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S2 E5 with Micah & Ray

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Micah: right, so, um, welcome world, uh, to another episode of any other, anything with Grey Box Collective. Uh, I am Micah, uh, the host for today, and I'm here with. Good old Ray. Uh, Ray, we've been, uh, we've collaborated before and I am excited to just kind of, you. Converse, hang out, talk catch up. I know it's been a minute.

We're on opposite sides of the country right now. Granted I'm in a different country, so, uh, that's neither here nor there, but, um, it's really good to, to be in touch again. Um, and I'm super excited to, to chat. How are you feeling? How are you?

Ray: Hey, um, yeah, it's a nice day over here in Cali. Um, we repping the West Coast.

Um, I'm, I'm feeling pretty good. You know, this is one of my, first of what I hope to be many, um, collaborations in podcasting, in radio, and yes, I, I am very excited that. We are back sharing the same space, especially up underneath the rainbow, um, umbrella of Grey Box and all that we have to offer. Um, so I'm excited.

I'm excited of this new journey, um, that I'm gonna be taking beyond just this interview as far as working with you in future projects on the podcast. So I'm, I'm excited. I'm excited. Thank you.

Micah: Yeah, no, no problem. Honestly, it's, it's great. Um, I, I, I, I've always loved your energy. Um, I'm a little jealous Here're in California.

I, uh, my, my dream place to kind of settle down and retire in has always been San Diego.

Ray: What part are you in? Yes, I was, I was about to interject and I don't wanna be rude and let my a d h interject you , but I sure was gonna say, don't bring your ass to California. Don't do it. But, but, but I will say San Diego.

Yes, cuz that's always been my dream as well. It's, it's expensive, but now, Um, inflation on the rise everywhere. It's actually not any more expensive than any place else in California. Hmm. Um, I would suggest among, um, against la Yeah. LA right now is not, um, a safe place. Um, it's a, it's a place of, um, um, for the people that can live upon a certain means, I can see how they could live above the rest of the drama that's going on.

But for the median people, the main earners that. More blue collar or maybe even stuck where I come at, um, low, um, income. Um, it's, it's not a welcoming place for, for those of us in that price category right now. So LA is not the place to be, even though I love the culture. I come here to visit. I actually am living here temporarily.

I'm about to lead San Diego. I've been there before. I've shopped there. Absolutely. So I'm actually working my way down towards San Diego. I'll be moving about an hour away from San Diego when I move in a, in about a month or so.

Micah: That's awesome. That's awesome. I love that. I love that. And so, yeah, I guess you're kind of really in a season of change, uh, right now, which is always exciting.

I know. It's funny. Uh, There's always sometimes, uh, a human tendency to be hesitant or resistant towards change. Um, but it's also something that I feel like we're constantly seeking as a species, which is, uh, also interesting , just that melody of man. Um, but I, I'm kind of curious. I know, uh, you're, you're making some shifts.

You're talking about like maybe pursuing radio and, um, uh, kind of exploring more of your artistic self. Um, so I am curious. Uh, how, how is it, how is your current process of sustaining yourself as an artist? Like what is that looking for for you?

Ray: Um, like right now? Well, luckily, Um, if I'm understanding the, the whole context of the question, right.

So I'm gonna hit it in a couple of different, uh, directions. Luckily for me right now, I'm medically retired. I worked my ass off, um, in the regular world for many, many years. Um, trying to beat the statistics status quo. I grew up in foster care. I didn't really have a family base. So once I turned 18, I listed in the core.

I went to school, I did all this stuff to educate myself and work for the government. I was a foster parent for almost 15 years, so I handled the adulting stuff all in the beginning of my life, including, excuse me, raising my two kids or whatever involvement I had with them. and my youngest finally turned 18 a couple of years ago in 2018, and she enlisted in the core.

My son is 33 and now she's 22. Um, I'm a full-time artist right now, um, because of the fact that, um, I'm medically retired, so of course I get medical benefits to stay at home, and it just so happened. The artistic, um, development of presentation also shifted with the pandemic and with COVID.

Everybody's doing it artistically at home, whereas all growing up I doubted my abilities to. Sustain myself as an artist because I am also, not only am I diagnosed as autistic, which affects my social skills and me wanting to be a part of the greater big arts world with all these people that think differently than I do, but I'm also avoid avoidant.

