Matthew Bray: The DLG-Proust-Actors Studio Questionnaire*

by Joseph McKeown

Hailing from a long line of native New Yorkers (on his mother’s side going back to the 1840s), Matt Bray grew up in Middletown, New York, and lived in Baltimore, Maryland until he returned to New York City for college. As a kid, he came to the city regularly with his family to visit relatives and “the old neighborhoods” of his parents--Washington Heights and Parkchester--and, as a teenager, he ventured downtown for underground punk shows and to experience the bright lights of the city. “I feel lucky to have spent time in Greenwich Village and the East Village in the late 80s and early 90s,” Matt says. “It was crazy, weird, colorful, a little scary. There were all these really unique little shops and a sense of possibility. You didn’t have to spend all your time working to just to get by, mostly because rents were cheaper. You could give your time to things that you wanted to do.”

Matt Bray on a boat.

Matt Bray on a boat.

By the mid-90s, Matt was heavily involved with a number of activist groups and underground projects, including Food Not Bombs and ABC No Rio, and after President Clinton signed into law the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996, Matt began to focus more on immigrant rights, working with the now-defunct Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants to promote the labor rights of immigrant workers and support the rights of immigration detainees.

He attended New York University (“My ticket out of the Baltimore suburbs”), lived in Berlin for two years, and returned to the US to continue immigration activist work in San Diego with the US-Mexico Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. In 2000, he returned to New York City to work at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First), and later earned a law degree at Northeastern University School of Law, graduating in 2006.

He was hired at Manhattan immigration law firm Avirom and Associates, where Protima and Lizzie B. also put in time. True to his activist roots, he started handling difficult deportation and criminal-immigration cases, which along with business immigration he currently practices at Daryanani Law Group. “These are the hardest, because they are not the stereotypical sympathetic cases,” Matt says. “In that sense, they are very good for me, as a lawyer and a person. Because it’s important to stand up for people who no one else is standing up for.”

*Questions taken from and/or inspired by the Proust/Inside the Actors Studio/Bernard Pivot/AnOther Magazine questionnaires

What is your favorite word?
Recently, mimolette.

What is your least favorite word?

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Learning languages brings out my creativity.

What turns you off?
No vegetarian options.

What is your favorite curse word?

What sound or noise do you love?
Ocean waves.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Screeching subway tracks.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What is your idea of happiness?     
Traveling to a new country.

What is your idea of misery?
No coffee.

If not yourself, who would you be?     
I just want to be me, thank you.

Where would you like to live?
NYC 4 eva. Or a small seaside village somewhere.    

Who are your favorite prose authors?     
James Baldwin.

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction?     
Thelma and Louise.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Volunteers for No More Deaths.

What would your last meal be?
A burrito (with extra guacamole) and a glass of wine.

What do you hate the most?     
Violence and war.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

How do you wish to die?    
In a beautiful place outdoors.

What is your present state of mind?    

What are you thinking of right now?
What's next.

What makes you laugh?

What makes you cry?
Cruelty, onions.