The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Roshaun Davis: Creating Unforgettable Experiences

Roshaun Davis, City College alumnus and co-owner of Unseen Heroes. (photo: Ryan Angel Meza/[email protected])

The streets around the Oak Park triangle hummed with food stalls in the summer of 2017 at an event called Gather. People smiled, ate, danced with their children, enjoying the warm Sacramento night. Underneath the joy of the event was the radical idea, fostered by Unseen Heroes — a Sacramento-based event marketing business based in the two-story triangle-shaped building on the northern corner of Broadway and 35th Avenue — that those present needed each other. 

Roshaun Davis and his crew at Unseen Heroes, an events marketing company, made Gather happen. Davis is a City College alumnus with a degree in journalism. He went on to earn a bachelor’s of arts in journalism from Sacramento State in 2008 before starting Unseen Heroes with his wife, Maritza Davis.

Window displays on the street level of Unseen Heroes’ brick and mortar show art and clothing, each accompanied by a scannable QR code. Window shoppers can scan to safely shop and learn more about the items in each display. The location is where Unseen Heroes organized Display California, a marketplace for items made in California.

 “We changed the name to UHQ. It was just Unseen Heroes Headquarters, where we held Display California for a long time. We’ve come back into this space, and we’ve truly used it as our headquarters to not only work, but to launch our different ideas and concepts,” Davis said. “Outside of our space, we decked the space out. Now it’s … like our living project. This [space] is our artistic interpretation, and we’re moving more into that direction.”

The enterprise Davis has built in Unseen Heroes started in the same classrooms City College students may be able to enter once more before the end of 2021. Davis enrolled in classes at City College in 2000, which he freely admitted he carelessly abandoned. He returned in 2002 to complete an associate degree in journalism with a focus on communications.

“I went for like, a semester. was like ‘college, smallege. College isn’t for me.’ I spent more time in the quad at Sac City during that go-round than I did in class,” Davis said. “I left, and then had a son and was like, ‘What am I doing with my life? I need to go to college. Why did I even step out in the first place?’”

The birth of Davis’s first son in 2002 awoke a new hunger in him to better his mind and his life.

“After I looked at him, I was like, ‘I need to do something better with my life. And I’m going to tell him to go to college. I can’t tell him to go to college if I didn’t go to college. Let’s start this journey,’” Davis said. “And then that’s when I started Sac City again. I was actually on the paper. I was cleaning my garage over the pandemic, and I came across all my tearsheets.”

While Davis was a staff writer for The Express, the student-run newspaper was still exclusively printed in physical form. His advisers at the time were current Vice President of Instruction Ginny McReynolds and Dianne Heimer, a journalism professor who retired in 2019. Davis credits McReynolds’ lessons of real-life communication and conflict resolution as a major influence on his inner growth.

“When I think about all my college career, she was like one of the main people that really shaped who I am today. It changed my whole life,” he said. “I was living these things that I couldn’t really put words to. She was like, ‘Oh, what you’re going through is conflict, [which] has a downward spiral,’ And it was just like ‘that’s the stuff I’m dealing with at home right now! It makes so much sense! That’s the language for that.’ That was one of the main things that allowed me to kind of express myself more.”

McReynolds, who taught speech and journalism at the time, remembered Davis as a student with something special in him that couldn’t be contained. The two first crossed paths in a speech class where McReynolds said Davis gave an unforgettable and entertaining speech that instructed men how to rid themselves of an unwanted romantic attachment.

“He was my student first in a public speaking class, then later on The Express. I remember that he gave this really great how-to speech about how to get your girlfriend to break up with you. It was, of course, really just self-effacing. It was ‘say that you’ll call and really don’t call,’ all the things we all do in relationships, but he had turned it around in this funny way which is,” McReynolds paused, chuckling then sighing “ridiculous, but the idea is that he really had creativity.”

In public speaking classes, McReynolds noticed that it can be difficult to get students comfortable enough with themselves and their speech to be creative and at ease in front of people. 

“They’re thinking, ‘Jesus, all I want to do is get through this class.’ When somebody does something really creative in one of those classes, it’s like…” Here McReynolds raises her hands, fingers wide in excitement. “It was funny and entertaining, but also he didn’t want the girl to break up with him. It was just heartfelt and great. I knew that guy had something great in there. That’s your job as a teacher, to find what people have and help them see it.”

At the time he was absorbing new and exciting philosophical revelations in his communications classes, Davis was 20 years old in a relationship with a woman two years younger. He said the birth of his son introduced challenges into a relationship already rife with new dynamics proved to be a lot to balance.

“I was 20 with a kid, and that’s a lot. And she was 18,” Davis said. “So you’re going through the growth of a 20- and an 18-year-old, then you add a kid to the mix, learning everything that I [had] learned, and then we broke up. So then there was that inside of there, too.”

As Davis looks back on the nearly 20 years of experience since his first communications class, he said he knew he wanted to be better for his son.

