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Tamara Harris Robinson

Financial advisor and civic leader Tamara Harris Robinson was born on August 13, 1967 in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands to Theresita Shelburn Harris and Earl Harris. Robinson graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1984, and went on to earn her B.A. degree in economics, with a minor in Spanish, from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988. She then earned her M.B.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, and her M.S.W. and E.M.P.A. degrees from New York University in 2012.

From 1990 to 1994, Robinson worked as an associate at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Robinson then became an equity research analyst at Deutsche Bank in 1996. In 1997, she began working at Salomon, Inc. in Hong Kong. Robinson and her then-husband founded the North Jersey Advocates for Education and the Robinson Harris Foundation in 2004, working with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to provide scholarships for minority students. Robinson served as president of the North Jersey Advocates for Education from 2003 to 2009. In 2011, Robinson founded the Haramat Group, serving as chief executive officer. Then, in 2013, she founded Tamara Harris LLC, a divorce consultation firm. Robinson became an adjunct professor at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work in New York City in 2015.

Robinson was active in various organizations throughout her career as well. From 2008 to 2013, she served as vice chair of the United Negro College Fund board of directors, and as chair of the UNCF’s 2012 “A Mind Is…” Gala. Robinson also served as an adjunct professor of public child welfare at Montclair State University and as an adjunct instructor of management and organization practice at New York University Silver School of Social Work. She was a member of the National Association of Professional Women, the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Global Council, the Apollo Theater’s Women’s Committee, and the Davis Museum at Wellesley College’s Director’s Council. Robinson served on the board of trustees at Second Stage Theatre as well.

Robinson has two daughters, Paige Robinson and Simone Robinson.

Tamara Harris Robinson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.142

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/17/2016

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Leona

Schools

New York University Silver School of Social Work

New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

University of Pittsburgh

Philadelphia High School for Girls

Thomas K. Finletter School

Wesleyan Academy

Moravian School VI

First Name

Tamara

Birth City, State, Country

St. Croix

HM ID

ROB30

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Miami

Favorite Quote

Don't Be Mainstream, Find Your Own Stream.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/13/1967

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Food

Tuna Fish

Short Description

Financial advisor and civic leader Tamara Harris Robinson (1967 - ) worked at Prudential Financial, Deutsche Bank, and Salomon, Inc. She also founded the North Jersey Advocates for Education, the Robinson Harris Foundation, the Haramat Group, and Tamara Harris LLC.

Employment

Tamara Harris LLC

Haramat Group

New Jersey Advocates for Education

Citigroup Inc.

Prudential Financial Inc.

New York University

WTJX-TV

3M

Morgan, Grenfell and Co.

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Tamara Harris Robinson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her father's upbringing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her father's upbringing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes the racial diversity in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson recalls the importance of landownership in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers her community on St. Thomas, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers her community on St. Thomas, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her parents' reasons for returning to the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers the cultural shifts in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her elementary schooling in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her perception of her light skin color

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her skin color privilege, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her skin color privilege, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about moving to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her relationship with her father

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her experiences at the Philadelphia High School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her decision to attend the University of Pittsburgh

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her mother's education and career

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her decision to study economics

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers her coursework at the University of Pittsburgh

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers her position at 3M in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her reasons for leaving 3M

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson recalls how she came to work for Prudential Financial Services

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her role at Prudential Financial Services

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers moving to Hong Kong as a newlywed

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers her interest in working internationally

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her reasons for moving back to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about working in a global environment

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her decision to move to New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes the creation of the New Jersey Advocates for Education

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes the New Jersey Advocates for Education

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her experiences in Beijing, China, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her experiences in Beijing, China, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers joining the board of the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about the challenges faced by historically black colleges

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers organizing galas for the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about the lack of college preparatory classes in inner city public schools

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her experiences at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson remembers founding the Haramat Group and Tamara Harris LLC

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes her role as a divorce coach, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her role as a divorce coach, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Tamara Harris Robinson describes the process and services of Tamara Harris LLC

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Tamara Harris Robinson talks about balancing her life and career

