People of Sacramento commenting on the news: Roshaun Davis

Roshaun Davis, co-founder of Unseen Heroes
Roshaun Davis, co-founder of Unseen Heroes. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.

(This is the sixth installment in a weekly series with people who don’t work in journalism commenting on the news. Photography by Kevin Fiscus. If you’d like to participate, message or tweet me.)

Meet Roshaun Davis.

He’s 33, an Army brat who grew up in Sacramento, an MC in Righteous Movement, a Sacramento State graduate, a Broadway Triangle homeowner, a Sol Collective executive board member and co-founder of Unseen Heroes.

You’ve certainly come across his work. Roshaun and his wife/business partner Maritza created the team behind Prom Night at the Crocker Art Museum, the GOOD: street food + design market in Del Paso Heights, Gather in Oak Park, the re-imagined Midtown Farmers Market and Display.

The motto of Sacramento’s best sneaky event producers: “We Create Unforgettable Experiences Through Interactive Events.”

I met Roshaun in the fall of 2004 when he joined The Express at Sacramento City College to hone his skills in writing and design, and have followed his journey since. When it comes to Roshaun, it’s challenging to be objective. I root for him and everything he does. That includes his music. I’m listening to the Truth Arises in Search and URB Magazine Mixcast Hosted By TAIS mixtapes as I write this.


(In preparing this post, I’ve come across four excellent podcasts featuring interviews with Roshaun. You can hear how he and Maritza find new ways to engage the community in Creating Your Own Path with Jennifer E. Snyder; when Unseen Heroes became a full-time job in Serious Talk. Seriously with Johnny Flores; the story behind imaginary manager Shaun Williams in Black Talk Sacramento with Marichal J Brown, NSAA and Gerry Gos Simpson; and why he’s never become a beer fan in Hooks & Stone with Anthony Van Hook and Melody Stone.)

You see, I consider Roshaun to be a kind of spiritual advisor. He’s coached me through professional challenges and inspired me to channel my creative side. I can’t help but feel optimistic for our city when talking with him. I can see how much he’s grown from a student to a struggling musician to a community leader. He cares for the makers, provides a platform for the shapers and envisions it coalescing into something more.

My favorite TAIS lyric teases the simplicity and depth of his path:

I got my bachelor’s in journalism
master’s in ceremony
doctorate in rockin’ spots when I’m in your territory.

Roshaun was one of the first people who agreed to participate in this project and brought a critical eye to media consumption, the city of Sacramento and his observations on the news when we met up earlier this month at the Old Soul on Broadway.

His family came to the region during the early years of elementary school. They moved a lot (including stops in Kansas, Germany and Georgia) before returning for his middle school years. He’s lived in Pocket-Greehaven, Lincoln Village, Antelope, midtown, Tahoe Park, Natomas and now Oak Park.

He says Sacramento has grown up, become more mature. “Or is that just me?” he wonders. Leaders of change, those willing to take risks – he mentions Michael Thiemann of Mother and Ian and N’Gina Kavookjian of South – keep him going.

“Sacramento is developing its identity,” he says. “In other cities, you have to recreate. Here you can create.”

He recognizes the benefits of feeling like the little brother, in the shadow of world-class cities.

“People in bigger cities don’t work as hard as we do,” he says

A couple years ago, when Roshaun and Maritza were considering uprooting the family and taking Unseen Heroes elsewhere, a friend from London gave them a dose of reality. They didn’t appreciate what they had, she told them. They could build something here, hone it and create satellites if they wanted take the brand elsewhere.

“I love Sacramento,” he says. “It took me awhile. I’m not going to lie.”


Roshaun answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Q&A responses submitted April 10 and later updated June 20.

How do you get your news?
Honestly, I get most of my local and national news through word of mouth. I remember reading a book about successful time management that suggested filtering traditional news outlets through trusted people in your network and it has worked extremely well. If something major happens, and everyone in my network is talking about it, I can choose to tune into the conversation. If it isn’t something I should waste my time consuming, I usually don’t hear about it. It does take time establishing relationships with people I trust, but it is better than using my energy to hold on to meaningless news.