“One of the main things that I just always stuck to since I had my son—he just turned 19 a couple days ago—I credit him a lot for opening my eyes and wanting to go back to college,” said Davis. “Because before that, I really didn’t. So with him, all the juggling that I had to do—all the struggling that I had to do—made it worth it. There was a lot of times when I just wanted to give up. I was like, ‘What am I taking this political science class for? What am I taking this math class for?’ [He] was always one of those things that kept me going.”

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During the millennial era of The Express, staff worked under the guidance of two advisers. As co-adviser of The Express, Heimer described Davis as a good writer and a curious reporter. She called him a “man with an indomitable spirit.” She said she’s followed the community work he and his wife have built through Unseen Heroes and isn’t surprised by what she’s seen.

“When Roshaun was in our journalism program in the early 2000s, he had a spark that suggested a greater fire within,” Heimer said. “He has used these skills to invest in Oak Park, in Sacramento, and in California, giving back in a rich and caring way.

Heimer said Roshaun has taken the writing, marketing and design skills gained through his education and used them to instill value in gathering people as a community to celebrate each other.

“That is who Roshaun is: a big-hearted man. What Roshaun and his wife are doing through Unseen Heroes is impassioned social justice,” Heimer said. “I’m so proud that Roshaun has used his skills for bringing our communities together.”

Davis foundd inspiration to persevere with his studies by altering how he perceived the work required to succeed, as impactful and not a struggle. He said he made connections with peers an essential part of staying engaged..

“I’m an air sign, so I like to talk a lot. Making friends in class became my thing,” said Davis. “I found these ways to move around this idea of ‘having to do it,’ and changing my perspective into ‘getting to do it.’ And then I started meeting friends and that allowed for beautiful relationships from that and growth from that. I didn’t really stick in the field, but some of them did. You see the growth, and it’s cool.”

Since the pandemic began, social distancing restrictions placed on businesses have resulted in a necessity for change, according to Davis. Before businesses were called upon to close their doors to customers who might otherwise patronize them in person, Unseen Heroes operated out of two spaces. In order to maintain stability in business, Davis said they had to consolidate into one space.

“The pandemic has taught us a lot about pausing and not reacting, but moving forward in a way that is more authentic to ourselves,” he said. “On the business end, we had an office and a storefront in Oak Park. We [have consolidated] before, but then we grew out of the space. We thought bigger was better at that time.”

But the pandemic hasn’t slowed down Davis and his team. he Unseen Heroes website only shows a third of the projects he and his team are involved in. He said his team has focused on showing present and potential clients more of what Unseen Heroes is working on and how they can bring a new angle to marketing.

“Right now, we’re focused on truly restructuring who we are, what we do and how we do it,” said Davis. “Part of our name is being unseen about it. We just do it and make [our clients] look good. By doing, we show who we are.”

Over the next several months, Davis said the displays at UHQ will change to fit that month’s theme. In honor of Black History Month, Unseen Heroes launched a concept they’re calling “Melanin.”

“All of the art [in this work space] is based off of this idea of melanin. We’ve teamed up with different black creators, whether it be videographers, photographers, artists,” he said. “It’s like a blank canvas for us to have this conversation about melanin and to do it during a very pivotal time during Black History Month, then talk about what America got wrong about race, about melanin, about culture, all in this way of our art and music and fashion and technology.”

Davis described the next series of themes Unseen Heroes will explore in the months to come. March, for example, is women’s history month around the concept of strength.

“There’s always been this idea that men are the strong ones and women are the weak ones. We’re going to talk about what America got wrong about strength,” Davis said, outlining future themes. “Restore [will be next], which will launch right around the time when the world shut down last year. During this pandemic, that was a point for you to actually go inside and restore yourself. After Restore, it’s Freedom. That’s for Juneteenth, but [it will] also [be] during Pride. We’re gonna have this conversation and this artistic interpretation of what freedom means and what does it mean to be free to be yourself?” 

Community college is one place to explore freedom, allowing people to build a foundation of skills, knowledge and means to discover themselves, Davis said. The exposure to new theories and experiences provides developing young minds a chance to expand and grow.

“If you can just recognize you’re in the right space—you’re where you’re supposed to be; you’re learning you more—you’ll get way more out of the experience than just trying to stick to what someone else created as a four-year pathway or two-year pathway, or whatever pathway it is.

“Community college [is] where you truly get to explore. The first time around, I had it right. I felt like it was wrong, but it truly was. I didn’t want to be there at the time. I needed to explore myself more,” he said. “I didn’t know what I know now, which is that’s OK. It’s OK to take a class and not finish it if it doesn’t ring true to you. Be OK with dropping it and trying another one or just seeing it through and then trying another class next semester. There’s not a real timeline to when you have to graduate.”

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    Davis LFeb 27, 2021 at 9:55 am

    One of your most enjoyable reads, Mr Rafter. Mr Davis has a wonderful outlook on life and a fabulous personality. Thanks for the introduction