Hey APC! I’m Ray, a 22-year-old “Manifinesser” hell-bent on dreaming, cultivating and building a world where those who look like me can belong.
However, this 22-year journey of figuring out who “Ray” is was no easy feat. I use “Ray” as a way to describe my inner voice that is truly an extension of myself. You see, like so many of you, I too grew up within predominantly white spaces. In these spaces I found myself hiding. Shrinking. Silent. Diluting. Too afraid to be seen or heard because the status quo made it clear that my presence was just for appearances. So I played my part, stayed inside the lines, spoke when spoken to, only formed opinions that were formed for me.
This was survival. This was safe. This was how I didn’t end up like Sandra Bland.
….But I was broken, slowly dying inside. Ray was begging for a way out.
Magic, the fairytale dust type of magic. The universe was listening. My fairy godmother granted Ray the ultimate wish. A new beginning. My fairy godmother manifested herself as a place; Tanzania, East Africa. Beautiful. Poetic. Spiritually connected.
It was on a college study abroad trip where Ray found their way out. I still remember the exact moment. The surroundings, the feeling, the smell, the power, the magic.
I captured it in a journal I carried throughout my trip:
“During our sitdown with the Maasai leaders, the issue of police brutality in America arose. I sat back while my white peers squirmed, complicated and erased my presence to try to provide an “adequate” explanation. Although I am not comfortable discussing race with my peers, I cannot stand back and let Tananzians get an inaccurate view of blackness in America. Later in my tent, I struggled with my silence and how it didn’t serve me or anyone else for that matter. My time to rise was now. In the morning I decided to have an impromptu conversation with those same Massai leaders. I was open, honest and provided a perspective that differed from the biased media. This served as a catalyst, as I realized the implications and power of sharing to African leaders the experiences of Black Americans. Intercommunity storytelling breaks the wedge that oppressors and systems put in place to disenfranchise us.”
In the same place that our ancestors were chained, broken and stolen; Ray rose so that I could survive. Letting my voice, spirit, and heart lead the way.
“when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
– Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn
Thank you for listening. You are magic.
Follow me on Instagram @raybeamz!