Buda City Council Member Ray Bryant is the City of Buda’s first black council member. Mr. Bryant sat down with Communications Director David Marino to talk about growing up in Chicago, what got him involved in serving the community, and the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Black History Month VIDEO: Council Member Ray Bryant
“I am honored to be the first and hope that it encourages more diversity during this time.”
Council Member Ray Bryant is proud to be a voice for the community.
“First of all I want to say I’m honored to represent the citizens of Buda on the City Council here in Buda, Texas. I’m also thankful to be recognized as the first black to be on the City Council. I never really gave it a lot of thought because the community has always welcomed and embraced my wife and I since we moved here 5 years ago.”
My wife, Sandra, is also the first black to be board trustee on the Hays Consolidated School District as well. We both are committed to the cause and not to being the first.”
As the first black city council member in Buda, he hopes that his visibility on the dais encourages others.
“There are those that are the minority segment that would love to get involved, but they don’t feel empowered enough to get involved. They don’t feel like it would matter or that it counts. So we have a struggle there in getting more people to come out and be involved in community, be involved in the committees that we have that we offer to have a voice in the direction the city should go.”
Bryant’s path to the city council dais started a long way from Buda. The oldest of five kids, he was born in Chicago.
“I was born on the south side of Chicago. It wasn’t pretty. I was born in what many would refer to as the ghetto. I grew up with not very much financially or materialistically. I grew up during a tumultuous time in our country’s history. When I was 13-years-old there was a young man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. who was assassinated. People may have forgotten, but his murder caused riots across the country and in over a hundred cities. Many people were murdered and thousands were injured during that time. My mother feared for my life at the time and made the courageous decision to move me to Michigan to stay with my grandmother who we affectionately called “Big Mama.” My mom understood that the riots increased people’s fears and resulted in greater racial segregation.”
Once in Michigan, he dealt with his share of racial prejudice.
“I attended a predominately white junior high school. Because I was black, I stood out as you can imagine, like a sore thumb. As you might expect also, many racial slurs were hurled my way quite often. But many of the kids were just curious about me. So they would come up to me at times just to feel my hair. Because the texture of my hair was different than their hair.”
After high school, Bryant enlisted in the Army.
“I went into the service, in the Army. When I came out I had a GI Bill to go to college. So I did that. I came back to Michigan.”
Bryant ultimately ended up in Texas after some close friends moved here. He lived in Brownwood where he got a job at the state school, working with juvenile delinquents.
“And then my job transferred me to Austin. That’s how I came to Austin. I came here to a halfway house and ran that as a supervisor. Then I was able to finish my education here and went to Texas State.”
Bryant worked for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for several years and is currently employed with Texas Disposal Systems.
For 10 years he lived in Kyle and that is where he got involved in politics, serving on the Kyle City Council for three terms.
“We just can’t lay around and wait for the other person to get it done. That’s they way I’m built. My wife and I both. If there is something that needs to be done we need to find the resources, individuals or be that individual to make it happen.”
Bryant is now making things happen in Buda. He says he and his wife Mrs. Sandra Bryant believe it is important to empower the younger generation.
“I think that it the responsibility of all the adults regardless of your background to reach out to young people. To be mentors to them in one way or another, help them with their self-esteem, and help them feel good about themselves. I think that is where it starts. How you feel about yourself.”
As we celebrate Black History Month, Bryant says the key is knowing our own history and taking the time to learn about other cultures.
“In school we are taught history. But it is all concentrated on European History. I think some states are changing that and are talking about other cultures in the mandatory history classes. I would love to see Black History, or Asian, or Hispanic so we all learn about one another. We don’t know what we don’t’ know. So it is real important to learn and be open minded and embrace other people. Also I think it’s good for people that are not of the same culture to understand different cultures. I think that’s really huge. I think that is really really important. To get educated on other cultures, so you can understand it and speak to it and relate to it. That brings people together.”