So, Um, I have a hard time with social skills and that was a big block on me pursuing my artistry as a youngster. That's why I went into, um, psychology and corrections and foster care just kind of gave up. But when the pandemic came, everybody went virtual. And I was like, oh my goodness. It was like my inner spirit said, bitch, this is your chance.

And I kind of took that. My kids moved out. They live in different states and I started with my very, my very I just wanted a taste. I just wanted to see, I mean, because I went to school, I studied gears. Of performance arts, even through college, I just couldn't get a degree in it or go to school like, um, to a, um, performing arts school.

So I just wanted to see if I still had it. And my very first audition was Grey Box. It wasn't just with Grey Box, it was on a panel with five other directors and. Molly and Lizbett chose me out of the others, and literally my first audition has now landed me a full-time career, a part of the collective.

And I started running, I, I went, I mean, to, to land. Three directors and four roles and one audition that day. It changed my life because I didn't have confidence. I didn't have self-belief, I don't have family, I didn't have anybody pouring into me, and I even had kids like, you're crazy. Your time is over. So to do it at 46, actually I was 45 when I first auditioned and to land. Four of them scared me and I was like, well, holy shit, who do I think I am? Then maybe I, I can do this. And, and I just started running, taking classes. So full-time is what I do. So I started instantly developing my presence on social media because it's all virtual.

Um, it, I'm one of the older, I'm a Gen Xer. I believe that. Because of autism and how it kind of locks me into a youthful state of mind. Um, I didn't have a problem with transitioning into what the youth are into now, which is digital and virtual platforms. It, it, I love video games. I'm a nerd, you know, autistic, weird science kid from the hood.

That's me, literally cuss you out. But I wanna go home and watch, you know, um, Sesame Street and shows about science. So to grow up and to be the same. Person because due to autistic traits, I'm literally the same person I was at 20. So sustaining myself as an artist full-time, all it meant really was learning how to navigate these virtual, um, Platforms, um, using the fact that I fell in love and I got hired right away by my dream, my theater, and then building from there, it was all up from there.

So sustaining myself. Of course, I, I do live off the stipend I get as an artist. Anything that anybody will bless me with, but my main resources now come from disabilities, so I live as a minimal. I'm not out there eating and, and no, I don't need to. I'm, I'm very happy. I'm 48 on stage dancing and making art and creating virtually with people half my age.

So sustaining myself as an artist right now is mostly just a, a frame of mind of ambition,

Micah: honestly. I love that. I absolutely love that. I kind of wanted to, to, well, first. I gotta say I totally resonate with, uh, like coming from the hood. I am, uh, from Mississippi myself, it's 80% black there like, Home is home.

Um, and like, there's just, there's something about it. There's something about it that you just can't and won't ever shake. Right. Um, and I love it. It's, it's a part of our, our core identity.

Ray: that's what I was gonna say. It's an identity to fire. Even at this age. People question. I'm huge about it on my social media because people expected me to drop that part.

and let me tell you something, hood life is something no one else can understand. It's a, it's a part of intersectionality of why I am in my thought process and who I am as a person. Mm-hmm. . So I can't, I can't mask that and not talk about it and not bring it into my artistry, regardless of whether it's viewed upon negatively or not.

At the end of the day, it's where I'm from.

Micah: Yep. Yep. Without a doubt. Without a doubt. And I kind of wanted to kind of tap into another thing that you were mentioning about your identity. Um, I know you've expressed how you're an artist with autism, and I, I've wondered how, like, how, like, do you feel like you bring that experience?

I know that you're very candid, you're very forthright about it. Um, you're an advocate for the awareness of that community, uh, yourself, uh, clearly included. And I just wonder. Like, how do you integrate that into your artistic practices? Um, do you just create awareness? Do you try to build that into your creative process?

What is that like?

Ray: All of that total visibility. I was very bullied, severely growing up, and I didn't get diagnosed until I was 46, and then it was like an aha moment because once you know who you are, Then you know why you move and why you operate and why you think a certain way. And I've always understood that my creating process, my art, my, the way I think about art has always been different.

From mainstream or from these set of people where I'm not accepted, I've not landed auditions, I've not been accepted into film festivals before. My diagnosis because of who I am and my, and when I'm in person, um, my autistic traits are present a little bit more, and I was trying to mask that and I, I just don't fit in because when I'm trying to mask it, now I'm awkward.

