RIP IN PEACE: Monzavia Bray

Zay Bray Frontside 1500Zay displays his timeless style on a frontside grind    photo: Giovonni

June 26, 1997 – December 10, 2022

We met Monzavia about ten years ago when he was 15. He was living in a group home sponsored by Families First on Cherokee Ave by the zoo. I am the Chairman of Families First. My wife Grace runs a nonprofit, which at the time was called Serenbe Stables. Grace partnered with Families First and other organizations supporting kids in foster care. We would bring inner-city kids out to Serenbe weekly for equine-assisted therapy. Monzy, as we called him, stood out like a bright light. We got to know him well. At 17, he aged out of the group home and it broke our hearts. We invited him to move in. We have adopted and fostered several kids, but we certainly didn’t know anything about 17 year olds. He lived with us for several years, and taught us so much. He opened our hearts bigger than we ever thought was possible. He was an amazing kid and his little brothers and sisters looked up to him. They loved him so much. He lived in Serenbe with us for a few years. One of our neighbors, who is a fire chief in Atlanta, got him his first car. Since we don’t have a skatepark, we eventually had to help get him his first apartment in ATL so he'd have a place to skate. We were able to get Families First to sponsor it. We loved Monzy. Grace, the kids and I are crushed. But we will always remember his amazing heart and smile. One of my favorite stories ever about him was when he was in the Serenbe Stables therapeutic horse program. One day on his way out—probably aged 16—he tried to slip a five-dollar bill in one of the donation jars we had set out on the table to raise money. One of the ranch hands saw it and immediately grabbed the money to give it back to him. She explained that the donation jar was not for the kids participating in the program. His reply was, “You don’t know how much this means to me. I want you to have it.” He literally had nothing at the time. It broke our hearts. We knew he had a huge heart. We will miss him dearly. The picture below was in the Abacos several years ago. It was his first time leaving the country, so we had to get him a passport. It was also his first time swimming, which we did not learn until this picture was taken. He never told us, but we were not going to let him leave the Bahamas without snorkeling. He loved the Bahamas. He was best friends with everyone by the end of the week there. We thought he was going to stay, but they didn’t have a skatepark. —Douglas Aldridge

Zay Bray 2000 1Left: Zay with his sister in law
Right: Snorkeling in Abacos

From the moment I met Zay Bray, he didn’t hesitate to point out the aspects of my skateboarding he thought were unique. His mind was always on his next project and how he could make his friends shine in the process—learning tricks in the early mornings, doubles lines under the lights at Fourth Ward and dancing in the parking lots. He was the coolest, and I’m lucky we were friends. —Liam Hintz

When I first met Monzavia, he was a stranger to me. Maybe he knew who I was, maybe he didn’t, but every time that I saw him he would greet me with a smile and dap me up. I felt like I had a lifelong friend in someone I would only see occasionally. I think he gave that energy to a lot of people. Let’s try to keep that going in our scene. I’m going to miss seeing and hearing from Zay. I can still see him rip all over FOWO. ‘Til the next session, my friend. —Mikey Lynch

Zay Bray Frontside Ollie 1500Kickin' off the concrete with an FSO    photo: Giovonni

Zay Bray will always be remembered as a Fourth Ward local, and I hope his legacy continues to burn for years to come. There weren’t many days that I'd go to the park and he would not be there. Zay basically lived there, and I most definitely have seen him sleeping in the deep end—not 'cause he had nowhere to go, but because it was his favorite place to be. Why leave if I’m coming right back? That was the vibe he put out, and it showed in his skating. That being said, let’s continue to keep the skatepark what it should be—a safe place for all. And look out for one another, just as Zay did for everyone around him. —Marlon Garcia

Zay Bray Benihana 1500Zay takes a one-footed flight on a sky-high 'hana   photo: Giovonni

I moveD to Atlanta from New Hampshire in the summer of 2017. From the second I set foot in FOWO park, Zay was the very first person to take me under his wing. He would be there sun up to sun down every single day, skating hard and fast. This man single-handedly changed my life through introducing me to friends I’ll have forever. He showed me the true meaning of positivity. He was unapologetically himself and kind to those around him. I will hold the memories we shared that summer for the rest of my life. —Cory Jones

Zay let you know that you were loved and that you were a part of something greater than yourself. His constant presence at FOWO and his infectious smile were the glue that held us all together. Zay was the first friend I made in Atlanta. I had snapped my board, and of course he rolled over to me with a smile, gave me his number and asked what size board I skated. Then he came back a few minutes later with a Switch Stance board. That’s who Zay was. If there was something you needed, he was going to get it for you. When he got a job at the ice cream shop by the park, every skater got a job—or at least a free cone whenever they showed up. This man was a legend. He had a fucking billboard on Ponce of him skating FOWO. He was bigger than this world and we’re going to miss him. We’ll remember the big smile he always wore and the bright light he shined on each and every one of our lives. —Ryan Marohn

