All Real Radio: elevating the power of ownership and space for our voices
Deniz Lopez and Risky Cereal. Photo courtesy of All Real Radio.

If improving your mind, body and/or spirit health were on your New Year’s resolution list, or supporting community, trying something new, or committing to social justice, here’s one activity that can knock out all those promises you made to yourself to become a better you. And that’s by checking out All Real Radio (ARR).

If you’re already a listener, you already know. If not, get to know. As in, read on through this Defender exclusive interview with ARR’s co-founder Deniz Lopez and co-owner Andrew “Drew” Evans, aka Risky Cereal, to find out what they and their station are all about.

DEFENDER: Who gave birth to the idea of All Real Radio?

DENIZ LOPEZ: I think that Zin (All Real Radio founder and legendary DJ) for a long time wanted to have his own thing. That’s one of our pillars for the station, self-sustainability, creating for self. We don’t wait for somebody to give us the okay. We create our own lane. ARR was something that he saw the ability to do what he loved: music, highlighting people in the community and helping people. I remember having a conversation with him after Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice had been killed. I was interviewing him for a documentary that I was working on about names and why people change their names as they become enlightened. He said the slander that happens after police violence or vigilante violence happens to our young Black men is really troubling, and he asked, “How do we control the narrative? How do we make sure that if somebody tries to drag one of our loved ones after they’ve been murdered by an officer or somebody like that, that we change that narrative?” Form that we said, you’ve got to create your own independent media. That really solidified our relationship to create ARR. But, I think it was something that he wanted to do anyway, and he just needed to find someone to say, “Let’s do it.” It was a lot of work, and a lot of research, but, we made it happen.

The late DJ Zin

DEFENDER: Risky, when did you step into the doors of ARR?

RISKY CEREAL: Zin was my homeboy. He was at KPFT doing that thing. I was managing musicians and doing other music stuff. We just clicked. I remember when he obtained AllRealRadio.com. I watched them work and get the radio station off the ground. I was doing other things, but we always touched base. And after he passed away, Deniz talked to me about general managing the station. We had this conversation and it just made sense and it worked and it’s just interesting to me how our lives (Zin and I) are so alike, even down to the same birthday. And now, I’ve become a co-owner of the station he started. To hear all the things Deniz says about him, it’s a big shoe to step into because he was truly a community person. And the station is a community station. That’s something I always have to keep in my mind. What would Zin do?

DEFENDER: What makes ARR different from other stations?

DENIZ LOPEZ: I always think about just real talk. A lot of times when you have a station that’s owned by certain entities, certain things are off the table to discuss. And we definitely have our standards and things that we won’t allow, but overall, we’re not censored in the things that we discuss. I think that’s not always an easy thing to find in many other places because you have to think about who’s actually sponsoring you, which artists you’ve got to play over and over to make a certain quota. And because we own ARR, we’re the ones who decide those things.

Zin’s Ankh by Catherine Davila.

DEFENDER: What about programming?

DENIZ LOPEZ: We have about 10 shows right now, but it is a 24/7 radio station. You can listen anytime and it’s going to be some Hip-Hop, R&B, plus talk and a little bit more of everything else. People come to us sometimes who already have shows or podcasts, and we see if it’s a right fit for us. If so, they’ll join our lineup. There’s some people who have really created shows specifically for our platform. So, there is programming every day, and we are always looking for more talent and more people to add to the lineup.

DEFENDER: What about you two?

DENIZ LOPEZ: So, me and Drew are the hosts of the morning show now. It’s called “Tre Brew.” We haave a coffee product that goes alongside with our show. We’re the flagship show that comes on Monday through Friday from 9am to 11am central. You really get to hear what the founders or station leaders are all about and who we are. We bring on musicians, artists, a lot of activists, just people who are being active in the community and even all over the nation.

RISKY CEREAL: Yeah, the morning show is pretty interesting. It’s kind of funny because it’s just us talking. We have different subjects we discuss, but we go from our own angle on it. And again, we are not censored, so we can talk about what we want to. And we have a lot of local guests come on. If we know of someone doing something good or interesting, we’re going to try to get them on.

DEFENDER: Where do people go to tune in to ARR?

DENIZ LOPEZ: There’s a couple of ways. They can go to our website, AllRealRadio.com. If you’re at work and want to open up a tab, our player sits right on the homepage. You can also download our app so you can take it on your phone, wherever you go. You go into whatever your play store is, and search “All Real Radio.” You can actually program Alexa to play us as well. So, there’s a couple different ways to listen.

DEFENDER: In addition to tuning in, how can people support ARR?

DENIZ LOPEZ: When people want to financially support us, we tell them look at marketing opportunities with us. If you have a product, just reach out to us. We also have a CashApp. We are not a nonprofit. We are a for-profit organization. We usually take donations for specific projects and things like that. We figure out a way that makes sense.

DEFENDER: Favorite all real radio moment

RISKY CEREAL: When the 1,000-pound ankh was erected by Catherine Davila. Me and Deniz, we brained it up with her. And we put this ankh there on that corner in remembrance of Zin and all the fallen people in that area. It’s like a key. It’s an energy portal right there. We also did it because we know that that community is being gentrified at a high rate. So that’s something that’s going to stand. And thank you to Project row Houses that paid for the project to happen. The station isn’t even there anymore (2500 block of Holman St., 77004), but the ankh is there.

DENIZ LOPEZ: There has been so many moments. But if it’s not us doing our show and I happen to be there when one of our other broadcasters is there and they’re into it, they’re having a good time, they’re interviewing people, I always love it when they come up with a certain way to say, “Tune in to All Real Radio” or “You’re listening to All Real Radio,” I just love that. It just makes me feel like we actually created something, that we created a space, we created safety, we created room for people to be able to be themselves, to express themselves. So, my broadcasters, when we have great synergy and all those things, that really stands out to me.

DEFENDER: What about upcoming projects?

RISKY CEREAL: We want to bring jobs to the community and other places. Everybody’s not going to a be an on-air host. There are some people that are really good at sales and they can come with us and be part of this team and make some money for themselves and their family and the community. We have a global reach.

DENIZ LOPEZ: We’ve been blessed by a couple of grants, and we are still self-funded in a big way. We have also started to get the things so that we can live broadcast remotely again. So, I’m looking forward to the shows traveling a little bit. I know with our morning show, we’re going to be traveling to different places outside of Houston, just so that people know our format and we can highlight some of the people that we know who are not necessarily in the city. Just developing some other programming to happen within the space. And, I’m going to put a garden up like we had in our original space. That’s some things I’m looking forward to in this coming year, just watching it grow, our listenership grow. That’s always the big goal.

RISKY CEREAL: Also too, we’re going to do the smudge. Zin and Deniz, they did the smudge before Zin passed away and I believe the smudge afterwards, as well. It’s going to be a festival. We’re going to put it together, bigger and better. We want it to be annual.

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