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Allene Singho Roberts

Allene Singho Roberts was born Allene Singho on April 14, 1943 in Bronx, New York. Her father, longshoreman Albert Singho, was from Sri Lanka and her mother, Harriet Allie Franklin Singho, was raised in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Growing up in the Bronx and in Harlem, Roberts attended P.S. 10 and Paul Laurence Dunbar Junior High School. After graduating from Evander Childs High School in 1960, Roberts worked for three years as a claims administrator for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and studied modeling with Ophelia Devore.

The first black showroom model with Sloat and Company, she traveled internationally and worked with designers Rudi Gernreich, Oleg Cassini and Bill Blass. Roberts joined the Johnson Publishing Company’s Ebony Fashion Fair in 1965 and toured with Audrey Smaltz, Richard Roundtree, Pat Cleveland, Beverly Simms and Janet Langhart. In 1967, Phillip Morris Companies hired Roberts and she worked in sales management, sales training and community relations. During this period, Roberts studied business administration at Bronx Community College and at the City University of New York’s Baruch College. When she left Phillip Morris in 1992, Roberts was senior manager of corporate and government affairs. In 1996, Roberts served as chair and chief executive officer of the American Women’s Forum for Economic Development Strategies. In 2001, Roberts co-founded the Bronx River Research Group and, with her husband Allen Roberts and John Besold, she founded Clean Energy Systems for New York (CESNY) three years later. Working in conjunction with local and state utilities and the United States Department of Energy’s Rebuild America and Business Partner programs, CESNY provides schools and other public venues the services needed to design, install and maintain clean stationary power equipment.

Winner of many honors including the Harriet Tubman Award from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the New York Urban League Building Brick Award, Roberts serves on the boards of the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ Corporate Roundtable, the National Association of Black County Officials’ Business Rountable, the Harlem YMCA Black Achievers in Industry and the New Professional Theatre.

Roberts passed away on January 27, 2014.

Accession Number

A2005.062

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/10/2005 |and| 7/28/2005

3/10/2005

7/28/2005

Last Name

Roberts

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Carol

Schools

P.S. 10

Bronx Community College of the City University of New York

First Name

Allene

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

ROB10

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Montauk, New York

Favorite Quote

Stay In The Moment.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/14/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Curry

Death Date

1/27/2014

Short Description

Corporate executive and association chief executive Allene Singho Roberts (1943 - 2014 ) was hired as the first black showroom model for Sloat and Company, and modeled in the Johnson Publishing Company’s Ebony Fashion Fair. She later became the chair and chief executive officer of the American Women’s Forum for Economic Development Strategies and co-founder of the Bronx River Research Group and Clean Energy Systems for New York.

Employment

Philip Morris Incorporated

Sloat and Company

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Allene Singho Roberts' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her mother, Harriet Franklin Singho

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her mother's life

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her father, Albert Singho

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her father's cooking

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Allene Singho Roberts lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers the diversity of New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers growing up in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her oldest brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her father's immigration to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her father's experience with prejudice

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her neighborhood in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts compares her childhood with later generations'

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her childhood community

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts describes the smells and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers Miss Klotz at P.S. 10 in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts recalls her poor eyesight as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her first black teacher, Miss Mitchellson

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts describes Paul Laurence Dunbar J.H.S. 120 in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her friends growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her family's first television and telephone

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts recalls wanting a bike for Christmas

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her childhood aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her older sisters

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers the impact of her sister's death, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her time as a hospital volunteer

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers the impact of her sister's death, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her experience at Evander Childs High School in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts narrates her photographs

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers considering her career options

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers attending night school at Bronx Community College

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts describes how she became a model

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers joining the Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers touring with the Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts recalls integrating New York City's Fashion Garment District

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers being hired by Philip Morris USA

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her experience at Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers her promotion to a sales position at Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts describes being the only woman of color in sales at Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her promotion to area manager at Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts talks about working for the tobacco industry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her community relations work for Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts describes the Minority Vendor Task Force

