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Winning at Life and Basketball

Photo Provided by Breannie Robinson
School and basketball have given student Breannie Robinson a lot to smile about.

“My mom is my everything. She is my teacher, my shoulder, my strength, my smile and my frown. Even when my mom passes on, my wings are still going to be flying for her.” —Breannie Robinson

Women’s Basketball Team Gains Strength and Perseverance from Breannie Robinson

None of us have choice over our childhood. So much of our life’s foundation is based upon our parent’s decisions, good or bad. A tumultuous childhood handed 19–year-old UCC athlete Breannie Robinson plenty of opportunity and excuse to give up. But she didn’t.
Known as “Bre” by her friends, the 6’0’’ sophomore on the women’s basketball team was raised in Oakland, California, one of the most dangerous cities in America. The Oakland community annually suffers some of the highest violent crime and homicide rates in the country.
With a population of 396,000, the city reported in 2012 that Oakland had a violent crime rate of 1,115 incidents compared to an average of 214 for other American cities. An unstable reality Breannie was well aware of.
“Where I’m from in Oakland, you have all sorts of stuff going on. All types of kids killing kids, sisters killing sisters, and brothers killing brothers,” Robinson said.
Breannie would be born into a world of instability. Her parent’s criminal and drug addicted lifestyle created a butterfly effect of circumstance that laid a cracked foundation for her early life.
“I never really knew my father. I was like three or four when he died,” Robinson said. “My mom started using, and became addicted to drugs at a very young age.”
Before Bre was born, her father’s nefarious activities and choices had permanent consequences on her and her mother’s lives.
“My father was I guess what you would call a pimp. He contracted the HIV virus from one of his ladies. He passed the virus onto my mom, who became pregnant,” Robinson said.
The American Pregnancy Association states that if a mother fails to receive proper treatment for the virus, the baby has a 25 percent chance of being born with HIV. Breannie would be a miracle child.
By the time Bre entered the first grade, her grandmother Katie Mae had taken over the full-time responsibilities of raising her. Katie Mae was a deeply religious person whose beliefs helped shape Robinson’s life.
Breannie is quick to quote her favorite Bible scripture, Romans 8:18, “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that is coming.”
“I am a very religious person. We all grew up in church, we all know the Lord, we all know the Word,” Robinson says.
Robinson’s grandmother meant the world to her. Katie Mae provided structure, stability and love Bre was missing. During this time she began dreaming of a world of possibilities beyond the borders of east Oakland.

Photo Provided by Breannie Robinson
Breannie’s family front row to back row, left to right: Nicole West, Grandmother Katie Mae Robinson, Breannie Robinson, friend Susan, mother Ada Robinson, cousins Tony and Veandre Robinson.

“My granddaddy had this old computer, and I loved playing on it. I wanted to be a software engineer,” Robinson says.
Robinson still struggled during her adolescence, however. She felt like some members of her family resented her even being around.
“My mother, she was on drugs, heavy. There is a lot of stuff that comes with being on drugs. Addiction, stealing, people don’t like that. It caused lots of problems for me and my family,” Robinson said. “On top of Mom having the virus, I moved in with my Grandma. My family treated me like an outcast because of it.”
Fortunately over time Breannie’s remaining family came around.
“As I got much older, my family started seeing that I wasn’t like my mom. I was my own person. They admitted they had been treating me differently because of mom. They are proud of me now.”
As Breannie approached her freshman year, her life changed drastically. Her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s was catching up with her. Bre had to move in with her mother, Ada Robinson. Sadly, within a few years Katie Mae would pass away on her 52 wedding anniversary.
Angels come in all shapes and sizes, for Breannie her angel had come in the form of her grandmother Katie Mae.
“When I left my grandma to live with my mom, I felt really broken. My Grandma was my rock, my angel,” Breanna said. “I didn’t want to just live with my Mom being that she came from where she just came from, and doing what she was just doing. At the same time though, I still loved my mom and didn’t want her to be alone.”
Up until this point in her life, Breannie and Ada had never really lived with each other, or established any semblance of a mother/daughter relationship. The transition proved difficult.
“When I moved in, we lived in transitional housing on an Army base in Alameda. It was for people with AIDS and cancer, people who were really sick. Plus they had the same issues, drug problems and thieving. It was hard. You had to make sure that you ate, make sure that you were safe where you lay your head at night.”
Breannie’s interest in the game of basketball would become her outlet. Bre entered her freshman year at Envision Academy of Arts and Technology, aware of a real possibility that basketball could help provide her with a future. The game was something that she was talented at, and quickly became a passion.
“Basketball and school are my focus. I just want to keep getting better,” Robinson said.
Basketball led Breannie to her first encounter with future Umpqua Riverhawk teammate and friend, Romanalyn Inocencio. After playing on the same AAU team their freshman year, Breannie transferred to McClymonds High School, in west Oakland her senior year. Their reunion would help lead McClymonds to a championship.
As Robinson’s game grew so did her relationship with Ada. They are now the most important people in each other’s lives.
“My mom is my everything. She is my teacher, my shoulder, my strength, my smile and my frown. Even when my mom passes on, my wings are still going to be flying for her,” Robinson said.
The struggles that Breannie faced have shaped a future she hopes to have. She strives to work and help people that are facing the same battles she and her mother dealt with.
“I have decided that I want to be a social worker. My mom and I want to open up transitional housing for women and kids who are dealing with HIV. When she passes on, I will take over the program,” Briannie said.
For the time being, Robinson’s focus is on finishing school and the upcoming 2014-15 season for the UCC women’s basketball team. She joins a team that had a very successful season the previous year. The Riverhawk’s brought home a second place trophy from last year’s NWAAC championships.
“On this team we all have reasons to win. It’s not just me. Each and every one of us has had our own struggles in life. We all have own reasons to do what we need to do as a team, together. We want a championship so bad,” Robinson said.
“It’s great to be a part of something, part of a team. We care for each other. I am so thankful for my teammates, and my coaches. I am just thankful to be a part of this,” Robinson said.
As Bre looks toward the future, this year marks the twentieth year Ada has had the virus. Breannie lives her day-to-day life knowing that her mom is on borrowed time.
“Most people don’t live this long with the virus. But it’s tough knowing that when it’s her time, she is going to suffer. I am just so happy about the fact she is still here with me,” Robinson said.
Breannie also acknowledges how the struggles throughout her life have made her what she is today. She is adamant that people do not look at her as any sort of victim. Her sole purpose in sharing her story is a hope that maybe it can help someone else who has fallen on tough times.
“If you give up, then you might as well lay down right now. Where I’m coming from, you might as well dig your grave,” Breannie said.
“Even if you are struggling, there are good people in this world willing to help you. Willing to be there for you,” Breannie said. “Never give up. Honestly, you never know how close you are. Multiple times I was ready to give up. God had a way of picking me back up and telling me, ‘You are almost there. You have a purpose in life.’”