• EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re out and about any given day in Indiana and the surrounding communities, chances are you’ve seen Anthony Frazier. Outside of his job at the courthouse, Frazier is active in outreach and connecting people, through his photography, music and worship. He also produces and hosts “Acoustic Hour with Anthony Frazier” on 1160 WCCS, which has been on the air for almost two decades. A volunteer for countless events and fundraisers, Frazier has been nominated several times for the Leader’s Circle Male Civic Leader Award. Gazette staffer Heather Carlson recently sat down with Frazier to talk about a number of topics including his faith and his role as a community activist.
Question: You have quite a résumé of contributions to the Indiana community. How do you find time for everything that you do?
Answer: Invitation. The word is invitation. I learned that a long time ago, that the key to connecting us is through invitation. Through invitation, what I enjoy. I enjoy the good things, I enjoy being around people, I enjoy relationships … I see the bad stuff. I experienced the bad stuff; I know what discrimination is, I know what racism is, I know what being talked down to means, and it’s not a great feeling. And I can go around fighting, but I’m not a confronting person. “You know what, that’s the way you act; you’re going to act that way, here’s what I’m going to do to balance it.” So I look for ways to keep me balanced, and there are a lot of ways in this community to do that. A lot of wonderful things are happening, there are great people doing stuff. I get invited to so many different events, and I’m drawn to those events because it helps me because they’re blessings. I do a lot of music with some of the retirement homes. I go there because I enjoy being around those folks; they enjoy being around me. And it’s not a competition. I play competitive sports. I see the place for competitiveness, but that’s not what’s going to get us along. What’s going to get us along is working together. And I don’t care what your political party is, I don’t care what your religious background is — it means nothing. You have two hands, I have two hands; we can work together. Our four hands are much stronger than my one hand. If I was drowning, I’m not going to say, “Hey, I need a Democrat or a Republican” or “Are you gay or are you straight?” “Are you Muslim?” You need a hand. And we need to get past all the craziness and look at the connectedness. I stay connected.
Question: You’re deeply involved in the religious community in the area. Do you belong to a specific house of worship, or do you make it a point to attend different ones?
Answer: That’s an interesting question because I grew up Catholic. Whenever we grew up, the only religion was Catholic. And I remember remarking to my mother, we were in a car and I was a young kid, I said, “What’s that building over there?” She said, “That’s a church.” I said, “That’s a Catholic church?” and she said no. I said, “What kind of church is it?” and she didn’t say. And I thought, “I thought there was only Catholic church.” I didn’t know there was any other church; it was just Catholic church. And now I moved more away from the Catholic religion and consider myself more a Christian. I was sitting in church — in a Pentecostal church ... and I asked God, “What do you want me to do? Where am I supposed to be?” … In these last few decades, I have been going around to different churches, and I have seen some different religions, from Mennonite to Seven-day Adventist to Baptist to Fundamentalist, the whole gamut. I had no idea of the vastness of it.
What was shown to me is that we are more alike than we’re different. I have a twin brother who is actually a pastor in a church. As a worship person, I don’t deal with the political or the administrative stuff in the different churches. I get invited to different churches (on) different Sundays. “Can you come here and sing?” “Our worship team is out, can you do this?” So I’m constantly going around, and there’s an upside to that. It’s exciting, new and challenging. There’s a downside: You can’t establish — you’ll see someone and then three weeks later you don’t see them. So it’s different from seeing them every week versus every three weeks. So that’s the downside — there’s an interruption in continuity with people. … And I see, also, for lack of a better word … “boxes” that people are in. They’re in these boxes. This group does not interact with that group. And talk about segregated, oh my gosh, it’s all over. I have friends at different churches that will not communicate with each other. And I go, “But I communicate with both of you.” It’s interesting. … I take people at face value. My issue is I’m not going to judge you. And I’m going to treat you as a person, you treat me as a person and we’re going to be level that way. I’m not going to take my faith and beat you over the head with it. I’m not gonna do that. It’s just an interesting thing to see.