Zay And Jake 1500The Old Man and Zay

Just wanted to send my love to Zay, P-Stone and Jake. They all showed me unconditional love. Zay printed a few tees for me and my company PSA, so this picture is significant ‘cause the hat Phelps was wearing is a PSA hat. I gave it to him and he put that shit on right there at the Bust or Bail. Zay was a rider for life. Thank y’all and let’s keep riding. –JV

Monzavia was my foster brother since the age of 17. He started with his music and then added skateboarding. He was always there. My kids loved him. We bumped into each other recently and said we were going to work on our relationship, but we just got so caught up in our own lives that we didn’t get the chance. I'll forever remember the laughs, the talks, the car rides, the meals and all the times he slept at my house. I love you, Monzavia, and you will forever live on through me. —Your Lori Forever

Zay Bray Family Dinner 1500Family dinner

I’ve been a friend of his since 2011. I watched him grow into the skater and the man he had become. I met him in high school because he was the only other guy with a skateboard. At the time it was only me and my boyfriend who skated. We went around the city of Atlanta together until the skatepark was built that summer, and that started a lifelong friendship with Zay. We would help him out when he was being bullied at his foster home and take him away from the noise for a couple of hours—just drive around the city or take him to Old Fourth Ward. When he was finally adopted, we drove him to his parents’ house to help him move his stuff in. We were even able to help him move into his first apartment—the one that burned down. My boyfriend taught him how to drive. He called us mom and dad, just because of how we looked out for him, but we were only two years apart. Our love for Zay is indescribable. He meant the world to us. —Miracle

Zay Bray Justin Brock 1500Zay and ATL legend Justin Brock

It's a strange world we all live in. As curiously beautiful as it is, the counterpart can seem even more unpleasant and tragic. Every day we all face our separate challenges and have to accept the reality of hardship. Zay Bray’s approach of positivity was communicated with ease and spread like wildfire. With a simple smile and a few words, he would encourage and inspire you to be a better person. He was wise beyond his years for such a young man. He was a true local at FOWO skatepark. Every time I saw him, his excitement and determination to learn and skate harder was loud and clear. Personally, I did not know much about him, but I am extremely thankful for the times I was lucky enough to experience his presence. The Atlanta skateboard community has lost another great soul, but endless memories are embedded in the concrete and live on forever. Rest easy, young legend. —Pat McLain

Zay Bray, you are the highest example of loyalty in a person. You would do anything to make everyone around you feel wanted and comfortable. I remember when I first started coming to Fourth Ward, and this man walked up to me and started talking and joking with me like we knew each other our whole lives. He did this with everybody he came in contact with. Zay Bray was like a straight line—he never changed, no matter what; his heart always stayed the same. Even if we didn’t speak for months, when we would see each other, it felt like no time passed. I pray that everyone who was blessed enough to know Zay will strive to be as pure as him. He wasn’t just a friend; he was a brother. I love you in this life and every one after. Long live Monzavia Bray. —Austyn

No matter what was going on in his life, Zay Bray always put a smile on his face, put others first and remained optimistic. His love for skateboarding and the community is still unmatched. He set a standard and it’s our job to meet it. —Jeremiah Joseph

He was the first guy I met at FOWO back in the day. We were brothers from that day on, ‘til he left. Fly high, Zay. —Neverson Anyjah Heatley IV

Zay Bray Comp 1Music, skating and community, he knew what was important

Zay was someone who could stop two people he knew from beating the crap out of each other, just by speaking sense. He was a great soul and an awesome friend. I spent more time with him than most. I look at it like this: God took him back because he accomplished what he was born to do—that was to show people that no matter who you are, someone will always care about you, not just when you’re gone. —Phill Good

Even though Zay was smiling all the time, he had a hard life, yet was always positive. He loved skating so much and wanted to do it for the rest of his life. —Mike Lagrone

When I first met Monzavia, I noticed he told everyone, “Love ya, brody,” no matter the relationship. And I remember thinking to myself, I can’t wait ‘til I’m one of those people he’s saying I love you to. Quaytion a.k.a his QuayBae

Zay Bray w Kids 1500Paying it forward and sharing the stoke with the kids, follow his lead
 
About a year ago I was working at a shelter for kids that just crossed the border. A girl came through that loved skating, so Zay linked with me and helped provide her with a skateboard. She will always feel like she has a place in the US because of that board and him. —Letty
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