On a clear Sunday morning, our Every Point OK team took a right turn somewhere off Main Street in Lexington. Two blocks later we cruised by a small, white home and spied Ray Newton on his porch drinking coffee. Bright sunlight washed over his serene repose.
Decision-making conversations never really stop when we’re on our project runs. Most of these discussions center around what type of participants we need “on our next stop” to balance all those perspectives we’ve collected previously.
Occasionally someone unfamiliar with our work will respond to me after hearing the details with exclamations of, “Cool!” or “How fun would THAT be?” I think, in some ways, the focus of what we do is first introduced simply by the idea of a ten-year-long road trip. “Road trip” being a concept generally associated with “fun.”
From my perspective, however, it’s nothing like that. Although I will say that Rachel quite frequently pulls me out of the “serious-funk-must-keep-true focus” I tend to myopically fixate upon by reminding me that we are, indeed, on a road trip of sorts.
As we cruised by Ray’s home, however, I had been funkishly mulling over the population with whom we spoke the previous day. Four stops on Highway 9 had provided us with four perspectives of “family,” and two of them were young to mid-range parenting views. And, most all were – to some degree – white middle class. So Ray, basking in the morning sun, with his snowy hair and dark skin offered the difference I was seeking. He readily agreed to speak with us, and although a family member suspiciously peeked her head out of the door more than once, he kept right on talking…
…through his upbringing, his choice to enter the Air Force because he couldn’t afford college, the lessons he learned from people and cultures world wide, and lessons from his father here in Oklahoma.
When he was done, I shared with Ray that he had learned through his life as much, or more, than I had learned with three college degrees. And, that he was a teacher of philosophy, regardless of not being able to attend Langston like he had wished. The spontaneous smile that immediately spread across his face was a reward for my remarks I won’t quickly forget.
We’ll share Ray’s story in two ways. The first is through this post with Rachel’s photos, and a video produced by April Kirby and her intern, originally completed for our Ten Percent Show. The second will be through a podcast deployed in a separate post tomorrow.
This stop was completed six months ago. I hope Ray Newton is doing well. ~ KMR
Photos of April providing Ray’s balding head with a ponytail wig, and Rachel hanging out across the street from his home: