The girl with the Word

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 7, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY Managing Editor

ST. ROSE – Before she performs, before she even writes her rap-inspired poetry, Ranika Sanchez prays. It obviously works for her.

Ranika, 18, the daughter of Rudolph and Gayle Sanchez of St. Rose, was one of the star attractions at this year’s Martin Luther King Day rally in Hahnville, donning street clothes and ball cap and filling her audience with respect for her message.

“We’ve forgotten where we have come from, because every time I look around my neighborhood, I see threads of history coming undone. Instead of caring each other, we have young black men wanting to rather carry a gun, and young black women wanting to carry babies before their own life has begun.”

So runs the refrain of Ranika’s message, all aimed at making people think hard about the direction of their lives.

For Ranika, her life has been straightforward, that is, straight up and carried by her God.

“I’ve been wanting to write since middle school,” she said recently. “I began with speeches for church while in the 10th grade, and Rev. Isiah Franklin at Mt. Zion Baptist Church gave me my first shot.” That first speech was on the Creation.

“In the beginning, I sat there, just a little queasy,” she admitted.

At that point, she prayed. “Once I say the first couple of words, then it comes right.”

It led to awards in the American Legion essay contest, urged on by a favorite teacher, Chuck Hughes. “He gave me that push,” she recalled.

In the years since, Ranika has been a featured inspirational speaker at several churches, directing her positive messages to young people.

She graduated magnum cum laude from Destrehan High School last spring, and Ranika is currently a freshman student at Loyola University, where she is majoring in communications and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, with a minor in sociology. Ranika has an eye toward a broadcast journalism career.

Right now, Ranika said her ideal job wouldn’t be in front of a television camera, but as an inspirational speaker, addressing her twin loves of public speaking and travel. However, television will do for her as well. “It’s the closest thing to what I want to do.”

Ranika insisted she has a boring life, split between church, school and home. She adores her parents and older brother, Tyrone, 29. She enjoys an occasional movie with friends and is usually up from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., writing.

“I try to write as much as I can,” she said. “It’s comfortable to me.”

But before she does anything at all, she prays. “He gives me the words to write down,” she said of her praying. “When I ask Him to give me the words, He does.”

Her hero, rightly enough, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she admires his passionate speaking voice. Her first audience for any speech are her parents. “I do it before them. I have them close their eyes.”

Her parents, Rudolph and Gayle, glow with satisfaction at their hard-working, devoted daughter.

“She gets her smartness from her mom, and her coolness from me,” said her dad with a smile.

She credits all her accomplishments, though, to the Lord. “He guides me. He really does. I wouldn’t be doing this without God. I wouldn’t have a purpose to do this.”