African Diaspora Advisory Council of Arizona
Interview by AOTCE staffer writer
Artists On The Cutting Edge: Would you tell AOTCE readers exactly what you do?
My life activity today consists of three areas of priority:
I am father of six adult children (3 Girls & 3 boys) and eleven grandchildren.
I serve as Project Manager for ADACA (The African Diaspora Advisory Council of Arizona)
My service as an Artist/Dramaturge-in-Residence for professional collaborations in performing arts in the American southwest region.
Artists On The Cutting Edge: Could you talk about yourself and what part of the country you originate?
Born in 1950 and raised in Chicago Illinois. Had a somewhat typical upbringing as a black male child of lower middle class. (which still means poverty) Both parents, mom passed away when I was 13 and dad at 16 years of age. Lived with grandparents from about 7 to 18 years of age. Integrated an all-white Ivy-league high school in south Chicago. Became a member of the notorious Black Stone Rangers street gang at 15 years, also participated in the Civil rights marches and met Dr. King during 1965 &’66. I was transported via train ride from my Grandmother in south Chicago to my Grandmother in south Phoenix 4 days following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 8th, 1968.
Artists On The Cutting Edge: Did growing up as you did motivate you to do more?
Ok, I am very certain that growing up as I did, helped to cultivate my sense of self and shaped my perceptions and attitudes about the world in which I lived. My motivation as an artist was developed by my mother, who graduated poet cum-laud and student body president from DuSable High School, (Now a world class museum) who taught me to read and print before I entered kindergarten and who had been an RN back in Med school to become a neurologist when she finally succumbed to a cancer in her brain and expired October 21st 1963. Having grown up in the church (I attended Greater Saint John Baptist Church) which instilled in me a sense of humility and moral consciousness. These initial layers of my urban village upbringing combined to create in me a strong compassion towards the downtrodden, dispossessed and oppressed people struggling against the bigotry and racist animus of the times and gradually increasing in me a drive to change the society in which I lived, through my work as an artist-activist.
Artists On The Cutting Edge: What drives you to do the work you do?
What drives me today as an activist, more than anything else is my desire to leave a legacy to my and your Grandchildren and succeeding generations, that helps to re-define our culture as wholly inclusive of all peoples of the African diaspora and the restoration of a 21st century version of the ancient Philosophy in place; “Ubuntu” (I am because we are).
Artists On The Cutting Edge: Do you continue to work in the arts? If not, what do you do today?
Absolutely! Immediately following my retirement from the city of Phoenix as a Prevention / Intervention Education Program Coordinator, back in 2016, I was selected by the Southwest Folk Life Alliance from the University of Arizona as one of several Master Artists in the southwest region. This notification actually helped me to re-orient my thoughts about revising 50 years of community arts directing, writing and performance to producing professional arts showcases.
Artists On The Cutting Edge: Is your space open to anyone in the community?
At the risk of being facetious, the only space I have open to our community is my heart! On a serious note however, among our ADACA member affiliates is Black Wall Street AZ. and since the fall of 2018 we have become quite activated at the Brooks Academy Campus under the auspices of BWSAZ Founder Rochelle Candler and indeed, all of those programs are open to anyone in the community and there is a lot more to come in 2020.
AOTCE: Do you offer counselling to anyone aspiring to be an entertainer?
Rob Ambrose: I was blessed with a 35 + year career in Youth Program Development and believe me I’ve done my share of behavioral Health Counselling.