If there’s anyone who deserves their flowers for their contributions to society, it’s Steven Anderson. Born and raised in Houston, TX, specifically in the Fifth Ward, Steven was known for many things. He was an activist, poet, rapper, brother, and friend to so many people. His presence made you gravitate towards him. He demanded your attention without having to say a word. He used his voice, actions, and platform to empower and protect the Black community by any means necessary. The Fifth Ward prophet was a humanitarian like no other. However, more than a year ago, Steven had passed away due to cancer. It was a devastating loss to everyone who knew and loved him. Although he is not here with us, his legacy continues to grow in more ways than one. In the third and final part of this story, you will read about Steven’s life and legacy through Rayna Fretty. She was a close friend of his and she runs Steven’s Place Shelter. It is a nonprofit organization that was named after him. It is dedicated to the mental health and development of homeless young men between the ages of 17-25. She has gone above and beyond to make sure that his name will forever be cemented. He may be gone, but he is forever in our hearts. This is for you Steven. We hope this made you proud.
Who is Steven Anderson and what did he mean to you?
Steven Anderson was, for lack of a better word, my favorite part of college. The only part of college I enjoyed. First and foremost, he was a really good friend. I met him in high school. It’s funny because we didn’t go to the same high school which made our friendship that much special. We would go out of our way to remain in contact. We didn’t interact daily, but because we had mutual friends, the same personalities, and the same hair color at the time, we felt very similar. We became friends relatively quickly and we ended up in the same college. He was someone who very quickly became a friend and then a family member. Due to the dynamic of his family, he was more of a brother to everyone than a friend. He meant so much to me to the point that he’s the only positive thing I reflect on in college.
What is a memory of Steven that sticks with you the most?
In my senior year of college, Steven started to get depressed while he was fighting cancer so he wasn’t leaving his apartment. He would just stay there and not eat. I noticed he started to get thin. So I started a thing with him where every Tuesday we would go eat or do something. It was a method for me to get him out of the apartment. I remember one time he called me to take him to Gamestop and we were there for an hour. He was really into anime so that’s why we were there for so long. There were two things Steven loved: anime and donuts! This man would go on and on about anime and freaking donuts. I remember we went on another Tuesday outing to Target because he wanted to get some things. He wanted to spruce up his apartment to make him feel better. He went and got this donut lamp. After he passed, I tried to find the light he and I bought together but after driving to different Targets to find it, I found it was discontinued so I went with a similar one instead of the Donut one he and I bought that day of Tuesday errands.
Why do you believe Steven Anderson was able to impact so many people?
He had an infectious personality and was extremely charismatic. Some people always say that they’re natural-born leaders, but he was. He could come into a room, tell you to do something, and you would do it. You would have no idea why he was telling you that, but you trusted him because he was such a great leader. He was the only person I’ve ever met that was book smart and street smart. He wasn’t pompous or arrogant. He was very vocal about what he thought was right. He was a huge humanitarian and that was something that struck me. Everything he did was genuine.
What was your last conversation with Steven?
My last conversation with him was really scary. So I had his location and I used to check it every single day just to see where he was. The last time I talked to him in person was when he was in the hospital before spring break. Whenever he gets discharged from the hospital, he would call me because I would be the person that would pick him up. We also looked the most similar out of all of his friends so he explained to the nursing staff that I was his sister. So when I got there to pick him up, they wouldn’t discharge him. They canceled the discharge and he was crying and I was trying no to cry. The nurse pulled me to the side and told me to start making arrangements. I was just shocked because I didn’t know what to do especially since the staff didn’t know that we weren’t related. There was so much going through my mind at that moment. I didn’t know who to call and then shortly after that, coronavirus hit. I couldn’t go anywhere and my mom has lupus so I couldn’t do anything. I started checking his location every day from that day. There was a moment in time where it said, “location unavailable” and this wasn’t in April. This was on March 30th or 31st and I was worried. I started DM’ing random people to see if anyone has talked to him. I was panicking because I couldn’t find him. People tried to tell me things were fine, but things were not fine. Shortly after, I got a text from someone I don’t even talk to saying, “Hey, I’m sorry.” After that, all the texts started coming in.
What do you think Steven’s legacy will be?
Although he’s not here, he’s encouraged a lot of people to be empathetic. I feel like there’s a trend going on nowadays where it’s cool to not care and he was the opposite of that. He’s only been gone for a year and people have started initiatives in remembrance of him. That’s an illustration of how impactful he’s been to people. It’s not just a handful of people. It’s a lot of people. He was born to do exactly what he was supposed to do. He existed to wake something up in people. We had a very protective relationship and I was with him until the very end. I was one of the few people that saw in his last days and it made a large impact on me. I want to make sure to keep his legacy alive.
Talk to me more about Steven’s Place Shelter and the vision behind the nonprofit organization.
I’ve always wanted to build a shelter and I used to talk to Steven about it. On the occasions where I’ve had the privilege of driving Steven from College Station to his treatments in Houston, I would drop him off at his house. His house wasn’t what you think of when you think of a house. I’m from Pearland so I had a very privileged method of thinking about a house. Whereas he’s from Fifth Ward so where he was staying was not preferential. I named the shelter after him to keep his legacy alive. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was behind the initiative for the longest. I didn’t put my name in anything for the first two months and that’s just the impact Steven had on me. He kept me very humbled and focused on doing well for others. He never wanted me to showboat or be the center of attention for doing good. I’ve worked really closely with his family. I’ve texted them every step of the way to let them know about the process. I want them to be close to anything that involves him.
It has been more than a year since his passing. How have you been feeling lately?
I’ve been good. Starting the shelter was therapeutic to me, but there are days where I can’t do this at all. There are some days where it’s harder to work closely with it because I’m constantly saying his name. I’m constantly looking at pictures and introducing him to people even though he’s not here. It is difficult, but it’s something that has to be done. I feel like some of the people that were in his corner when he was alive didn’t do enough. I felt like I had to do something big to make up for the people who were in his corner that didn’t do enough. I still haven’t been to the gravesite and I don’t know if I will. I know where it is, but I haven’t been because it’s just difficult to do. Maybe one day I’ll go, but I feel like my work with the shelter is enough.
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