Finding Strength in Unity
Coffee farmer and exporter, Sweet Unity Farms developer, and global equity advocate David Robinson speaks to the ongoing complexity of equal opportunity in this compelling talk. David shares insights about the challenges that were face by past generations in the struggle toward human development, and the challenges still to come in creating an American and global civilization that embraces and supports and nurtures all human life.
David Robinson is a coffee farmer, coffee exporter, the founder of a coffee cooperative of small scale, family owned farms and the developer of the retail coffee brand, Sweet Unity Farms.
Tanzania, East Africa, has been his home for more than 35 years. He was born in New York City, the son of baseball great and social activists Jack and Rachel Robinson.
By age 15, his parents had shown him the Islands of the Caribbean, countries of Europe, and from East to West, the continent of Africa.
Although his formal education was at an exclusive, segregated New England primary school, and briefly at Stanford University, he was taught many of his early life lessons from the intense social conflicts that his family, his African American community, and the American society faced during the turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1974, together with 6 families from the Harlem community, David incorporated United Harlem Growth Inc. as a cooperative housing development and construction company. For 8 years he was part of a 3 person leadership team which managed the company into the fore-front of the urban concept of “Sweat-Equity” in brownstone and tenement rehabilitation.
In 1983, at a crossroads in his life, David declined substantial opportunities in the New York construction industry to begin the establishment of a life and international work based in Tanzania and dedicated to enhancing the inclusion of marginalized farmers into a more equitable global economy.
In 1990 David Robinson married a Tanzanian citizen, Ruth Jackson Mpunda. They joined a village community of second and third generation coffee farmers in the Mbeya Region of Tanzania. With the help of their new neighbors, the family began to clear forest to plant their farm which would produce food crops and coffee.
In 1994, David and his family formed a coffee cooperative of family owned farms. The coop was called Mshikamano Farmers Group. Mshikamano means “Working together” in Tanzania’s national language Kiswahili.
As a coop member and export manager, David has helped Mshikamano Farmers Group grown from 46 founders to several hundred members. The coffee brand which roasts and markets the coop’s coffee in the USA is called Sweet Unity Farms. Sweet Unity Farms Coffee is now sold On-Line and a growing number of retail and wholesale outlets.
Together with his family including 10 children, David believes that the struggle towards human development as engaged by Jack and Rachel Robinson and the American generations of the 1940s and 1960s is increasingly a global undertaking which will require on-going, multi-generational initiatives for equitable global integration.
David regularly travels to and works in the USA with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, his family, and on behalf of coffee cooperatives in East Africa.