A talk with WAOK/V-103’s Rashad Richey

Busy man starts a Rolling Out podcast

Originally posted Tuesday, September 11, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

1380/WAOK-AM radio host Rashad Richey exemplifies life today as a media personality by juggling multiple gigs.

On top of his daily mid-morning show on WAOK, Richey just began a weekly podcast for Rolling Out, provides regular commentary for both the Frank and Wanda morning show on V-103 and CBS46 and teaches at Beulah Heights University

“My days are packed but I thoroughly enjoy being a broadcaster, writer and professor in equal parts,” said Richey, 37.

His new "Sucka Free with Rashad Richey & Friends" podcast features his conservative friend Mitchell Shelby as his long-time colleague Nicole English.

“Podcasts appeal to a different audience,” Richey said. “They’re known for their level of authenticity. I want to make sure it translates into the title, a place for authentic conversation. It won’t be guest heavy.”

The first episode, which came out last week, makes an exception: it features controversial comedienne Mo'Nique and her husband/manager Sidney Hicks. It will air live every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

Check it out below:

The second episode, which aired today, covered everything from Serena Williams to 9/11 to ice cream.

Richey, a liberal talk show host, said Donald Trump has emboldened racists but has also generated a backlash among his primarily black listeners.

“Black callers are pushing back as a reaction,” he said.

“Trump,” he added, “did not make racism. He just made it more honest.”

He recalled a white Southern guy calling his show and telling him that he disagrees with 99.9 percent of what Richey says but could no longer support the president. But he said the reason his white friends stick with Trump is "because they're comfortable with a white male leader. They couldn't deal with the potential of 16 years without one with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton."

At the same time, Richey senses Trump fatigue with his listeners but genuine excitement for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who could become the first black woman to ever lead a state in the union.

“She’s brilliant,” he said. “Her education grants her credibility.”

Richey’s upbringing, he said, could have led him to prison. “I was a gangbanger at age 14,” he said. He bounced from foster home to foster home.

But he found solace in education. He also makes up for his teen years by working with current gang members to “deprogram” them. He said he can be effective because he understands the culture. “The code has not changed,” he said. “When you don’t have a real family, gangs represent themselves as family, a real connection. People want a connection.”

He also created his own non-profit foundation to mentor at-risk kids: “This allows me to have a platform to go back and help others who are in a position I used to be in.”

Richey credits one of his foster moms who was a school teacher for his love for learning. He received his first doctorate remotely from Scofield Graduate School and Theological Seminary and is now squeezing in classes to receive a second doctorate at Clark-Atlanta University for education.

“I continue to get an education because education in this world is the great equalizer,” Richey said.

On weekends, he fills his schedule with speaking engagements.

“I’m booked for the next year and a half with Sunday churches alone,” he said.

A media career, he said, was accidental.

Seven years ago, he was helping his father Nathaniel get into drug rehab when someone offered him to do a show on a small Dekalb AM radio station. He said his father encouraged him to do it. So he decided to just wing it.  "I was really bad at it," he said. "The first time, the engineer had to come in and help me finish the show."

Over 18 months, he used that time to hone his on-air personality with no pressure since virtually nobody was  listening. (He had to convince friends to call in.)

Jean Ross, news director at WAOK/WVEE, heard about him and called him five years ago to fill in for Derrick Boazman on WAOK, then Mo Ivory, then Lorraine Jacques-White. (Ross said Ivory recommended him because she knew his work with the Georgia Democratic Party.) He was a sub for a year, then was given a weekend show. In 2014, the station replaced Sidney Wood with Richey from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Richey has kept that slot ever since.

On air, Richey comes off as passionate, a man with a mission but not overtly didactic or off putting. “He’s a really smart informed dude,” said Ski. “I often solicit his opinion on controversial issues because he always has an inside scoop!”

Ross said she immediately saw his “natural talent to engage with the listeners of WAOK on a higher level, especially when discussing politics. He is not afraid to challenge the listeners or fact check them on any subject.”

Steve Doerr, news director at CBS46, also had nothing but high praise for Richey's contributions to the newscast, noting he "knows the political landscape like nobody else. Not just the big things, but the nuances and the context that are so important in understanding politics in Georgia. His contributions go way beyond politics as he has a deep network of sources in government, law enforcement and pretty much everyplace else."

And Doerr appreciated that Richey is coachable.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to do live TV,” he wrote. “It looks easy, but once you get in the studio with the hot lights and the camera pointed at you things can get a little intense. From day one, Rashad worked on his new craft. He insists on hard critiques and is always working to get better. He’s witty and affable and very popular in the newsroom.”

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