Grio’s use words and language as artistic mediums to inform inspire and agitate critical thinking about the past, present and future. As a tradition deeply rooted in West African Culture, the purpose of a Grio or Jali is to keep the story of a people’s history, culture, struggles and triumphs through the traditions of written and spoken word.
Co-founder and Minster of Information of the Griot Project, Rayshawn D. Armstrong used his talent for words, to inspire youth and create a community centered on the cultural arts. Also known as Ghost: Most wanted trapped in the universe, Rayshawn was very pragmatic in his approach toward youth and community development. As an artist, Rayshawn embodied the translation of a community’s will, courage and struggle toward liberation and a higher level of life. He was in the streets with his poetry and that’s what made him a Warrior Poet.
I like to call it warrior poetry because his writings spoke the type of language that galvanized the hearts and minds of the underbelly because that’s what he represented, the inner-city streets. Born and raised in the Woodland Hills community, his words and charisma were weapons used against hatred, poverty, drugs, misinformation and violence. His poetic voice could be heard, in the midst of chaos – gunshots, sirens, hood fights, basketball courts and house parties. It was where his poems, his art belonged, on the frontline.
His love for community and dedication to a black aesthetic made his poems so much more than just a collection of lines and stanzas. For him writing was deeper than rhyming couplets or haikus. His technique went further than word choice and alliteration. Rayshawn’s approach to the page was full of community, love and culture where his pen carried the voice of ancestors and today’s youth and for him as an artist, it was truly about saving lives.
On April 25, 2014 at the tender age of 25, Rayshawn D. Armstrong ironically fell victim to the epidemic of gun violence that has claimed the lives of so many young black men in this country. It’s ironic because he died in the neighborhood he loved and at the hands of someone he knew. Though we have lost an activist, poet and friend in the physical essences, his spirit survives in his words, where Rayshawn truly personified the idea that the human soul is in the image of God, the creator who does not die, where as a poet Rayshawn D. Armstrong will live on in his words.
“God never dies, therefore I cannot die”
~ By D.L. Woure’, a poet living in Buckeye-Shaker