I think God is directing me to bring people together. People always say, “Oh, Anthony, you did a great job.” What I hear in my head is, “We had fun together. We did a great job. We sang the songs we like.” I don’t hear “I”; I hear “we.” So when I hear “me,” I’m really reinforcing it’s you and it’s us. Each one of us contributes so much, and we gotta do a better job … let’s get past the stupid stuff and get into what matters: lifting people up, paving the road for young people, helping the elderly, fixing stuff that’s broken, building up what had been broken down, and stop spreading toxic stuff. And that’s us. That’s what we can do. That’s what I try to do. I don’t know how long I’m going to be on this earth, but as long as I am I’m going to keep doing that.
Question: Your contributions as a photographer, entertainer and fundraiser for various events and organizations in the community are all primarily volunteer work on your part. Why?
Answer: That’s a great question, because I don’t know why. The answer is simply I think I’m just called to do it. And I think we’re all called in different ways to do things. I’m just doing what I believe I’m called to do. And there are sacrifices with that; you’re out and running ’til 10, 11 o’clock at night, you can’t develop relationships because you’re over here, you’re here. So there’s a downside to that. But the upside to it is the greater good. The greater good is that through all the photography, the music, whatever that is, it’s all bringing people back to something good. That’s all I’m doing. And I’m not doing anything spectacular, I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done before. Others are doing it too. We have in this region some amazing photographers … and what amazes me about their photography, believe it or not, isn’t their skill — it’s what they’re taking a picture of and what they capture. Because they’re able to freeze that goodness, that high, that importance, that moment, that smile, that energy that we all want and we all thrive of. The photography is one way to do that.
Music is another way. When you hear that song and it stops you and you start singing along. All these different skills and talents that we have — they’re all gifts, and it’s up to us to use them. So I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to use the photography, the music, and all these different things. I think it’s just through a calling, and I think we all are called — and I don’t mean necessarily religiously called. We all have that inner voice saying, “I need to do this.” This is why some people do more outreach than others, and this is why some people donate their time more than others. This is why some people work in environments that you would think, “I’d never do that,” because you’re not called to do it. So I think when you hear that inner voice, that inner voice tells you, “You wanna do that,” you do it and you don’t ask for anything. It’s all right when people donate stuff back to you, but more important, you do it because you’re called to do it. And I think I’m being called to do it, and I’m blessed for it.
I’ve had the community nominate me several times for the (Male Civic Leader Award), which is the craziest thing for me, because I go, “It ain’t about me. You’re making a mistake looking at me.” I tell folks in worship, “If you leave thinking about me, then you’re missing what we’re talking about. It’s not about me, it’s about us.” From early on … when I was young, I was sitting on the floor watching when the kids were starving in Ethiopia, and I said, “I gotta help those kids.” And my mother said, “Do you know where that’s at?” I said no. I said, “I gotta go there,” and she said, “Do you know how to get there?” and I said no. Didn’t know, but I just knew I had to do something. And so if you can’t get there and help, help where you are, and that’s what I’m trying to do. If I move to Clymer, if I move to Virginia … I will be doing the exact same things that I’m doing here, exactly. And that’s how you know that you’re on the right path.
I’ve been encouraging and helping people all my life, mentoring people. And I love being mentored to. I love the value of mentoring, of teaching, of learning, of growing, all those things. I don’t have much patience with folks who know it all and folks who are the smartest in the room; I can’t be around them, because they’re not the smartest. No one is the smartest; we’re all contributors to this. Don’t forget to be encouraged to be a blessing for someone. Don’t forget that, because you just never know who that person is listening and watching and you’re missing. It’s up to us.
Question: Your 9-to-5 is at the courthouse in IT. Prior to that, you worked as a social worker. Why the change?
