Angela Ray had two messages for the audience at her Black History Month lecture: Let your light shine into the world and surround yourself with people who help you accomplish your dreams.
Ray, who spoke Tuesday at Johnston Community College, is an actress, motivational speaker and author of three books.
Ray opened her lecture by asking her audience to recall the Dream Team, the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Byrd.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also had a dream and also had a very important team of individuals around him,” Ray said. She told her listeners to look to their left, then to their right and ask, “Neighbor, will you be on my dream team?”
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“You never know who you are sitting beside right now, what they may be doing in the next term, the next year or two years from now,” Ray said. Everyone should start putting together their dream team of people who will support and encourage them, especially while still in college, she said.
Ray shared examples in her own life, of friends she made in college who later helped her and still do today. Ray wove her own words of encouragement into a history lesson about the famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”
King originally titled his speech “Normalcy Never Again.” He had used the refrain “I Have a Dream” in earlier speeches, but King’s advisers said it sounded too cliche for his big speech for the March on Washington, Ray said. So King left the phrase out, but halfway through the speech, singer Mahalia Jackson shouted from the audience: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”
Ray said Jackson was on King’s team, and if not for her, he would never have delivered the historic speech he is most known for.
“Education is where your dream begins,” Ray told her audience of mostly students. “This is where you can start to formulate your dream.”
But people have roadblocks deterring them from reaching their dreams, Ray said. She then talked about a number of these roadblocks, sharing examples in her own life and how to overcome the hurdles.
“You can be a symphony of insecurity or you can be a chorus of confidence,” Ray said, referring to “the tunes that you play in your mind” and the inner voice in each person. “When it’s time for you to take that next step in your dream, are you playing the tune, ‘This will never work,’ … or are you playing the tune of, ‘I have unlimited potential, and anything I set my mind to I can do’”?
Other obstacles include time management, stagnation, fear, a lack of flexibility and not celebrating one’s own successes. “If you don’t celebrate the successes on your journey, your mind will trick you into believing you’re not having any success at all,” Ray said.
“When we look at King’s dream, sometimes it seems so monumental, so big,” Ray said. “When I look into the audience today, I’m looking at Dr. King’s dream.”
Ray also quoted from Marianne Williamson’s famous passage: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Ray ended the lecture with a poem she wrote, “Born to Shine,” and received a standing ovation.
She then took questions from the audience. About 60 people attended.
First-year JCC student Ryan Cummins said the talk was motivational. Asked what he learned, Cummins said, “I need to stop beating myself down, and I have to keep working on everything I’m trying to do if I want to get better.”