Ashley Rae: You launched your go fund me account a few months shy of a year ago for a Black owned and operated grocery store. At what point in your life did you realize the community’s lack of governing our own food source was a problem?
Raphael: I realized how important us controlling our own food was when I dedicated myself to social entrepreneurship. We as a people will never build an economy without investing in our needs (food, banking, medicine). Every community needs a grocery store and to see most of our communities in Detroit without a viable grocery store is driving my passion.
Ashley Rae: What made you decide to focus on uplifting and informing the Black community financially?
Raphael: I’ve been exposed to so much when it comes to money while engaging with so many groups of people that I know our race is hustling backwards. So, I’m making it my duty to give our people the game.
Ashley Rae: Who’s your favorite writer/author and favorite Black activist?
Raphael: My favorite authors are Nicolo Machiavelli and Robert Greene. My favorite black activist is Malcolm X.
Ashley Rae: Do you feel like our parents’ generation dropped the ball in some ways? Particularly on informing us about how the world really operates, how we’re viewed as Black people, and on the matter of finances. Do you think they lacked the knowledge as well?
Raphael: I don’t think our parents had the knowledge or tools to teach us how to become wealthy and maintain our wealth. Our generation was taught to play it safe, that entrepreneurship was for dummies because school was more important, and that we shouldn’t support one another. We now know the real because we’ve experienced things these past 10+ years that’s showing us what direction we need to go in.
Ashley Rae: Have you always had the desire to bring love and unity into the community or did it progress over time?
Raphael: In the past, I only worried about myself because that was the mentality I was taught. As time and life happened, I realized the power of unity and community strength. There can’t be only one man on top. The community has to be on top.
Ashley Rae: We all have ups and downs especially as artists. Who do you call on other than God when you need to be motivated and recharged?
Raphael: Most of my motivation comes from within or indirectly from me watching other people win, especially from an entrepreneurial sense. When I see people I know winning, it automatically pulls me in place when I’m down.
Ashley Rae: Who’s your number one supporter?
Raphael: I don’t know! I get love from a lot of places. Plus, there’s too many people who will say they’re my number one supporter so I’ll exercise my fifth amendment right.
Ashley Rae: When you were a kid, did you need someone like the adult version of you to speak with for guidance?
Raphael: No. The closest mentor I had was my older brother but that was all indirect. Nobody really pulled me in as a child or teenager.
Ashley Rae: What struggles are you or have you faced on your journey to serve the greater good, and as a writer? Have you always been as woke as you are today?
Raphael: I’m stuck between changing the culture and indulging in the vices of the culture. I’m woke being that I know the game but I’m human enough to admit I’m still with much of the ratchetness that we embrace. My struggle is finding a balance where it all makes sense.
Ashley Rae: Have you ever considered starting a program for young Black men in an initiative to help them progress and develop in life and also within the careers of their choice?
Raphael: I work directly with the youth, particularly males all the time. I’ve created a few formal programs in the past and have plans on continuing that work. Leaders have to build other leaders so that’s one of my real passions.
Ashley Rae: If you could have a conversation with one Activist past or present who would it be and why?
Raphael: I would love to speak to Marcus Garvey because he’s the first person that comes to mind when it comes to unapologetic blackness. I would love that conversation.