Student rapper spreads social justice message through music

By Rachel Popa

Richard Wallace, a senior sociology major and a Chicago native of the Logan Square neighborhood, has a different approach to the social justice mission here at Roosevelt University.

Wallace was formerly a lyricist and leader for the now disbanded Chicago rap group, BBU. He now works on promoting topics of social justice, such as solidarity between minority groups and equality for all under the stage name Epic.

Last fall, Wallace marched to Daley Plaza with over 100 students and faculty on a national day of protest against the mistreatment of African-Americans after the shootings involving Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

Wallace specializes in spoken word poetry about political topics and was nominated for the Matthew Freeman Social Justice Award by Roosevelt sociology professor Leon Bailey.

“I think Richard Wallace is one of the brightest and best embodiments of the university’s social justice mission,” said Bailey.

Heather Dalmage, director of Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, said Wallace’s commitment to social justice was notable in the community.

“We are proud to recognize Richard Wallace for his unwavering commitment to social justice both in the classroom and in his community.”

Wallace said that Roosevelt’s social justice mission has been an integral part of his education at the university.

“Social justice has been at the core of my education at Roosevelt University, and I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Wallace said.

This past November, Wallace released a solo album titled “#OPRAH Ordinary People Recording American History” in which Wallace “delves into his lifelong education in black history and culture, tracing his road to discovery…the lyrics [drawing] upon the political and personal,” according to the Chicago Reader. “[Wallace’s] blunt descriptions and resounding delivery illuminate the stark state of affairs he covers throughout #OPRAH.”

In his album, Wallace talks about many issues facing the city, such as the closing of the housing projects and the state of the Chicago Public School system.

The main premise of the album’s title is the polarity between everyday people that struggle in today’s democratic society and superstars in media like Oprah who may not struggle as much, as well as the contradictory nature that exists between ordinary people and celebrities.

Wallace’s education at Roosevelt has also led to a certain kind of inspiration, which has influenced his music, he says.

“Roosevelt has given me a language to identify things that I used to call racism as having more to do with class and class differences,” Wallace said.

Wallace plans to graduate from Roosevelt this coming December and hopes to be a sociology professor and get his Ph.D. after graduation.

He was the founder of the Roosevelt chapter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and practices principles of social justice through being a labor activist in order to promote rights for working people. Also, Wallace works with the Chicago Workers Collaborative in order to break down barriers between working class minorities.

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