Earlier this year, on February 5, a man I never met in person passed away from COVID. He was only 45 years old. I considered him a friend because we were friends on social media and he worked tirelessly on an issue we both wanted to correct. He added his voice and his words to make a difference.
I write novels, and I strive to include a diverse cast of characters and storylines that address the issues of the day. Race, gender, abilities, and other characteristics leak into stories from my own experiences, but also from people I know. When I originally shared a blog I’d written in 2019 on the alumni page of my high school friends, I asked them to join me on another page if they wanted to address the school fight song. Some did and others railed, but eventually a large group was able to address our concerns to the school board and make a change. Ryan Jones was one of the more active voices.
What can I do to let people know how brave he was? What can I do to thank all the people who helped raise awareness? What can I do? I can write. I don’t want to write a novel about what we learned and went through. It would be embarrassing for many people I know. And, the saddest thing for me is they wouldn’t even recognize how embarrassing the behavior was. What I can do, is dedicate something to those who went above and beyond. For example I dedicated a brick in Bobcat Plaza to Lottie Nell Richardson. There’s a comma (,) in that brick. I left it there to represent what I was asked to take out, a reference to an anthem. (You see, the fear of talking about the problem still goes on, even when it’s a frickin’ brick.)
So, I dedicated my most recent novel to Ryan Jones, because I was writing it when he passed. His obituary is a tribute to the man he was. He communicated with me on social media during our shared struggle and was active about getting the word out to others. I’m glad we were successful before COVID struck. What I want his family to know is he made an impact on me with his shared words. He provided the following quote as evidence of how former players felt about the racist fight song: Ryan Jones, RHS Football, Class of 1994: “I've always been proud to be a Mighty Mighty Refugio Bobcat. I've always loved it. The love, the brotherhood, the friends and family. That's what Refugio is to me. Not those hateful people. It's never been about them. Ever. It's always been about the type of people who you find commenting on this page. The Larissa Youngblood, Ruth Ann Luna and Heather Johnson Marnan type people in this world. People like Chris Ramirez, Buster Tilley and John C. Bland II who have always been brothers to me. When WE played the game we played for you guys, we played for our families and we played for us. That's real love. That's where my heart rests. In those great things. That's where the pride and honor is. These people who are stuck on this ugly racism and stuck on their hate, they don't get to be a part of that. They will always be on the outside looking in. That's what makes Refugio great. You are what makes Refugio great. Not them. I've always had such love and respect for people like you guys. And it's grown even deeper to see us all standing together to fight hatred and racism. It's always been about being a part of something bigger than ourselves. I read the comments here and I read the messages people send me and I'm still so very proud of you Mighty Refugio Bobcats.”
Ryan Jones, rest in honor, and know you left a legacy of what is right with the world for us all, even those who haven’t recognized it yet. Thank you.
Those who love Ryan don’t have to buy the book to see the dedication. I wouldn’t expect you to do that. However you can see it on this page, click “look inside” to view the first few chapters and the front matter of the book. Thanks to all those mentioned in Ryan’s statement and those from other classes and elsewhere who supported the cause. Add names in the comments if you feel like it