She escaped an abusive marriage and went on to overcome the significant barriers women have faced in the firefighting field.
But after 29 years with the Richmond Fire Department, where she holds the distinction as the department’s first black female firefighter (1987), Deputy Fire Marshal Robin Reed Poindexter has persevered to become one of the agency’s highest ranking members. Soon, she will add “author” to her long resume of impressive accomplishments.
Poindexter is penning the finishing touches on her book, “Now That I See Clearly,” which is aimed at empowering victims of abusive relationships. Her resilience in overcoming obstacles, and her penchant for using her experiences to help others, are certainly worthy of highlighting during Black History Month.
Poindexter hopes sharing her story will empower the next generation of African-American career women.
Years ago, Poindexter lived with her ex-husband in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was stationed. Married 14 years in all, the couple moved to California when he was transferred.
Her ex wasn’t always abusive; there were good times too, Poindexter says. That’s how she answers the question she’s often asked, “Why did you stay?”
Eventually she managed to step back and see the abuse in its totality. Even as a single parent, she said she left the comfort of her marriage and never looked back.
She didn’t take an easy route. She joined the Richmond Fire Department, taking on a nontraditional role for women that came with a new set of obstacles — and Poindexter welcomed them.
She recalled times when it was more difficult to be a woman in the firefighting field, recalling how using the bathroom at male-dominated fire stations was a challenge. Things have changed a lot since then, she says, as women are more accepted at fire stations, some of which now feature restrooms for women.
Along with being RFD’s first black female firefighter, Poindexter also became the agency’s first female fire inspector in 2001 and first female chief officer in 2012. She has twice received local humanitarian awards and a Richmond Youth Academy Scholarship is given out in her name. Today, she serves as the first female deputy fire marshal.
Poindexter, a Dublin resident, is also involved in community organizations, recruits young adults to pursue careers in the fire service, has instructed CPR classes, taught college preparation courses and provides individual tutoring.
For her accomplishments, she credits God first, as well as her “loving and preserving” parents, Edward and Shirley Reed, and brother Sonny, for instilling honesty, confidence, hard work and respect in her.
Poindexter’s advice to young people is to focus their minds and passions into a career they love, and to never let anyone hold them back.
“You have to have your heart in it,” she said.
She also credits the Richmond community for embracing and raising a single parent.
“I hope this will encourage an awareness that no job or career is unreachable,” Poindexter said.
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