Detroit’s Shaun Robinson comes home to help young women

Journalist, Cass Tech grad hopes all-female panel will reach exploited girls and lead them to freedom

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Somewhere in Detroit, there is a girl who is being exploited and abused sexually, mentally and physically who just needs to hear the right words to help her escape and find a better way.

This is the girl broadcast journalist Shaun Robinson said she hopes to reach at her upcoming event, “The Empowered Girl: How Not to be a Victim of Human Trafficking.” The all-female panel at the free event Saturday will include Deborah Monroe, a survivor and activist; Nicole McGee, Ph.D., a victims specialist for the Detroit bureau of the FBI; and Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas.

“I had no idea Michigan had such a problem with human trafficking,” said Robinson, a Detroit native who is best known for her work on the entertainment news show “Access Hollywood.” Robinson worked as a co-host and correspondent on the program for 16 years until 2015, when she left to pursue her dreams.

“I wanted to do something a little different and speak directly to young girls and women and their parents so that they can be a part of the discussion to eradicate this problem. We want to help them avoid being victims and hopefully connect with those who are already victims.”

“The Empowered Girl: How Not to be a Victim of Human Trafficking,” which will take place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, is a part of Robinson’s charity, the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for many, many years,” said Robinson, 54, of her foundation, which launched in June. “One of the toughest things was deciding what the focus would be. All of these well-meaning people were telling me, ‘You have to focus on one thing.’ But I wanted to do everything. So I did it the way I envisioned it.”

Inspired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Robinson said she decided to make the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation a grant-making foundation that helps and invests in relationships with small grassroots organizations. S.H.A.U.N. assists organizations that focus on five key areas: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Health, the Arts, Unity and Neighborhoods.

The first organization that S.H.A.U.N. will give a grant to is the Detroit-based group Alternatives For Girls. The nonprofit helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation.

“I wanted to start in Detroit because I love my city and I wanted to make sure it got the love it deserves,” Robinson said.

She grew up on the city’s west side around Seven Mile Road and Livernois. While she’s in town this weekend, the CBS feature series “Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hidden Heroes” will profile Robinson by shadowing her in the neighborhood where she grew up and visit her alma mater, Cass Technical High School. Robinson also is a graduate of Spelman College.

The profile will be a part of the show’s second season and airs Sundays at 7 a.m. on WWJ-TV Channel 62.

Robinson is not new to philanthropy and issues surrounding girls in need. In 2009, she wrote a book on female self-empowerment titled “Exactly As I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today’s Girls on What It Takes to Believe in Yourself.” Robinson is also on the advisory council for Girl Up, a United Nations foundation that promotes education, health, safety and leadership for girls in developing countries.

“I hope to change a lot of lives,” Robinson said. “And it starts with a conversation.”

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter.

‘The Empowered Girl: How Not to Be a Victim of Human Trafficking’

8:30-11 a.m. Saturday

Admission is free

Charles H. Wright Museum

315 E. Warren, Detroit

(313) 494-5800