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Tamara Harris Robinson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Tamara Harris Robinson reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Tamara Harris Robinson shares her advice for future generations

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Tamara Harris Robinson talks about her perception of her light skin color
Tamara Harris Robinson describes the creation of the New Jersey Advocates for Education
Transcript
I want to talk about skin color because that's always (laughter)--$$Let's talk about that (laughter). Okay. Let's talk about that.$$--a sensitive topic (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) All right, Harriette [HistoryMaker Harriette Cole].$$--in our communities, and, and you're--$$Okay.$$--coming from an island that you've just described all of the different peoples who have populated the island over time, and, you know, you yourself are very fair skinned. How--what are the skin color dynamics on St. Thomas [U.S. Virgin Islands], and how did you navigate that?$$Ooh, so that's, that's been--it's been a very--it's been a very interesting journey, and so I will start with the overarching mantra that I have which is race--I think growing up in the islands and my experience with skin color, I think by the time I was eleven, I, I distinctly remember this, eleven, twelve years old, internalizing that race is a social construct, and it has nothing to do with me, and the reason I said that is because--I would say twelve because it kind of solidified when I moved to the states, so I'm the lightest person in my family. My family, your complexion--my, my mother [Theresita Shelburn Harris], outside of my mother, who was always frustrated that she always passed for everything but black. I mean, she--always mistaken for Hispanic, Hawaiian, Italian, you know, everything, so she had her own issues and journey with race, but I remember growing up in my family being teased a lot for being this light skinned.$$By family members?$$By family members. My father [Earl Harris] used to call me his little white cheese, and his little--but, yeah, and so--or when I would--you know, if I was too pale, he would say, "We need to get you out in the sun and get you some color," so that was, that was what I experienced in the home with someone that was supposed to sort of accept you no matter what, but what I realized, that was his own issues with color and race and didn't--you know, is what it was. But he wasn't the only one. I would go home or if I'd be out and you'd see people. They'd say, "Oh, my god. Why you so light? You know, you don't get out in the sun." "What's wrong with you? Get your daughter out in the sun." So this was like this pervasive thing that I would hear, and I, I remember one summer actually getting sun poisoning because I was trying to get darker. I had to go to the doctor. I had to get this medicine 'cause my--I mean, I was just--I had ruined my, my gums were a mess, so as a young kid, remembering so--wanting so desperately to be black, like be dark and, and darker, you know, and, and loving it. Like not--so I grew up as a kid knowing that black is a thing of beauty, and I wanted--you know, and I, I was trying to do what I could about it, but it was what it was. So I moved to the states, and I'm now living in a town where it's very Jewish. Irish people go to the Catholic school, on the way to my school [Thomas K. Finletter Elementary School; Thomas K. Finletter School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], and I remember getting on the bus, and these two Irish boys on their way to school, got on the bus, saw me, and said, "Oh, my god, look at the little N girl." And I looked at them, and I said--I--I'm gonna--I said, I said, "Thank you." (Laughter) And I said, I said, "You think I'm black? Thank you so much." And the bus driver died laughing, died laughing, and they thought I was crazy. Those two guys looked at me, and they didn't even know what to do with me because what they thought they were doing in terms of hurling me an insult, I was like, finally, somebody recognizes I'm black. And I said that. "Finally, finally, somebody sees I'm black." And so they were, they were horrified because they didn't, they didn't know what to do with that. And then you fast forward, and so that's, you know, middle school, and then you get to high school [Philadelphia High School for Girls, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], and then I have guys hitting on me 'cause I'm, I'm--then I'm hearing terms that I never heard in the Caribbean, you know, red bone, high, high yellow, you know, all the things that they say about--$$Right.$$--light skinned girls, and--$$They didn't say that there.$$I didn't hear those terms until I moved to the states. That's just not what we--you know, that's not a--$$Right.$$--terminology that we used down there. But what--so and then getting all this attention because I'm, I'm black. I mean, so there's no question about that, or I had been accepted into this tribe, but I'm, I'm on this other side of the spectrum that somehow makes me more attractive or more, you know, desirable or whatever.$And then you founded an organization [New Jersey Advocates for Education] shortly after that--$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) is that right?$$Yeah.$$What--tell me about that.$$So we came to New Jersey, and we actually went to--so we, you know, we set up in the suburbs, and I'm meeting people, and, you know, have got kids. My old- my oldest now is going still into elementary school, so I'm beginning to, you know, connect with the community, and my, my ex [Robinson's ex-husband] and I went to an event, actually, a UNCF [United Negro College Fund] event, that was being hosted down in Princeton [New Jersey] by some UNCF alum that had gone to historically--some of the, some of the UNCF HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities], and so it was a group of African American professionals; lawyers, bankers, people in the Princeton area, that decided to host this event. And I met the area director at the time, and one of the things that they did at the event is they had a guest speaker, and it was a young man who had grown up in Newark [New Jersey], and had gotten a ton of scholarships. You know, his mother kept him on the strong path and got him to a major university here in New Jersey, had gotten scholarships, a full ride, and he was going to study chemistry, science, and he had done well in his school environments, but once you got to this predominantly white institution, started to get depressed, you know, wasn't as smart as his peers. Professors, to your point about teachers and how sort of supportive they are, wasn't really finding he was in a community that was nurturing of his environment, and now he was out of his element, right, away from home, away from his mother, and it reflected in his grades. And he was becoming very depressed, and he was actually at the point where he was maybe in jeopardy of losing his scholarship, so he was very much in distress, very much struggling. So he said a cousin had invited him to come down and visit him for homecoming at Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia], and he said when he walked on that campus, he literally called his mother and said he's going to be transferring to Morehouse, and his mother was devastated because he was giving up his full ride. He had to work three jobs to, to graduate from that school, but he did it, and then he went onto get his degree in chemistry and worked in some of the--at one of the pharmas, but then actually left to go teach in the City of Newark. And he had won teacher of the year in math and science and actually twice, which was a new, a new experience. So he talked about what Morehouse had done for him and going to an HBCU and actually had received a UNCF scholarship, so that was the journey. And I have to say, I was so moved. And, actually, when I worked at Prudential [Prudential Financial Services; Prudential Financial, Inc.] when we had United Way [United Way of America; United Way Worldwide] drives, UNCF at the time was one of the recipients, so I gave money to UNCF, and, again, I went to a--you know, I had a--I went to--I lived on an island that had a car- HBCU [College of the Virgin Islands; University of the Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands], knew people from HBCUs, so very much involved and invested in that. So I went up to the area director and said, "You know, I'd love to support" (background noise)--$$Keep going, keep going.$$"I'd love to support UNCF," and I said, "You can, you can actually, you know, tell me what I can do, but I'm, I'm willing to--you know, how can I be of help?" And he said, "Well, if you want to host an event in your area, we'd love to have you do that." I said, "No, no. I have two kids [Paige Robinson and Simone Robinson], I just want to lick some stamps, and, you know, do some--you know, seal some envelopes. I don't have time for that. I've got like, young, young kids." So he said, he looked at me and my accent, and he said, "You know, we need young people like you doing things like this." He said, "You know, we've had a lot of folks in the New Jersey area that have lifted us up and carried us a long way, but they're onto, to new and different things in their phase of life, and, you know, what we're doing here in Princeton, we don't have anybody in the space that you live in, and we would love to replicate something like this there." So my ex and I went home, and we realized, you know, if we did this, this would be a commitment. This wasn't just, you know, write a check. If we were going to do something, we needed support, so we gathered a group of our friends from the kitchen cabinet and said, "Look, you know, we're thinking of having this event. We will underwrite it. We'll pay for the party, but if we do that, would each of you be willing to either fill a table or write a check that's the equivalent of a table?" And everyone in that room, Harriette [HistoryMaker Harriette Cole], had either gone to an HBCU, received UNCF money, had been a scholarship recipient, or they were very passionate about education for minority youth, and there wasn't a single person that didn't say yes. And we had our first event. It was a fashion show at our home. We had [HistoryMaker] B Michael, we had all kinds of people. It was, it was actually quite interesting what we pulled together, and we had about 220 people, and we raised $107,000 at our first event.