When Rico was little, he used to sit on the floor and listen to his mother play the piano. He’s pretty sure he got his artistic talents from his mother, who gave him his first alto saxophone when he was six years old.
“I had an ear for music,” he says. “Someone could play something for me, and I could tell you the notes. I practiced every single solitary day when I was younger.”
Rico was a freshman studying media arts and animation at Gibbs College in Northern Virginia when his mother died from a second stroke. Life fell apart after that. He dropped out of college and turned to alcohol and drugs to manage his depression. A few years later, he was diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder he’d inherited from his father and was kept in the hospital for a month.
His half-brother, who had been sharing his apartment, stole his money, leaving Rico unable to pay the rent. As a result, Rico was evicted. For a while, he moved from place to place, finally landing at a shelter where he learned about N Street Village.
“So I came to N Street and met Evelyn Green [who helps residents with their recovery]. I’m clean and sober,” Rico says. “That’s what I came here for. I’ve been 10 years clean, and I’ve had a roof over my head for 10 years.”
He started drawing again, joined Luther Place Memorial Church, and sings with the Ambassadors of Praise.
“N Street Village has helped me be who I am today. I got connected to Luther Place, changed my name. I came out as transgender and did all these cool things I never would have otherwise. Returned to my art and my music. Gave me my life back again.
Though Rico was born female, he never connected with that gender. “I felt really out of place when I was younger, and I didn’t know why. When I came here, I found out why. It was such a relief to be accepted.”