Tyrese: 'I am committed to speaking uncomfortable truth'

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Last week a Delaware radio station owner and program director had R&B singer, actor and recent author Tyrese Gibson thrown out of the station and banned from its airwaves.

Immediately after an unrehearsed commentary and challenge to the radio audience regarding a trip to a liquor store across the street from a local elementary school, the DJ doing the interview informed Tyrese that he would not be introducing any new music and in fact had to leave the station.

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Tony Q, the owner of the largest hip-hop station in Delaware stated in a letter posted on the station’s website that Gibson used the term homey, which “downgraded” his audience and this was not going to be tolerated.

Since the incident Q, has stated that his ban would continue until he received an apology from the singer. Further more rumors are spreading that station owner is on a campaign to get other PD’s not to play Tyrese’s new music. However, that rumor has not been confirmed. TheGrio spoke with Tyrese to get his side of the story and talk about the larger issue of artists who decide to speak out about social and political issues they care about.

theGrio: So what really happened before you got to the radio station?

Tyrese Gibson: I support and work with an organization called Communities In Schools (CIS), so they identified an elementary school in Delaware where the kids have been doing great work. I was scheduled to visit the school as a surprise to the kids for all they had been doing. We were driving up from D.C. where I had been for a book and album release event and I was exhausted. I needed to stop for a Pepsi to give me some energy and as I went into this store across the street from the school, I noticed that every isle was filled with liquor. Wall to wall alcohol.

Did you say anything to the store owner or talk about it at the school?

No, I was focused on speaking to the kids, but I was processing what I had just seen. A liquor store across the street from kids going to school. I thought about the elements that those kinds of stores attract, and it was not till I got to the station that it just popped.

So what did you actually say on air?

I told them what I saw and then I challenged them. I said how can you let someone come into your city, your community and just do anything. I told them don’t let anyone come onto your block to hurt you. That we need to be protecting our kids, and not putting them in danger.

So did the DJ stop you at any point and try to get you back on the subject of movies, music, or celebrity?

No…we went to commercial, he got called out of the studio to take a call, came back and told me we were done. That they were not playing my music and that I had to get out of the studio.Did you have any negative history in Delaware?

No, They were actually showing love for “Stay” and “XXX”, the first two releases from the new project.

The producer said that you used terminology that was offensive to the community and listening audience.

Man, I am from Watts, have traveled all over the world, and have never seen anyone look sideways because somebody called them homey. I don’t know what kind of urban audience he claims to care about, but if this were the reason he was upset, it would prove that he is even more disconnected than he actually is. How can you be mad about anyone talking about defending kids from alcohol?

Everyone has not read your book, nor do they know your personal story. Why is this such a sensitive issue and one that you are so passionate about?

Part of the reason I wrote How To Get Out Of Your Own Way, was because I knew I wanted to help people move passed some of the real stuff that almost got me as a kid. I was raised by a mother addicted to alcohol. I know what it feels like to come home to that and it is nothing I want to see any kid have to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong, when responsible adults drink there is nothing wrong that. But when you have liquor marts like this they attract an element that can be dangerous to elementary school kids. I will never apologize for talking about that, it is not a Delaware problem, it is happening in too many places that poor people live in.

So what happens next? Where does this go from here?

Look, I am an artist. I went back into the studio because my fans said we love the movies, but we want to hear your music. This is the best music I have made in my career, so on November 1st I want people to buy this CD and I am not ashamed to ask because I put all of me into this.

This is not the same as Kanye saying President Bush hates black people, but what do you think about artists and entertainers taking a stand?

I think it has to be honest. I was not trying to spark a movement; I was speaking truth, which we should all be bold enough to do. Look, I am committed to speaking the uncomfortable truth. I do it when I tweet; I did it in my book, because I do it in my life.

I don’t need the support of this guy. And I wont stop speaking my mind. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. I am standing. Kids should not be forced to deal with the environment a liquor bank creates.