Rayceen Pendarvis is not someone that can be easily summed up into one word. Not only is Rayceen an activist, columnist for Swerv Magazine, performer, and former ANC Commissioner, Rayceen is a also a moderator for numerous panels, an emcee for countless events, and a father of five and mother to many.
Rayceen hosts The Ask Rayceen Show every first Wednesday of the month, with the season ending in November. The show—which has been running for years—includes everything from live music performances and improv to panel discussions and interviews. Rayceen creates a safe space for local LGBTQ individuals to socialize and network. The show is one of the few spaces that truly unifies the LGBTQ community. Rayceen makes sure the shows are always multi-cultured, multi-ethnic and multi-generational.
“You have to be open to love, open to respect, celebrate and welcome diversity,” says Rayceen. Rayceen urges us to “come out of our comfort zone, reach across the table and invite the people from all walks of life; Gay, straight, lesbian, trans and otherwise, to be a part of our lives.”
Rayceen has been advocating for LGBTQ rights for decades. Fighting for change and injustice comes as natural to Rayceen as putting on shoes. Rayceen urges others to get involved with life and their surroundings and find out what’s happening. When asked how one can get involved and become as knowledgeable as Rayceen about LGBTQ issues, “the LGBTQ icon credits, “not being afraid to live. I need to know what’s happening in my community at all times. You have to search out what’s going on. Tap into our organizations such as ManDate, Us Helping Us, HRC, and The DC Center. Find out what doors are open; stay informed, inspired, and enlightened on where we can be safe to tell our stories and meet others who are like-minded.” Then Rayceen adopts a no-nonsense tone. “We are in the age of social media! We can no longer say I don’t know. All the information is only one click away”.
When asked who has been most influential on this journey, Rayceen replies “Whoever is fighting for change in the LGBTQ community. Those who roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches, not afraid to stand for change. Whether black, white, straight, gay, trans or otherwise.”
Never one to shy away from controversial issues, Rayceen speaks up on topics that would make most people balk. “You can’t be afraid to tap into taboo subjects such as mental health. Mental health is the gateway to everything. Those wounded by relationships, fighting substance abuse, dealing with sexual trauma; all of that revolves around mental health.” Giving even more insight, Rayceen explains, “You have to deal with your own demons, to do the work to heal can be painful but in the long run beneficial for you.”
Rayceen has won many awards and accolades for her work in the LGBTQ community over the years. Most recently The DC Center presented Rayceen with a distinguished service award at their Fall Reception. Rayceen is coy at the mention of these awards. “I don’t do work for rewards, but when I am singled out and celebrated, it lets me know that the tears, fighting, and pain that people don’t see was worth it.”
Even after reminiscing on the past, Rayceen stays ever focused on the future. “With all that I’ve achieved and seen, such as President Obama, the first African-American President. I thought I’d never see that. On the flip side, young gays and lesbians are bullied into committing suicide. Trans people are being killed. There is still work to be done. It is up to us to educate those that hate us, demand rights in all areas, such as housing and education. To do that, we must unify the community to stand as a whole.”
The Ask Rayceen November 4 show is the “Extra Sexy Season Finale” at at Liv Nightclub at 6 p.m. The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend and encouraged to bring candies and toiletries to benefit local non-profit HIPS.