Metro Weekly

Spiritual Engagement

A mainstay at Black Pride for years, the elegant Rayceen Pendarvis finds joy in touching the hearts and minds of others

Rayceen Pendarvis Photo by Julian Vankim
Rayceen Pendarvis
Photo by Julian Vankim

MW: Well, you talked about the time you were well received. Tell me about a time you’ve been received badly at a function?

PENDARVIS: I remember one time. I walked into a room, and they weren’t quite getting it. And I just felt like, “How am I going to reach them?” So I said a little prayer within, and I just talked about God. And I just talked about love. And I just told some funny stories about being a parent, a funny story about growing up, and found a way to meet them, and reach them right where they are, and told and I was able to be real. I peeled away my layers, and I got very real in the room. And then at the end of the day, if you can’t experience any of that, at the rawest form, then you’re not human.

And I found a way to reach them. And I turned around, and I walked back, and I came back out and I just said, “God is good.” And I got the great response, “All the time!” And it was a room of all these hip-hop folks.

And we got real and we told stories and I talked about being a parent, and what it was like being a flamboyant parent. And told stories of PTA meetings and field trips. And Campfire Girls stories, and Boy Scouts stories. And walking into school, and putting the school on pause. And having my kids say, “Oh, God. Here comes, here comes.” And telling those stories of I can walk to the kids’ school, and how all their friends just rallied towards me, just fall around me, just love me, want to come with me and be with me. And my daughter’s just like, “Oh God. Can’t you just stay at home? Can you pull your hair back? Can you do this? Can you just be…?”

And not being flamboyant, I just couldn’t see, because it’s a part of my persona. So you know, it’s a part of who I am. So even being less dramatic, to my kids, is being dramatic to their friends. And their friends just fall in love with that. You know, kids like all that.

I’d be like, “What’s going on, girl? What’s happening? What you doing with yourself? That’s a cute little outfit.” Or, “You shouldn’t wear that. That’s not your color.” Or “That’s a little too tight and a little too low. And the next time you wear that, I want to see some tights with it. Or I just want to see a longer skirt.” And you just talk to them and find ways of reaching them, and tweaking it with a little humor, and it makes a big, big difference. You know, so those have been funny things. I could tell you a million stories.

I was telling a story about parents. The amazing strength of mothers and fathers in our community has been something that really stands in my mind. Mothers who accept their children, who buried their children. Fathers who loved their sons, who became their daughters. It’s amazing to see the strength of parenting. That was amazing. And it went beyond color lines, it went beyond any level of wealth. It was just parents, loving their children. And I thought that was some of the amazing strength I’ve seen throughout this journey.

Now, of course you’ve got some parents that ain’t having it, ain’t using it, and at the end of the day, that’s so few and far between. I’ve seen some ugly sides of that, but I’ve seen so much joy and strength. That’s outweighed all of the evil, the hate and the ignorance. And one journey that I have, that has stood out in my mind, is the wonderful parents in our community, that just love their children unconditionally.

And when it’s all said and done, if I die today or tomorrow, I can say, “I came. I saw. I mattered. And I cared.” That’s where I’m at. And honey, all the little things along the way? It’s just little cherry sprinkles on top of the banana split of life. How about that? And it just kind of makes you feel a little good when you see yourself, that through this journey — amazing friends, amazing experiences, amazing family, amazing career. All the things that I’ve done in my life. And I’m not over yet.

And here I am, 30 years later, still fighting for change, still in the game, and refuse to give up. I’m at a great point in my life, to see things, doors open for me, that allows me to know that all the blood, sweat and tears were not in vain. I’m very happy where I am in life.

Every day, I leave my door, and I’m like, “All right, world, it’s showtime!”

Rayceen Pendarvis hosts the Black Pride Cultural Arts/Health & Wellness Festival, Sunday, May 25, at the Francis-Stevens Educational Campus, 2425 N St. NW, from noon to 6 p.m. For a full schedule of all the weekend’s events, workshops and activities, visit dcblackpride.org.

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