What’s the first news event you remember?
Wow. The first news event that I can remember… It would have to be the news of my baby sister being born. When that broke, my entire world changed. But seriously, it was the first time in my life that I heard information that changed my perception and brought a new level of awareness to my attention. It altered the state of how I knew things to be, and I think that is one of the core elements in news.

What content do you pay for?
I pay for content that is relevant to my lifestyle. If it speaks to what I am into and it is well communicated through visual and/or audio, I don’t mind paying for it.

I do get a hard copy of Success magazine, but all the rest are online or through the iPad.


What’s the last great thing you ate?
I recently took a trip to Los Angeles, and after hearing a few friends rave about it, I ate at Roy Choi’s restaurant called Chego!. It’s this small spot in Chinatown that has amazing Asian fuzion food. I ate a Kung Pau Noodle Bowl with Ooey Gooey Fries and my life hasn’t been the same since. They also get extra points from me because they had Wu-Tang playing when I walked through the door.

Who’s doing it right in news?
The Huffington Post. Fader Magazine. The Accidental Creative.

Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
I think the three most important issues facing Sacramento are: identity, voice, and smart growth.

We are approaching a pivotal point where some hard choices are going to have to be made in order for things to continue to develop in our region. We have to come to agreement on how we want to identify ourselves. Are we going to be known for having a state of the art arena, being an agricultural hotbed, or being a state/government hub?

Once that happens, we have to decide what are going to be our key reasons for attracting people to the region and amplify them through every industry. I think of a place like Austin, Texas, as a good example of doing it right. The city amplified the voice of being the live music capital of the world, and it is now considered the mecca of both live music and new trends in multiple industries. Each year that I go to SXSW I see things that don’t make national news until months after they break at the conference.


Last, I think we have to grow smart and ask ourselves what are those industries that we have to grow in order to take care of the region as a whole. We have to look at Sacramento as a living and breathing entity. It’s never been just building and roads. It’s always been the people that live here. We have to start looking at things from a community perspective and grow from there. If we nurture the people that live here and make the city more lovable, it increases the livability factor. That is what we try to do at Unseen Heroes. It’s more than just events. It’s more than just developing areas. It’s about continuing to push the threshold of love and pride for Sacramento because we know that it is energy that spreads like wildfire, and it inspires people to do the same.

What do you absolutely hate about the news?
I absolutely hate the whole idea of “if it bleeds it leads.” It’s old, out-dated, and as much as we all know it, the media sticks with it because it gets the most hits and it is what controls the energy of the masses.

The fact that most outlets are owned by the “Big Five” media conglomerates should be enough reason to stay away from them. But on a local level, most traditional media outlets have gotten too comfortable with what worked 30 or 40 years ago, and aren’t innovative. They never took the time to really understand where media is going and how the Internet would effect the flow of information because they never saw it as a factor.

The industry reminds me of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Unfortunately, when the Internet was making its way around the bend, most local news outlets were somewhere under a tree asleep. And now that the finish line is near, they are start to wake up to the idea that they are way behind.

What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
In Sacramento, I think the creative class gets overlooked constantly. I continue to meet some of the most amazing people in this city that have never been approached by any of the local media because they don’t know that they exist. I think that there is a huge disconnect between journalist and community because of the old model of reporting. It used to be that a press release had to be submitted to the outlet, pitched to an editor, assigned and then covered. Now, I can meet them, publish an article in our online magazine, place them at an event and collectively place them in front of over 50,000 people.

It also seems like most publications here tell the basic story of our creatives because it’s not amongst their main issues. So, when our stories do get told, it’s usually in the following way: “Meet Jim. He is a maker. Jim has a business.” If you live the creative lifestyle, you know that there is way more to the creative industry here in Sacramento. We have a large community of entrepreneurs, makers, artist, app developers, chefs, bartenders, districts, and developers, that are making huge impacts on our community at a level that publications don’t care to cover. And as long as that issue gets overlooked, we will continue to lose creatives to other cities that openly accept them and give them the attention that they deserve.

If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
I am always up for taking a trip to the ocean. There is a small unmarked beach off of the 101 that I always go to when I need a moment of solitude.


Follow Roshaun (@UnseenHeroes) on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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