“Generally the human body and mind are way more resilient than we give them credit for. There is strength in everybody; it is just a matter of believing and trying to tap into that strength.”
By Sharmain Grainger
Some people are receptive of the circumstances life throws at them, even if they serve to constrict their very existence. Others, however have an opposing proclivity and instead adopt the ‘when life gives you lemon make lemonade’ approach.
But choosing the latter is not always as simple and straightforward as some may present it. Instead, it may require years of preparation and acceptance that in life you must always be prepared for change.
Change is exactly what Ronson Gray was forced to embrace completely at a time when he’d just started plotting the course he wanted his life to take.
But had it not been for change, he probably would not have become the type of human being who not only aims to be outstanding at all times, but one who also takes time to appreciate the simple things in life.
WHO IS HE?
The name Ronson Gray, from as far back as the early 2000s, has resonated with many Guyanese. It was a time when many were vocalising their concerns about racial profiling by the Guyana Police Force, in what was deemed an unstable society.
Gray, a young university student at the time, became the centre of attention, along with two of his friends [also university students] for just this reason, when they were shot at by ranks of the police force. While Gray sustained a gunshot wound to his mouth, another friend, O’Neil King, was shot in the hand and the third, Yohance Douglas, sadly, died.
The incident was one that understandably caused a massive public outcry and it certainly wasn’t one for a blossoming young man to easily live down and move on from.
Even after enduring surgery and the process of healing, although he desperately tried, Ronson found it difficult to overcome the horror of being a shooting victim. Hearing people constantly talk about it certainly did not help to redeem his state of mind.
“Between reliving the experience, coupled with the new direction my life was forced to go in, questions arose in my mind as to whether I was going to be the same mentally, or if I was even going to be the same physically. Just getting through that process, it actually took away from the plans I had for my life, and it took me on a completely different course,” Ronson shared during a recent interview.
But as declared by the biblical character, Joseph when he was sold into slavery, “what was meant for evil, God meant it for good”, Ronson too was eventually able to see his circumstance as a stepping stone.
Essentially, he recalled that the incident changed his philosophy of life.
“I think I eventually became more prepared to face unforeseen changes. You might be able to maintain the same goals, but because of circumstances you may not be able to follow the exact path that you would have envisioned for yourself,” related Ronson.
In fact, the soft-spoken young man assured that not only has he gotten over that incident, but he is still becoming the productive person that he had long seen himself becoming during his adult life.
“There is nothing about that incident that has me questioning myself today. It was something that happened, it was unfortunate yes, but I had to look past that and focus on where I wanted my life to go,” said Ronson.
As the eldest of five children born to Colin Gray and Caroline Thomas on March 15, 1984, Ronson recalled growing up at Goed Fortuin on the West Bank of Demerara. He remembers being the eldest grandchild in an extended family home, with his grandmother as the matriarch. It didn’t take long for the young Ronson, much like his mother, aunt and uncles, who shared the home to start calling his grandmother, who he is especially fond of, mommy.
Schooling for Ronson started at South Road Nursery after which he attended Sacred Heart Primary before heading to St Rose’s High School.
But even upon completion of one year of Sixth Form, Ronson really hadn’t decided which career path he would take. This was in spite of his vision that he would have been able to complete a Master’s in some subject area by the age of 23, and be on the verge of starting a productive professional life.
“At a very young age, there were things that I liked such as History and I always liked reading about current affairs…I have always tried to keep abreast, but I just hadn’t decided exactly what I wanted to study,” Ronson recounted.
He’d however developed a very enthusiastic approach to life which was perhaps influenced by his oldest uncle who always encouraged him to always ‘be in the know’.
According to Ronson, his uncle would always encourage him to read, at least, the editorials in the daily newspapers, since he believed that these would give an idea of the current affairs.
Although not sure of his next move, Ronson eventually concluded that the most logical and fitting move for him would be to head to the University of Guyana [UG] to pursue a programme of interest.
At the time, he recalled that the university had recently started offering an International Relations programme which intrigued him because of its diplomacy aspect.
“I thought that was something I would definitely want to give a try,” recalled Ronson. Moreover, at the age of 17, Ronson started his tertiary education at the national university, driven by nothing other than his interest in a subject area that was new to him.
But things drastically changed in his life on March 1, 2003; a few weeks shy of his birthday. Although he has not spoken much of the incident before this interview, Ronson confided that he still vividly remembers when he made the news for a reason that he insists does not define the person he is today.
He could have easily evolved into a broken man; after all people just weren’t letting his dilemma die even on days when he desperately wanted to blot it from his mind. But even in the midst of the torment, Ronson somehow knew that he was destined for more.
“I always wanted to be somebody who made a positive contribution to Guyana. But after the incident, everybody kind of knew me for that…I didn’t want to talk constantly about it,” Ronson recounted.
