(L-R) John W. Mack, president of the LAPD Police Commission; Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Valerie Ervin, president Ray Charles Foundation and Ray Charles Memorial Library; Joe Adams, Ray Charles manager for over four decades; Bob Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum.

By Monique Washington

Ray Charles the iconic music legend lost his eyesight at the tender age of 7 years old. He may have lost his sight, however he did not loose his vision. He typed 70 words per minute, used a lap top computer, he drove a vehicle and motorcycle! He lived like a man with sight. Mr. Charles monumental status and success pioneered him as the first at almost everything he did. He’s the only Entertainer that played live for seven United State Presidents.

The 80th Birthday of the legend was celebrated regal style on September 23, 2010. The red carpet, star studded Event; was the World Premier Opening of ‘The Ray Charles Memorial Library.’ The grand opening was an evening with friends, celebrities, politicians and fans from around the World.

Although Ray is no longer with us, his music and legacy remains. The Holy Bible reads: “Walk by Faith and not by Sight”. Every step Mr. Charles took was in faith, which lead to his destiny. His legacy is long lived and will never be forgotten.

Close your eyes and imagine seeing the dark for most of your life. Where would you go, what would you do? Who would you help? Would you allow your circumstance to hinder you? Or would you conquer the World with no limits? Mr. Charles had no limits, he did not consider his condition of having no sight as a handicap. He did just about anything a person with sight could do and more! He not only helped himself–he helped others. Stated best by President [Valerie Ervin] of the Ray Charles Memorial Library and The Ray Charles Foundation, “Ray Charles was not only a musical genius; he was a gift giver and a visionary.”

The purpose of the Memorial Library is to continue the Ray Charles Legacy. In honor of such a tribute that’s ordinarily awarded to Presidents of the United States. It’s a commemorative venue that will preserve and promote the personal life and professional legacy of Mr. Charles. The Library provides an avenue for children to experience music and arts in a way that will inspire their creativity and imagination.

In 1986 Mr. Charles created a non-profit organization that is now called: ‘The Ray Charles Foundation’. It was set forth by Ray himself. He always expressed a concern for the youth and a need for their education; especially for the needy and underprivileged. Under his direction and guidance; the foundation embarked a pattern of generous contributions and donations to various educational facilities in areas of hearing disorders, as well as other resources for the needy across the United States. The foundation continues to do so in his honor.

The Library has seven galleries, two of which children can express their talents by making music, singing or playing which helps stimulate their senses. There’s too many schools that do have the adequate budgets for students to participate in music and art. It’s the vision of the library to create a platform for school children to enhance their artistic minds. Ray Charles dream is now a reality; the project is complete. People and children can visit the Memorial Library and experience the life of Ray: the genius, the musician, the man, the mogul.

The opening of the Memorial Library was a spectacular evening! The ribbon cutting ceremony launched the start of the official opening. Guest were served with the finest appetizers and wine. Some of the guest included: Mr. Taylor Hackford–Producer and Director of the Academy Award Winning movie for best actor ‘RAY’, Dr. Robert Michael Franklin–President of Morehouse College, Mr. Bob Santelli–Executive Director of The Grammy Museum, Nate Holden–Former City Councilman and State Senator, Mark Ridley-Thomas–Supervisor Second District of Los Angeles County, Rob Malootian–Associate of Gallagher & Associates (the company contracted to help develop the story-line of Rays life / Design Team for the Library) and Katherine Shetler–Executive Director of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The Parking lot of the Ray Charles Studios was transformed into a red carpet event with a breath taking Tent with mirrors surrounding inside with an outside patio lounge. The (MC) Master of Ceremonies Mr. Ramsey Jay Jr. sparked the evening with keeping the audience captivated with his words of Ray Charles memoirs. Jay Jr. said, “Ray Charles put his heart in his craft.” The crowd was entertained by Mr. Ellis Hall who sang America the Beautiful. Mr. Hall who has a sight impairment himself, was signed by Ray’s record label. And Mr. Hall and Mrs. Brenda Lee-Eager sang You’re not in Kansas anymore as the hundreds of guests who came from around the world prepared to be given a tour of the seven gallery library.

Ms. Ervin the President of the Library and Foundation was choked up a little, as she spoke about Mr. Charles legacy and the positive influence he had in her life and countless others. She said, “Through his music, through his soul, through his work and through his actions Ray Charles was able to leave an everlasting mark on each of our lives.” He could not have done it alone without the partnership with Mr. Joe Adams. Mr. Adams was Ray Charles personal and business manager for more than 49 years. Mr. Adams said, “Ray was a man of many moods and they all were great.” Ray and Joe had the longest artist and manager relationship in History. Mr. Adams was the special and honorary guest of the evening. And much of what was being honored during the grand opening would not of been possible without the wisdom, dedication, foresight and persistence of Joe Adams. He was an invaluable mentor to Ms. Ervin; ” I will always be grateful. Both Ray Charles and Joe Adams have left an everlasting mark on my life,” she said. Mr. Adams stood by Mr. Charles year after year to help shape the legacy as we see it today. Mr. Charles was a great man, however Mr. Adams was the Man behind the Man.

The Grammy Museum executive director Mr. Bob Santelli, was instrumental in the endeavor of the Ray Charles Memorial Library. The seven very unique galleries include Gallery 1 a mini movie theater for you to sit and enjoy a thirteen minute video on a large flat screen about the Man–Ray Charles. Gallery 2 has a video welcome from Quincy Jones about the imergence of a musical genius. There’s interactive touch screens and a 500 song catalog library to enjoy. Gallery 3 ‘Breaking the musical Boundaries’ where B.B. King will welcome you. The theme is during the time Ray was with ABC Records. You can hear songs from the 60’s and 70’s. Gallery 4 has four recording studios which gives you the opportunity to make your own Ray Charles melody’s. You can pick a beat, track or rhythm and Ray will summons you, by giving you his feedback. Gallery 5 ‘Building a Legacy’ Jimmy Jam will welcome you. You’ll learn about the business man Ray Charles and his owning of his own masters, a pioneering endeavor in the music industry. This gallery teaches you about Ray’s entrepreneurial endeavors and you’ll learn a lot more about Mr. Joe Adams. Gallery 6 presents ‘A lifetime of Achievement’ Mr. Taylor Hackford will welcome you to the gallery and you’ll learn about the establishment of the Ray Charles Foundation. And Gallery 7 has a kareoke machine with three microphones with stands, where you can choose the song of your choice and sing a melody with Ray.

Mr. Charles lived a full and great life! He toured around the World and recorded music up until his last days. He had no regrets and would not have changed a thing about his life’s journey. He went further in life than anyone could imagine. Ray was a genius. He is a legend.