Humans of Lee: Rayman Lewis
I caught up with Rayman Lewis on an unusually warm winter Tuesday afternoon in Pangle Hall. It's where he spends much time of his time rehearsing with the Voices of Lee.
In August of 2015, Lewis, a sophomore, competed in the male vocalist segment of the Church of God's biannual event, Teen Talent. Unfortunately, he did not place in his category.
However, director of the Voices of Lee, Danny Murray, saw his ability and proceeded to scout a then 19-year old Lewis.
"I had no idea I was coming [to Lee]. I remember Danny calling me to ask if everything was going fine with me coming [to Lee University]," said Lewis. "He said to me ‘You're coming down to Lee on Sunday,’ And so I spoke with my mom who told me I was going to Lee. It was a decision made behind my back."
At first, Lewis was very upset with the news. He recalled not speaking to his mom on the 13-hour drive from Philadelphia to Cleveland, TN. However, circumstances took a turn for the better.
"I came and then after I got settled I was so happy that [Voices of Lee] brought me here because so far it has been a tremendous experience," said Lewis.
What began as a loss and an uncontrollable turn of events turned into a life changing journey.
Despite the countless hours Lewis spent in rehearsals and performances with the traveling ensemble, the Jamaican-born Philadelphia resident could not be sheltered from the difficult realities of learning and navigating a new culture.
"I am very dark skinned, and I embrace that,” Lewis said. “I wear it with pride and dignity. I remember someone asking me once ‘Where in Africa are you from?’ They further asked ‘Where in Africa is Jamaica found?’ Just because I'm black doesn't mean that I'm African."
Lewis has not allowed the frictions of acclimating to a new environment to set him back.
"Back in Jamaica they say, ‘The rain a fall, but the dutty tough,’" Lewis said.
This is a colloquial phrase which means he is in a good season that is not without its challenges.
Lewis said Voices has been very good for him.
"Voices saved me from myself. There was a side of me that was wild. Being in this group helped me to embrace discipline and structure,” Lewis said.
Lewis graduates in Spring 2019, and while he is pursuing a career in nursing, he says music will always be a part of his life.