Sunday, November 1, 2009

Intimate Conversation with Gil L. Robertson IV, Editor

Family Affair editor, Gil L. Robertson IV is one of America’s foremost authorities on African American pop culture. He is the editor of the NAACP Image Award nominated book, Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community. He’s also the author of Writing as a Tool of Empowerment, a resource book for media professionals, and a frequent contributor to The African American Almanac (Gale Press). Robertson also contributed to the anthology Souls of My Brothers (Plume).

Ella: Where are you from? How did you start your writing journey?
I am a Los Angeles native. I decided to pursue A&E journalism full-time, two-years after I completed college. I left a good-paying job working for a political think tank in Los Angeles but left to pursue journalism as a full-time career. I was very persistent and after a while carved out a niche for myself as the go-to guy in Los Angeles for a lot of east-coast based publications that were looking for content covering the film and television communities. From there, I was able to add legitimacy to my by-line by becoming the Urban Music Editor at Cash Box, and then became the Urban Music Editor at Music Connection which is a regional trade (and I operated in both of these roles simultaneously). I went from becoming this fledgling A&E writer, barely making enough to keep my bills paid, to being someone with influence at two important industry trades. I have to say, that really turned my life around because it provided me with a platform. Since, I’ve been able to nurture relationships that have been very beneficial to me ever since.

Ella: Tell us about the new book: Family Affair.
Family Affair: What it Means to be African American Today is a collection of first-person narratives from an wide cross-section of Black Americans. Edited by noted journalist Gil L. Robertson IV, the book is follow-up to his 2006 bestselling anthology, “Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community” and provides a revealing and introspective look at the contemporary issues that have shaped the African American community. Family Affair provides a unique platform for the African American community to explore and share it diverse perspective, while offering thoughtful solutions to overcome the many issues giving the Black community. It is a provocative tapestry of ideologies, beliefs, and generational themes that defines the Black community.

Ella: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
I hope that Family Affair helps readers to let go of the social and emotional baggage of the past, that so often affects the present and future. I believe the essays in this book will empower readers to find authenticity in their lives. For generations, African-Americans have been hampered with doubt that hinged on unresolved emotions associated with our individual and collective identity. Family Affair represents a 21st century idea that all can embrace. Here, we address questions that every American – Black, white, red, yellow and brown – have had to deal with at one time in their life’s journey. The problem has always been about identity and the value of that identity within our larger society. Family Affair breaks through issues to reveal the commonality that we all share. We are all God’s children, and despite our differences, it’s time that we accept that we are equal.

Ella: What advice would you give a new writer?
First, and foremost, you must be dedicated to the crate. Contrary to popular belief, writing is hard work that takes a great deal of due-diligence and perseverance. It’s important to be discipline and very organize with your work. It’s also important to develop professional alliances to help grow your career. A career as a writer can be very rewarding, so keep at it and best of luck.

Ella: What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I just signed with Just Us Books – the premiere publisher of Black-interest books for my children’s book debut, 21st Century African American Political Leaders. It’s slated for a February 2010 release, the book series will provide children ages 9 – 14, with inspirational biographical sketches on the lives of 24 contemporary African American political leaders. For more information, please visit

Gil L. Robertson IV, Editor of Family Affair: What it Means to be African American Today


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