35 for 35: Keeping History Alive

Darlene Robinson, a resident of Gilliam Place, was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Arlington, where her family has resided for six generations. Growing up in Green Valley, a historically Black neighborhood, she cherishes her family’s legacy and the sense of community they fostered. Her maternal ancestors were formerly slaves who migrated to Virginia via the Underground Railroad and adopted the surname Green. Reflecting on her upbringing, she is reminded of the saying, “it takes a village…” She truly felt that Green Valley was that village. She describes a community in which neighbors looked out for each other and cared for one another.  

The Paul Lawrence Dunbar Mutual Homes Association
where Darlene grew up. These are pictures
taken before demolition. Darlene’s mother was one of the
last of the residents to move out.

From her time as a stay-at-home mom to working for the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, Darlene has gained a diverse perspective that fuels her passion for advocacy. She believes in giving a voice to the voiceless and strives to make a difference in her community. Most importantly, Darlene is always willing to learn new things to improve her advocacy efforts, regardless of her job title.  

When asked if she celebrates Black History month, Darlene responds with a resounding “YES!” She remembers fighting to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday and that before it was official, she and her sister would stay home from school every year on MLK’s birthday so that they could set an example. Since she was a student, she has known that it is her responsibility to educate others about Black history. This dedication has carried over to her family life, as she has been diligent in helping her kids celebrate Black History Month as well.  

Langley Street in Arlington. From left:
Darlene’s nephew Andre, Darlene’s three children:
Changa, Osagboro, Torkwase and Darlene’s dad: Rufus “Peter” Robinson

Living at Gilliam Place is special for Darlene, largely because it allows her to live near the place where she grew up. She believes that understanding the past is crucial to knowing how to move forward in the future. She dreams of opening “The Green Family History Reading Room” to share her family’s story and inspire others to explore their own histories. 

Darlene’s journey is one of community, advocacy, and preserving history, all rooted in her deep connection to Arlington and her commitment to making a difference. 

Three generations of Arlingtonians: Darlene,
her mom, Janice (in the back), and Darlene’s
“GrandNannie” (left)