Avis Ransom… Say Her Name!
Written By: Kibibi Ajanku
Each life is like a song that we write. In our own key, each life we touch reflects a note that forms a melody. We choose the theme and chorus of the song that bears our name. Avis Ransom’s life song embodied the words of Fannie Lou Hamer… “Nobody is free until everybody is free.”
Avis Ransom grew up in racially segregated rural Virginia and attended all Black schools. She graduated from high school second in her class and moved to Baltimore to attend Morgan State University where she obtained a B.S. degree in chemistry and later an MBA from Loyola University. After a 15-year career as an engineer, working for department of defense contractors, she started and operated for 15 years her consulting firm providing business planning and development, and technology transfer services. Also, during that time she trained and developed skills to lead anti-racism transformation processes for individuals and organizations. The latter is the way she embraced, corrected, and nurtured the arts sector of Baltimore City and beyond. This is how we knew her, and this is how she loved us. Her reach was as wide as her ability to create safe space in an effort to dig into the most difficult issues that we face today… race relations.
As an Equity Trainer, her work was never easy, but always far-reaching. I am proud to have been her sister in spirit and confidence. She was deeply entrenched in the crafting of curriculum for GBCA’s Urban Art Leadership Fellowship (UAL), founded by David Mitchell. From its inception, Avis Ransom was the central and grounding figure for the Equity, Access, and Inclusion training received by all UAL Fellows and UAL Host Organizations.
Avis Ransom was loved beyond measure and will be missed deeply by all that she touched. Here are just a few quotes from some members of my Urban Arts Leadership Alumni and Advisory Council.
Love knows no boundaries. Avis Ransom was a loving, kind-hearted, and generous person who was deeply passionate as she worked to effect social change.
-Dr. Garey Hyatt, UAL Advisory Council Co-Chair
Avis Ransom had a strong presence that she carried with her even if she was never the loudest person in the room. She was like the wind. A gentle soul, who always let her spirit be felt.
-Renz Balagtas, UAL Cohort 2018
Few people have come into my life and changed it as drastically, as quickly, as Avis Ransom. She taught me to ask a question, with the intent to provoke change. This was a turning point for much of my growth.
-Kai Crosby-Singleton, UAL Cohort 2018
Avis Ransom illuminated the power that young Black people have within themselves to heal. She was and is a guiding light for the spiritual and social change necessary to heal the deep divides of this nation.
-Jennifer Rae Lucas, UAL Cohort 2020
Avis Ransom was truly an intellectual way ahead of her time. Her way of educating and allowing people to think deeply was an absolute honor to be in the presence of. She was a conduit of change and an example for future generations to live by.
-Kelly Palmer, UAL Cohort 2020
Avis Ransom … My dear friend and sister warrior... You have left us to walk with the Ancestors and fly with the Angels. May your journey be easy and protected. I will love you always. Your work will continue on in the work that I do... Asè. Asè. Asèo.
-Kibibi Ajanku, GBCA Director of Equity and Inclusion and Urban Arts Leadership
Many days I feel Avis's presence in my life and her wisdom in my ear. She was a friend and a teacher who influenced the spirit of GBCA in deep and transformative ways. I will miss her terribly, but the gratitude I feel for having known and learned from her is even deeper than my sorrow. Godspeed Avis.
-Jeannie Howe, GBCA Executive Director