Local activist says Fort Smith isn't doing enough for Pride Month, recalls being stabbed

Michael Robinson, executive chairman for the Committee for Social Advancement, was stabbed last August after meeting up with a Grindr date.

The Fort Smith Police Department identified the suspect as 23-year-old Jacob Favela.

The stabbing occurred at a convenience store on 3620 N. O Street.

The affidavit states Favela told investigators that he had a desire to "act out a homicidal tendency."

Favela was arrested and charged with attempted murder in the first degree, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

This isn't the first time Favela has been arrested for crimes in Fort Smith.

More: Man arrested in connection with Fort Smith burglaries

Robinson said it's not uncommon that users on Grindr pretend to be older, gay or bisexual, or someone they're not in order to commit crimes.

"The part of him saying that he wanted to know what it felt like to commit a homicide, that speaks volumes to a generation of people who have disconnected in so many ways," he said. "That's not normal."

Michael Robinson, executive chairman for the Committee for Social Advancement, stands outside his apartment building in Fort Smith.
Michael Robinson, executive chairman for the Committee for Social Advancement, stands outside his apartment building in Fort Smith.

Robinson said he just "happened to be convenient" for his perpetrator.

"Being under the knife of somebody who feels like your life is nothing and to experience your death because they wanted to know what it's like to kill someone..." he said. "The detective said he wanted to be famous."

Robinson continues to wonder why his perpetrator wanted to become "famous" from his death.

"I didn't hear any warning signs," he said. "But he did want me to act like his Uber driver, and I didn't want to out him among his friends.. so that didn't raise a flag, but all that changed once we got in the car."

Robinson spent two days on life support and a total of 18 days in the hospital. Two months after his near-death experience, he says he remembers clearly saying "thank you" to the universe for the scars on his body.

He shared his story in a Clubhouse audio meeting room on June 8.

Almost a year later, he's still processing the violent incident.

Robinson said perhaps if his perpetrator had been given the proper mental health care, he could have walked away unscathed.

"He was failed too," he said. "A big part of it is his but a part of it that's not his, that he's seeking help for was misdiagnosed or didn't get the proper care, and didn't stay on medication, whatever it was, be that as it may, it doesn't stop what happened but we have to look at it from a holistic perspective."

Now, pride month is almost over and as a gay-identifying man, Robinson said he wants the River Valley Equality Center, The Sweet House, Club Z, Club Kinkead's, Jessi's House and city directors to do more for the LGBTQ community in Fort Smith.

More: 'Loved and supported no matter what': LGBTQ community center opens in Fort Smith

"People need to see faces," he said. "They need to see connected faces of people they know or see the differences of all the people standing in a picture, because they never show an image of it, there's no image."

Robinson suggested having the gay pride flags hung up on light poles like Christmas wreaths are during December.

"All these things are optics, we visualize it, we see it and so we get conscious of it," he said. "The bigger responsibility needs to come from a collective effort within the community's gay organizations and allies."

When the LGBTQ community is represented visually in the community, members of it are able to "galvanize" as a financial force Robinson said.

More: Fort Smith residents show LGBTQ pride at rally

"The gay dollar is strong, they just don't have anything like a foundation that when they go out there and stand on it, that's not a community standing with them, they're just a few individuals," he said. "It never really gets to a point of elevation where everyone's going 'okay guys let's get together and by the strip mall over here, we'll put all gay businesses here."

Robinson said the LGBTQ community doesn't have to wait for permission from anyone to start acting and making their presence known in Fort Smith.

"There's people who want to get together with allies and help us actually put something together in the city of Fort Smith," he said. "We just don't have the right leadership to make it happen."

The COVID-19 pandemic "exposed a lot in our society," Robinson said, and it has made people galvanize in our communities in a different way.

He hopes that city administrator Carl Geffken will join the LGBTQ community for future pride month events.

More: River Valley Equality Center connects transgender people to resources, hosts Pride Rally

Robinson envisions a future pride parade on Garrison Avenue put on by a marketing committee with letters of demand sent to the city. Every business participating in the pride parade would be represented as an ally to the LGBTQ community.

"In Dallas when they do it, the banks, local businesses, Uber, everyone, they want in," Robinson said. "Because they know those gay dollars are strong."

Compared to the Steel Horse Rally and the Old Fort Days Rodeo, the small pride rally in front of the post office doesn't seem like much of a celebrated event to Robinson.

"To me, I still feel like a second-class citizen," he said. "How many people who are in the Steel Horse Rally are bisexual? What about the college? Where's the college at?"

The Center for Social Advocacy has visited the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and Robinson invited students to go out publicly and represent the LGBTQ community.

"This is a public institution by the way, they really have a duty to speak," he said. "The tax dollars are paying for this college, people in the community are paying for this college, so you might want to thank them a little bit."

Robinson wants people to see his holistic vision of building a community and providing more places like The Sweet House and Jessi's House for LGBTQ people to go.

More: Jessi's House provides unconditional love to LGBTQ young adults facing homelessness.

"It's our fight, we have to stand up so they can stand with us, they have to see us do it first," he said. "The city is waiting for the right leadership to make it work and I think I can give them that if they allow me the opportunity to listen to what really works."

Robinson said he wants the community to embrace the Committee for Social Advancement's slogan: "Let's solve this together."

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: CSA Chairman was stabbed last year after meeting date from Grindr app