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts talks about her husband, Allen Roberts

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Allene Singho Roberts reflects upon Philip Morris USA's community outreach

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Allene Singho Roberts recalls Philip Morris USA hosting the 1992 Democratic and Republican National Conventions

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers suing Philip Morris USA for discrimination

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Allene Singho Roberts reflects upon her lawsuit against Philip Morris USA

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Allene Singho Roberts describes changes in corporate culture

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Allene Singho Roberts remembers starting the Bronx River Research Group

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Allene Singho Roberts describes the mission and tactics of the Bronx River Research Group

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her work with residential developers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Allene Singho Roberts describes the Bronx River Research Group's newest project

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Allene Singho Roberts describes her legacy

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$6

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Allene Singho Roberts describes her father's immigration to New York City
Allene Singho Roberts describes being the only woman of color in sales at Philip Morris USA
Transcript
So tell me the story about your father [Albert Singho] because he didn't come through Ellis Island.$$Right.$$So how did end up in New York City [New York, New York]?$$Yeah, he was a merchant seaman and his boat docked in, in New York [New York] and he came ashore he probably got sick, he got ill and went was hospitalized and while he was in the hospital, the boat left without him. And as we, the story that we're told is that he stayed and being the resourceful man that he--turns out that he was and, and was at the time, I mean he, he could do anything. You know he used to stoke the coals in the ships, he used to cook, he used to clean, you know he was, he was quite resourceful. And he you know he was an excellent fisherman and he, he just--I remember my father having a view about work that there was nothing beneath him or nothing above him. He, he whatever it took to get what he needed to get to raise his family or to survive, he did. So I think, I think he was, he was a cook because I have letters of reference from back in the, in the '20s [1920s] or '30s [1930s] references from him. You know if you want a good cook, I recommend Albert Singho, and it was handwritten. So he met my mother [Harriet Franklin Singho] through a mutual friend, he apparently he lived in a rooming house. And I hear, I remember stories about these rooming houses where, you know you have a room and people would share bathrooms and things that you don't hear about anymore. And the, the coal would be brought to the apartments and, and put down into the basement with these sto- I remember that though. I, I vaguely remember that in the building that I grew up in you know the coal would, would be stoked and, and sent down the chute. So I guess where they fired it up and in the, in the basement, whatever system they used at the time they were burning coal, smokestack. But I remember the, the living conditions. I mean he didn't sound like they were horrible because he remembers his own country as being very poor. And that may have been one of the reasons why he left, and I think he did not have the best of relationships with his father [Kali Singho].$So did people--what were people's attitudes in the minority and black communities about smoking cigarettes?$$At the time it wasn't, it wasn't as big an issue as it became and in fact being an African American woman it was at first being a woman was a novelty because it was a very male dominated industry. And there were no female sales reps and there were very few female--women of color in, in that industry. So I was a novelty at first I believe, but after a while the novelty wears off and you have to produce, you have to sell the product. You have to, to contribute, and that's what I did and you know it, it was--since I had, I had a mixed territory; it wasn't only African Americans or people of color in my territory [for Philip Morris USA; Altria Group, Inc.]. So that was a, that was a challenge because you know they weren't used to seeing a woman or a woman of color. But after a while you get to know people, you get familiar and you, your interpersonal skills kick in and you, you become friendly with them and vice versa and they start to depend on you after a while. And if your product is selling, they like that and if you're you know participating with various promotional programs and incentives for them, they like that too. So it, I did it according to them, according to the company I did it very well. So it wasn't, I wasn't evaluating myself I was just doing what, what the training program provided for, and the guidelines and you, it, it allowed for some creativity as well. So you, you, and it's a competitive, sales was very competitive, so you have to kind of stretch and, and think of different creative ways to engage your, your customer to have them wanna do business with you versus somebody else you know. Give, give yourself an advantage.