Hip-hop artist Draze used a sports analogy to explain the plight of Black America in the wake of weeks of protests following the police killing of George Floyd.
“If our movement is to be truly diverse, we can’t just march,” said the Seattle-born rapper whose real name is Dumi Maraire. “We can’t just play defense. We have to play offense and defense.
“Defense wins championships and that’s why we’re marching. But building Black wealth is about putting points on the board, so we have to do that, too. We have to work both ends at the same time.”
In celebration of Juneteenth, Draze is partnering with former boxing champion Laila Ali and taking over her Facebook page on Friday morning to host “Building Black Wealth, a Live Virtual Marketplace.”
The two-hour event, which begins 9 a.m. PDT, will showcase 10 Black entrepreneurs, including Figgers Wireless founder Freddie Figgers, BeanFruit Coffee owner Paul Bond, and The True Products creators Ali B. Muhammad, Malik Saleem and Abdur-Rahim Shaheed.
“I want people to come and watch as we celebrate the breadth and width of African American ingenuity and innovation,” Draze said. “I want them to see the different businesses in our community.
“And I want people to purchase products. … This is a practical way for people — white, Black and anything in between — to start creating justice. Spend money with Black people intentionally and help us rebuild our own community.”
Draze, a Franklin High graduate who was raised in the Central District by immigrants from Zimbabwe, has consistently infused socially conscious themes into his music, most famously with his 2014 track “The Hood Ain’t the Same,” which highlighted gentrification and uprooting the Black community.
In 2017, Draze began an initiative to start 100 new Black-owned businesses in Seattle.
Later that year, he hosted “The Power Summit,” a discussion on African American economic empowerment that included mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan, Michael McGinn, Nikkita Oliver and Jessyn Farrell.
Before the coronavirus shutdown, Draze released a four-minute song in February featuring Owuor Arunga titled “Building Black Wealth,” which urged consumers to financially support Black-owned businesses.
“I put that out thinking it was going to be the first single on my latest album, but then COVID hit and I couldn’t put the album out,” Draze said. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise in many ways. … I released the video and we’ve had 2 million views on Facebook, and that’s how I connected with Laila.”
Draze reached out to Ali in hopes that she’d assist in his latest project to highlight Black entrepreneurs. That’s when she surprised him with an offer to use her Facebook page and connect with her 3.8 million Facebook followers.
Friday’s virtual market will begin with political analyst Angela Rye discussing the significance of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Draze says that building Black wealth is the natural progression from the mass demonstrations against police violence and racism stemming from the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by Minneapolis police.
“I’m all for the marching,” he said. “I was a part of the ‘We Want to Live’ march in the South End (on June 7) and I’m scheduled to perform at a march this Friday. In the morning, I’ll be building Black wealth online and later that day I’ll be at the march with the people.
“All of it is indirectly tied together because we as a people need so much. If we just needed a criminal justice system reform, then that would be one thing. But that’s not all we need. We have to start directing our dollars towards the Black community.”