-Trujillo and enjoy this reflection. 

Today I am thinking about and thankful for the power of love.  The longer I live, the more I continue to understand the different manifestations of this indefinable and unquantifiable force that can drown or wash us fresh…that can strip us of everything we hold dear or grow and nurture deep roots that connect us to the essence of life…sometimes all of the above and more.

When I think of the power of love, I think of Tina and Darrell Roberts.  Their love has demonstrated to all of us who know and love them (even) before they became a family, how a family can become a strong foundation in building community.  From the beginning, they defined “equally yoked” as their equal intention and commitment to building something endearing and enduring together for the benefit of families in their neighborhood.  The requested gifts for their wedding reception were items for their new family community center.

I need to confess that I was happy for Tina on her wedding day but I was also sad because she was one of the founders and the administrator of the The Center for Community Health & Well-Being, home of Nia, the Birthing Project Clinic.  I did not want to see her leave us because she was such an integral part of the Birthing Project.  She was an extraordinary Birthing Project Sisterfriend and when we decided we needed to build our own clinic…we had all looked at her because she was the only one who had some hands on experience working in the medical field.  And, she used all of her experience, compassion and sheer grit to do what had not been done before in the US.    Nia became the first community based, not-for-profit, women of color (yes, we were a rainbow coalition), maternal and women’s health care clinic in the country!

However, from the beginning, Tina had always told us that her dream was to have a place for the children and their families.  She would tease us and say the Birthing Project helps babies to be born as healthy as possible and I want to make sure their parents have what they need to nurture, educate and raise them.  

As the Birthing Project was growing into The Center for Community Health & Well-Being, a full scope women health and social service agency, Darrell Roberts was directing other community based projects, such as St Hope Academy, Healthy Start and the Salvation Army Community Center.   And, he was dreaming of one day having his own community center for families.

Then one day, the two discovered that they loved each other and the reason they were such great friends and colleagues is because they shared a dream.   The rest is history.  The fruit of their marriage has been the Roberts Family Development Center (RFDC).  It is more than a dream for the two of them; it is something they are building to honor the legacies of the grandparents on whose shoulders they stand.  The vision of the center is to provide services to the Greater Sacramento area that meet the individual needs of each family member.  The services provide a holistic approach focusing on PreK-12th grade academic support and enrichment, parent education, and community involvement and advocacy.

The Center is nationally acknowledged as a model for educating, nurturing and supporting our parents and their children to envision and co-create the society we want for them.  The programs that are offered there include:  Freedom School, After School Program, Black Child Legacy, Teen Scene, Pacers Moving Forward and Parent Empowerment.    Even though there are now seven service sites throughout Sacramento, the original building that anchors the center is a beautiful restored house in a real neighborhood.

Most importantly, everyone who is involved with RFDC, from funders and stakeholders, policy influencers and participating families are greeted by a couple committed to each other leading the organization.  Tina and Darrel have been transparent in the work and rewards involved in creating and sustaining a marriage and a business.  This is so valuable because it negates the primary stereotype of Black families.  When I walk through their doors, it feels like a home…with the parents figuring out how to hold it all together while making sure the children know they are loved and safe.

Now, almost 20 years since I sat there feeling sorry for the loss of Tina, I am grateful for all the ways she has taught and influenced me to follow my own dreams.  I, too, had a yearning to combine my personal and “career” passion with a partner.  Many of us are told all the time that it is asking for trouble to combine home and work.  While that may be true, the work of service that was put on my heart is a part of who I am.  When I was honestly ready to love and care for a partner and work as hard to make my marriage work as I did the Birthing Project…Arnold Trujillo walked in the door!  And, did I say “honestly willing to share and trust” my beloved Birthing Project with him? 

Arnold is an amazing photographer and documentarian.  He portrays the essence of the Birthing Project in one picture in a way that I can never say with words.  There are so many things we do not agree on and we have to have rules that there are times and places where work and love are separate.  But the sweet spot is that satisfaction of putting our heads, hands and hearts together to co-create the world we both dream about.  Those times when we say “our baby doctors In Cuba” or “look at our leadership team or “wow, that hurt” and we knew it meant “us”.  So, I am asking you to check out the RFDC ( and see what Tina and Darrell have built with their love.  If you like what you see, please donate to their organization.  I do this as often as I can…not just for their impactful and critical work but for their demonstration of how love can be a foundation to create something wonderful!
(Please see the attachment to see their lovely photos. No matter how hard I tried to get it in this email, it would not paste.) 
Love Ya,Have A Great Day of Thanks!

Published by: Dream Without Borders

Artist| Scientist| Creative Entrepreneur| Activist: working at intersections of arts, health, healing, and activism, my practice focuses on the performance and performative articulations of vulnerable bodies, exploring and examining expressions of identity and belonging. I hold particular interest in the lives and aspirations of the African Diaspora/Black Atlantic in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Categories Melissa's 2019, Melissa's Thanks, Notes From The People