Dr. Donavan Ramon is a professor and advent member of the Lexington's Urban League. He just launched, Dr. of Words, LLC, an editing service.

Dr. Donavan Ramon gets lit through his work in professional development and community book readings on race | The Light Series

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Serving as chair of Professional Development for the Lexington Urban League Young Professionals (LULYP), Dr. Ramon brings the classroom to the community. 

When Dr. Ramon moved to Lexington to co-raise his son and teach at Kentucky State University, the Harlemite didn’t know what to expect. Since, he has found his activist and intellectual collective through a range of volunteer efforts that empower the people.

While in Lexington, Dr. Ramon began volunteering at the Urban League by launching a series of events. From hosting book readings to professional development activities such as resume writing, he focuses on closing the racial wealth gap. Also, by being about an hour away from Louisville, the center of Kentucky’s protest in the killing of Breonna Taylor by local police officers, Dr. Ramon’s work became more important. At the same time, being in Lexington showed him other ways to activate his power. He worked as a political canvasser too.

You might know Dr. Ramon’s words as a previous editor of narrative at Ark Republic. His thought pieces on race, literary counterculture, professionalism and fatherhood evoked ideas from the perspective of a first generation Jamaican-Honduran, and a Black man.

In between his volunteerism, Dr. Ramon just launched an editing business, DR. of Words, LLC. As a professor focusing on literature and English, he has become a connoisseur of words, plus the go-to for “can you edit this.” As a result, he turned it into a side-hustle. But, at the heart of his work is good work for the upliftment of society.

ARK: How do you define your work? 

DR: By training, I am a college professor, but I also volunteer as the chair of Professional Development for the Urban League Young Professionals (LULYP). The Urban League Pillars include promoting civic engagement, eradicating health and housing disparities, creating affordable housing, and supporting education/youth empowerment. As chair of P.D., I have the opportunity to help inspire folks from all backgrounds by creating and hosting events that support personal and professional growth. For instance, in February 2020, I curated a resume workshop, where several H.R. professionals offered excellent advice on creating resumes. They also stayed behind and read the resumes of the attendees. More recently, I helped to plan the “Body and Soul” week, last week. At the event, we had a virtual workout and a presentation on maintaining our mental health. So I try to curate a range of events that would reach the wide audience of Lexington and beyond. 

ARK: What population does your work serve? 

DR: Really everyone! Though we are geared towards uplifting people of color in Lexington, all of our events are free and open to the public. Our motto is “Empowering Communities. Changing Lives,” which I take to heart; we can only accomplish these noble goals by being open with who we serve and fostering relationships that transcend race and class. 

ARK: How did you create an audience or community? 

DR: We post all our events on social media, which often get picked up by other Urban League chapters across the country. They post and then repost . . . and now we have a good following of folks who see our work and join us. Though the pandemic remains a nuisance, moving all our events to a virtual format has helped to bring together folks who would normally not participate. We create a community by welcoming everyone since we are all trying to achieve the common goals set forth by the Urban League. 

ARK: How did the pandemic or protests change or shift your life?

DR: Everything was moved online, which meant I had to adjust both my teaching and my events to an online format. I have taught online for many years, but the hard part was having to shift online in the middle of the semester, thus altering my pedagogy, particularly when many students did not have their books with them. Somehow I made it work, but revising three courses at the last minute to accommodate a global pandemic was no small feat. With my volunteer work, we created events that could be done online easily, but of course we always have to worry about hackers and/or technical difficulties. 

ARK: How did you find strength in some of the darkest hours this year?

DR: By knowing that “this too shall pass,” and nothing thrown in my way is insurmountable if I give it all my focus and energy. Moreover, I looked around at the ravishes of the pandemic and realized how lucky I am. While I did end up getting Covid-19 and was forced into quarantine, my symptoms were mild and did not require any hospital visits. I definitely count my blessings that I emerged from this atrocity relatively unscathed. Though friends have lost their loved ones, my son and mother are still alive and healthy, which pleases me to no end. 

ARK: Who or what gave you the courage to continue on? 

DR: My son Theo. I work incredibly hard to set him up for an easier life than the one I had. I grew up in the hood, in a single mother home on public assistance. I am diligent now to ensure my son does not have to face any of that.

ARK: Which of your accomplishments gives you joy? 

DR: Two come to mind immediately: I have completed a draft of my book on racial passing and psychoanalysis, which will be published by the University of Missouri Press next year. I have worked on it for a long time, so it’s good to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I recently started my own business. After years of editing and proofreading works for free, I decided to monetize my skills and create a company where I can edit and proofread for a profit. So this month I launched DR. of Words, LLC. I will continue to grow my company and build a clientele of scholars and non scholars alike, who would benefit from my ability to edit and proofread their works.

ARK: What is a philosophy or idea that keeps you grounded? 

DR: “And this too shall pass” — again, I interpret this as nothing can stand in my way for long.

ARK: 2021 and forward is about reimagining and repair. What is your great imagining or construction of what the world must look like and be? 

DR: We have a new president, who actually listens to experts. I look forward to the new president restoring common sense, peace and stability in 2021.

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