Ari Ankha calls Donald Joshua Ray her Sun for a reason. At this point, he’s a large reason for her being. Ankha met Kelvin Caldwell (also Ka El Rah), through Ray’s passion for martial arts. Caldwell, a fourth degree black belt and doctor of naturopathy, was the young man’s instructor.
Last year on Sunday, July 5, Ray, 21, was fatally shot on the 5200 block of West Lake Street when someone walked up to him and a friend he was with and opened fire. During that weekend, one of the most violent in the city’s history, at least 30 people were shot within a span of 13 hours.
“I’m so sorry to say that my life became a statistic,” Ankha said as she recalled the death of her son and her efforts to uphold his legacy during an event last Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Afrikan Village Chicago Cultural Center, 5840 W. Madison Street. Ankha and Caldwell have transformed the center into a year-round homage to Ray.
The center is home to the Sun of Ari-Ka Institute of Martial Arts, and a youth and afterschool program serving at-risk children between ages 6 and 17. The center also holds African-centered lectures, talks and discussions on a variety of subjects every second and fourth Sunday of the month at 3 p.m.
“Josh studied martial arts,” said Ankha. “He had a fine appreciation for his history and his culture. He went to African-centered schools throughout grammar and high school. He traveled to different states competing in martial arts. He was a fantastic artist.”
Ankha, who is a certified kemetic yoga instructor, said that she wants to give the children who consider the center a sanctuary and safe-haven the same opportunities that were available to her son.
“We want our children to know who they are and where they come from [and to have] an appreciation for seeing something outside of themselves,” she said. “Martial is the foundation, but we wanted to make this center more than just a martial arts school. So we’re also implementing yoga. There’s a time when you have to shut down and go within.”
Ankha said that Ray, who worked at Dave & Buster’s at the time of his death, was someone who “knew there was time to fight for right, but not for might.” He was also someone rooted to Austin, despite his travels to places as faraway as Egypt.
“This was his neighborhood, he grew up here, he loved people here,” she said. “A lot of the brothers he hung out with were people he knew from when they were little. They grew up, went their separate ways, but always reconnected in the hood.”
For more information about Afrikan Village Chicago Cultural Center, visit theafrikanvillagechicago.com.