The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore has sparked more than a week of peaceful protests that turned ugly with rioting and unrest plaguing the city after Gray’s funeral Monday. Sadly, some members of the misguided community decided that destroying their own city was the answer and now citizens are left to clean up the mess.
What’s happening in Baltimore is just the tip of a larger historical iceberg that is beginning to melt down all over America as police brutality and racial tension seem to be a weekly occurrence. Richard Raw, one of Delaware’s most recognized faces on the local music scene, has never held back his opinion on race issues in America; as a matter of fact, many would say much of his music centers on the afflictions of the African-American community.
With a fast-growing fan base, Wilmington native Raw has seen a lot of local success and is set to release his third full studio album this Friday at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts in Wilmington. The event will be a live release/listening party featuring exclusive tracks from his new album, “Conversational Piece,” and also includes MikeNite as the evening’s DJ.
We had a conversation about his new album, issues plaguing the black community and his thoughts on what’s happening down in Baltimore.
Q: So let’s start off by you giving me some background on your new album. What is the concept for “Conversational Piece”?
A: The album concept is really what it sounds like. It’s a collection of conversations that I’ve had with people about all types of issues. I work at a law firm so I get to see and deal with so many types of people. We are run by everyday conversations, so I just got out in the community and talked to people and built songs around those encounters.
Q: So how does working at a law firm help influence your music?
A: Being at a law firm I get to see many types of situations both good and bad. It’s scary to see what our world is really like and how the odds have been stacked against us ever since we were kidnapped and brought to America. I get to see also how politics is shaped because law firms and politics go hand in hand.
Q: So what are a few of the issues that you address in your new album?
A: I tackle a lot of different topics, such as sexism. I have a song that is aimed at empowering women because I feel hip-hop has done a fair share of exploiting and using women in a negative way. Also I cover topics like police brutality and the recent unrest throughout America in a song called “Crooked Cop.”
Q: Speaking of police brutality, what is your opinion on what has transpired in Baltimore?
A: I would say it is sad and disappointing but people are angry and feel like we have been peacefully protesting for a long time and are tired of nothing changing. This type of lash-out is what comes from angry, impoverished and misguided youth. We have to get justice and until something changes, then this is what will happen. I am in no way for the destruction that is taking place, but when you push people enough then it is only natural to push back.
Q: What about the people destroying their own community, like churches and senior centers? Does that have anything to do with justice or is it just an opportunity for criminal activity?
A: I have some friends from Baltimore and what I’m hearing is that there have been so-called protesters coming from out of state that have been encouraging the violent behavior. It’s overall a tough thing because people are mad. I don’t like the destruction but when you feel like your voice isn’t getting heard then people feel like they have no choice. There was no justice for Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown or Eric Garner, and that was on video.
Q: Is what you’re seeing in Baltimore something that can happen right here in Delaware?
A: Of course. Baltimore is just a microcosm of a macrocosm and police brutality is happening everywhere. There are so many more issues with the black community that are part of the larger issue at hand. We are a broken race that struggles to be heard. It’s not just happening here, but all over the world. There are always uprisings of groups of people that feel like they are not seen equally.
Q: How do you feel we begin to repair the issues in the African-American community?
A: It starts with the education system. We as a black culture don’t properly understand our heritage. We have to go back to having a sense of community and teach our history correctly in school. A lot of what they teach isn’t the whole story or it’s what they want you to believe. There also isn’t enough unity amongst us when it comes to these types of issues. The change has to start with us in general. If we don’t better ourselves as a community we will continue to deal with the same issues we have been dealing with since slavery.
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IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Richard presents “A Conversational Piece” album release/listening party.
WHEN: Friday, May 1, from 6-9 p.m.
WHERE: Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, 200 S. Madison St., Wilmington
MORE INFO: Event is free and open to all ages.
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