My African-American Hero

Story by Dionel Grice. Photo from

JAN. 18, 2017: When I think of African-American heroes, I think of people who have made a statement with their lives and did not just live it like a normal person. I could name one million people who come to mind when I say African-American hero. But, one of the people who comes to mind is Ray Charles. Ray Charles is my hero because he was not just a normal person, he was a guy who devoted his life to leaving it with a statement. And he did just that. Despite the fact that he was blind, he still wanted to have a purpose and follow his dream.

It was a nice warm and sunny day down in Albany, Georgia. The day was September 23 way back in 1930 when the beautiful black Aretha Robinson and Bailey Robinson had a nice baby named Ray Charles. Ray was raised by both parents. But then when he was 15, his mother died and two years after that his father died. When I think of Ray Charles I think of a very strong man because regardless of the fact that he lost his mother, father and was completely blind by the age of seven, he grew up and enjoyed his piano, saxophone, and clarinet lessons. When his parents died instead of letting that sit in his head, he went on and took that as another way of telling him it's time to get on your feet and focus. So Ray went on, worked city corners and blocks with his music and soon became a traveling musician.

I first learned about Ray Charles from a 3rd grade documentary from my E.L.A. teacher. As a 9 year old boy, I learned a powerful saying from Ray Charles, “It’s not about being famous it’s about being great.”

Dionel Gice is an 8th grade scholar at Friendship Tech Prep Academy.