Unable to continue an existence which forced him to relive that tragic circumstance over and over, Ronson decided to migrate to the United States to be with his father. It was there that he was able to shed an aspect of his life and evolve into an independent and strong man with a vision to be more than just a victim.
Ronson was soon embracing the thought that he was going to make a positive impact, even if it took him the rest of his life.
Preparing for his desired role took the next decade, in a country that he never truly accepted as his home. Although he was able to return to school for a bit and land a job in banking, Ronson was torn. He was battling between ideas of continuing to build a life for himself overseas and of returning to Guyana to make the name Ronson Gray count for something positive.
“I wanted to be known for more than just that incident…even today, I believe there is a lot more work to do and a bigger contribution to be made,” he noted.
By 2012, the idea of returning to Guyana had consumed him and by the following year, Ronson was on his way back to the land of his birth.
“Although there was some amount of fulfilment in what I was doing, for some reason I never felt whole because it was never what I wanted; it was just a consequence of the circumstances back then. So I said to myself, I should give home a try. I decided I would come back home and try to do something,” Ronson shared.
By 2014, Ronson was collaborating with a few of his friends to form what is now known as IntellectStorm, a company with a knack for promoting the use of technology in business. “Through our friendship and the expertise that they possess, as well as mine, we thought it would be good if we formed a team and work on projects that would move Guyana forward. We are people who share a similar vision about moving Guyana forward, more specifically in the technology arena,” said Ronson of the company he helped bring to fruition.
Although the technical skills associated with the business reside with his partners, as the Marketing/Operations Manager, Ronson has been in the forefront of forging many partnerships for the company.
Among the notable exploits of the company was the creation of the Directory.GY application which is described as a one-of-a-kind mobile application and website that has the potential to give mobile device users instant gratification, since it allows them to search for any business, product or service based on their geographic location.
“We have worked on solutions for other business and agencies, most recently we launched the GWI customer app, and we have worked on things for clients behind the scenes too,” related Ronson. He however divulged that the company is currently on the verge of releasing what could perhaps be deemed its biggest invention yet – a payment platform that will revolutionise how business is done in Guyana.
Aided by this platform, Ronson believes that persons will be able to pay for any goods, product or service from their phones, or anywhere they have an internet connection, and either get it delivered or pick it up themselves.
He confidently shared his belief that “this is going to open commerce in Guyana. We have a lot of persons in the hinterland regions and outside of Georgetown who have a need for products and services that we utilise everyday but they are inaccessible, mainly because of payment… We believe if we make a payment option available, the providers are going to make delivery and fulfilment available.”
By promoting these outstanding technological ventures, Ronson not only became the face of IntellectStorm, but he has been able to find himself in the media for a positive reason. In fact he even got media attention for dabbling a bit in politics by way of the Local Government Elections in 2016 when he managed the Campaign for Team Benschop, which ran as an independent group.
Reflecting on that experience, Ronson disclosed that “the opportunity came about after some talks with [Social Activist] Mark Benschop… I thought it would be a good challenge, because I believe politics is participatory, so if you are not involved in some aspects you are really not doing anything. So when the opportunity came to be involved in a campaign I took it.”
“It was all about seeing what it takes to mobilise and get a message out from that perspective…It was more about the experience than winning or losing for me. At the end of the day, I wanted to come away with the knowledge, and I think that was achieved,” Ronson reflected.
Considering the achievements his name is now associated with, Ronson is of the firm belief that he is well on his way to leaving a legacy of contributing in a developmental way to Guyana.
While this father of one continues to focus on attaining many more professional goals, he also has a passion for ensuring that he indulges in healthy habits. He is very cognizant of the high rate of chronic non-communicable diseases and has no intention of being among its statistics. “I feel there is a lot of information out there and as you consume the information you give certain things a try. Everybody wants to be healthy, but not everybody want to do healthy things…I know young people who are battling diseases like cancer, but you have to put in the effort to get the results, and I decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” said Ronson, who has become a vegetarian in the process.
But there is a lighter side to this bearded young man. In fact, among his favourite pastimes, which include cooking, football, reading and listening to music, Ronson takes pleasure in getting home early just in time to see the bustling day come to an end.
“Some people would think that is weird, but as a young boy I never got a chance to experience that, with everything that happened, but now I am taking time out to do that, to just appreciate everything.“
His advice to young persons who might have been faced with daunting circumstances is, “focus on getting the small things done and don’t worry about how long it takes. Don’t question why you haven’t gotten this or that done yet. You don’t know if you will be successful tomorrow or the day after, just keep pushing forward and don’t give up…the timing of your blessing is only known by one person and that person is not you, that person is the Almighty Creator.”
According to Ronson, the important thing that people should always remember even in the face of the biggest challenge is that “generally the human body and mind are way more resilient than we give them credit for. There is strength in everybody; it is just a matter of believing and trying to tap into that strength”.
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