Author of the book “LionHeart: Coming From Where I’m From,” Rayshawn Wilson came and spoke to students about his story of struggle and triumph as a young African-American man on Feb. 15 in Ness Auditorium.
Wilson talked about growing up in California, where he lived with his mom who was addicted to drugs. He discussed how the addiction became so bad that his mom would leave them in poverty to buy more drugs. His mom would steal things from the store that they needed. When she needed money, she would also steal from Wilson. This led young Wilson to follow his mom’s footsteps and get the necessities he needed to survive.
Wilson made the statement, “I didn’t hate my mom, I hated the addiction,” multiple times throughout his talk.
He even mentioned that, his mom would call KFC and say there was a family in need of help and food and sent Wilson to get the food.
Throughout Wilson’s life, he didn’t have anyone who could be a mentor for him, not even his dad. As he got older, Wilson talked about how he used to steal from people’s houses and stores. He also sold drugs and did other illegal things he had to do to get by. Growing up as a teenager, his mom still wasn’t able to provide for him, which led him to go to different foster homes and group homes. As he got older, he participated in football – his mom never supported him in sports.
When Wilson was 18, he was accused of robbing and stabbing a Caucasian male. He didn’t know much about the criminal justice system and, due to the lack of knowledge, he served two years in prison for a crime that he didn’t do. He mentions that minorities don’t understand the criminal justice system and are often taken advantage of. When asked why he didn’t fight back against the crime, he said he was very scared. After he was released from prison, his family didn’t offer to help him or take him in.
Wilson wondered why all these bad things had happened to him, then he realized why. He called this his “aha moment.” One night, he had a dream and he heard this voice say, “If you follow the sound of my voice, I will never lead you astray.” From then, Wilson realized his purpose in life was greater than himself.
He then changed around his life and received three degrees, where he concentrated in criminal justice. For a period in his life, he worked in the criminal justice system.
Wilson launched his first book, “LionHeart: Coming From Where I’m from” in 2014. The book goes through Wilson’s life of being a child raised by the streets while watching his mom battle with drug addiction. He also discusses going to various foster and group homes. The book then goes into him speaking on his crime that he “allegedly” committed.
The students that attended the talk were very interested in his story. O’jeanique Washington, ’17, expressed her thoughts on Wilson.
“I liked how transparent he was and although I haven’t lived his life, his experience helped me to sympathize with him,” Washington said.
John Young, Associate Dean for Multicultural and who coordinated the event, gave his overall thoughts on the speaker.
“Rayshawn’s personal story allowed his audience to better see his life through his eyes, given the social world that helped shaped him in his youth,” Young said. “His story supports the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”