By Tandy Lau
Always Ready to Improve Society (A.R.I.S) the Movement founder Anthony Robinson cleans after the community, literally and figuratively.
“We recruit young minorities in low-income neighborhoods for equal opportunity employment,” he said. “Which is based on cleaning companies and agencies that we affiliate our stuff with so we can get them off the street and out of harm’s way.”
Hailing from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Robinson himself worked as a janitor at a young age, due to early fatherhood and the financial responsibilities of rearing a youngster. Through the years, he learned the cleaning trade, everything from waxing and buffing to applying the proper chemicals.
In the music world, he was a frequent collaborator with rap legend AZ, whom Robinson says he continues to work with today. But while Robinson kept busy, it was hard to ignore the lack of investment around him. After all, it was New York City during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Witnessing the effect drugs and violence had on his community, Robinson decided to step up. So A.R.I.S. the Movement was born, partially named after his daughter.
Robinson’s work centers around connecting youth to employment, mentorship and education throughout New Jersey and New York City. Not only does he want to keep them busy, but he also hopes to connect them to career opportunities such as union jobs.
“A lot of them don’t have resources, outlets [or] the connections,” said Robinson. “What I do is get them in the right position and direction to where they can go. Even if it is public knowledge, they don’t have guidance. This is where I come in. I’m the connection.”
He recalls working at a pizza parlor, and later bumping into an unemployed young man at Walgreens. Robinson handed the youngster some money and connected him with the eatery. The next time he visited the pizzeria, the young man was delivering pies. The Brooklynite says this is a form of violence prevention.
“When there’s something that went wrong and there’s someone in the street, maybe passed away from gun violence, even murdered in cold blood, or maybe it was a senseless killing, I always feel like that’s the one that got away and it hurts — so I take it personally,” said Robinson.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.