Now I look awkward to anyone else because. masking for me is covering up the fact that these sounds, or these certain lights or that certain incident has affected my sensory output. And so me masking it now looks awkward. And as a artist, when I realized, holy shit, I just got diagnosed as autistic, I didn't even know my representation of autism was.

And I think that's a movie from the 1980s. I can speak, I can drive. I love my five speed. I didn't understand and I'm getting emotional cuz I didn't understand why people still saw me so different when I'm almost very much comparable to the people I grew up with in the hood. , but they always noticed a different, and I'm like, well, I'm not radio.

I knew then that there needed to be representation and visibility because that's the only black autistic person that I could even draw from when they, when they, when they diagnosed me with this, not only the stipulation and the word autism and the whole diagnosis. Comes from, um, white hetero America and that boys, young white boys were diagnosed.

And it wasn't even a female diagnosable thing until the eighties. I was born in 74. I come from a diagnosis, a generation that totally flew by past the diagnosis. A, because I'm female, and B, because I'm African American. And then C, coming from hood life and foster care, who goes to the doctors? Diagnosis, I e P at school, you better get up and go to school and just try not to fall asleep.

Be happy and thankful for them. School lunches that got me through the day cuz I wasn't often eaten at the foster care place where they were getting a check but wasn't feeding me. So let's keep it together, that I decided since I've been an advocate for other things, such as domestic violence and anti-bullying, I couldn't be an anti-bullying advocate without people understanding why at 46, 47 and 40.

do you still give a shit about bullying because you don't understand that even in the workplace today, because of my differences, if my autism is visible to them, then bitch, it's gonna be visible to everybody. And that means me too. And that means me exercising my freedom to walk freely in the space of art with it because it is who I am.

So instead of masking my art and trying to create from a space of a neurotypical person, and then judge like. I belong to over a hundred artist groups right now on Facebook. That won't take my platform. I decided to make my fucking own. I am my bar. I'm the first. I will, I, I'm not sure I need to research this cuz I don't pat myself on the back.

But I say as far as breaking generational curses, if, if I'm not the first, I plan to be one of the very, um, most influential black autistic, black autistic writers. Black autistic writers, black autistic filmmakers, black autistic artists and performers. You know why? Because they don't even hire actual autistic people for autistic worlds in neurotypical America.

The those roles are being played by regular people and they're playing disabilities. Bitch, I'm autistic. Hire me. It's me. I, I am the. This is why I was bullied. So now you're going to eat it back and you're gonna get sick of me and I'm gonna throw it down your throat in every, the reason why I'm quirky, the reason why I don't speak right, the reason why I may not be able to get that left, right, left chain ball step omere that I got kicked outta dance class for is because I'm autistic.

But now I have a whole autistic audience waiting to see me dance even with my. Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's about a representation of a whole community who's been silenced, whether we're black or not. It's the silencing of autistic people, period, that we don't belong in the artistry world. So I'm pretty much kicking down the motherfucking door.

Micah: Rightfully so. Um, and I, I, I genuinely, I genuinely love like, first off, the passion shows through, like it's very clear and honestly there's a lot of truth to what you said. Like, where is the line for so long we have lived in a very, uh,

I don't, can't even like fully, uh, phrase this correctly, but like there's this sense of, or this idea of normal that has been just kind of perpetuated across the board. Um, uh, and that's from, you know, things as rigid as business or things as fluid as arts, but still like there's this baseline that's been established of like, oh, you have to be at, at least at this threshold to be an artist or to be a successful business.

On either end of the spectrum, which is baffling to me. Um, and yeah, it, it is, it is, uh, such, such. Sad and strange anomaly for, um, you know, these stories to be told about a community, um, when that community is eager to be a part of this experience. Um, absolutely. Especially in the artistic world. So, um, I love that.

I, I, I genuinely love that. Um, I'm gonna kind of shift a little bit. I, I know you spoke really briefly at the beginning about how you were first introduced to, um, you know, Grey Box Collective and, um, uh, having all of those experiences sort of just kind of land in your lap at once. Uh, with that, with that experience, which is such a blessing, um, I, I'm, I'm, uh, curious what was so that shift into full-time.