Answer: When I was in social work, I loved the work. I fell into that and enjoyed it and became a specialist in it. And again, go back to what I was saying earlier about, you will wind up doing what you’re called to do, regardless of what environment you’re in. And I wound up doing the same thing, I wound up becoming a specialist. (I was asked), “Do you want to work with troubled youth?” I was like, “What are troubled youth?” … Guess what? There’s no such thing as troubled youth. They’re youth with troubles. I learned early on, these are regular kids who just have problems making decisions, conflict resolution, relationships, abuse, violence. So let’s look at it a little differently. You’re not a troubled youth, you’re a youth with troubles.
So I began changing the way we treat the youth. And I mean treatment, because treatment was based punitively, because you are a bad kid and you need to be punished. That’s treatment; that’s what it used to be. But we changed it. I became certified in reality therapy and learned that we all have basic needs, which we all knew. We’re all individuals; we all have pictures of what we think, but the world gives us something different so we act to try to make it match what we think. I said, “Wait a minute, how are we treating kids?” “Well, we’re treating kids as bad. We’re treating kids as the behavior versus the kid. So why don’t we treat the kid as the kid and teach him or her how to manage their behavior better?” Novel thought.
In the systems back then it was the complete opposite. The therapist was the one you listened to: “Do what I say and your life will be better.” … You flip it around and say, “Yeah, you can run away and steal cars. You can do all the things you wanna do. Is that what you want in your life?” “Not really, that’s what I’ve learned to do.” And we always rely on what we learned to do. So I learned how to change that. Loved the work, but here’s what happened. All of a sudden, medication came in. And now agencies saw a way to actually make money. When I started … one or two kids were on some type of medication. When I left, every single kid was on medication.
I moved out of that environment. … I was really getting into technology because I wanted to reach out to communities around the country to see how they were dealing with the gangs and the hate groups. I was a little ahead of the game back then. I said, “We need to connect with other agencies. I want to find out how they’re doing with this, that and the other,” so then I moved into technology so I left the juvenile field, which was sad because I really enjoyed that work. I moved into the technology field still in the juvenile field because I was working at the guidance center with the same people, but on a technology side. And I would see them struggling with the same things that I had talked about. So I was very comfortable with it, but I was not a counselor anymore; I was a technician. I was developing the same skills, helping — I wanted to help, and technology came along, I got interested in it, and I use that to help, and that’s what I’m doing now.
Question: You produce and host Acoustic Hour on the radio, and have for the last 18-19 years. What’s that been like?
Answer: I saw that there was a need; back in the day when I was developing websites I said, “Why isn’t the radio station doing more local and … acoustic?” The websites are very bland and dry. I said, “Why don’t do something a little bit more encouraging and involving?” I got the account to the 1160 website back in the day. As I was working on that venue and the music, they all came together when they moved up to (Philadelphia Street). I was able to just pull it all together.
It’s been wonderful. It’s been a lot of ups and it’s been a lot of downs. The ups have been meeting the most amazing, incredibly talented, exceptionally beautiful, encouraging folks, young and older, and I get a chance to interview them. And I’ve always wanted a front-row seat to music, and here I am hosting a radio show. … We’ve had Emmy Award-winners on the show, we’ve had national folks on the show, we’ve had folks as far away (as) Italy, from all over the country. … We’ve done blues Sunday shows, we’ve had women acoustic artists, men acoustic artists, blues artists, country artists, Christian artists, jazz artists, we’ve had them all. Anything that uplifts, encourages, we’ve had on the show. That’s the upside.
The downside: It’s been a sacrifice, obviously. It’s technically volunteer. So even though I work at the station, I don’t really work at the station. It’s volunteer work and I’ve been doing it for 18 years.
Question: You’re very much into photography, and it could be said that you may have taken more pictures of Indiana Countians than anyone other than the Gazette staff here. When did you realize that you had a love of photography?
Answer: When I was a little kid. I was probably 8, and we were at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., and we had gone out and a photographer came; we had film back then and we didn’t know how to use it, and the guy was mentoring us and showing us how. … There’s a big rock fountain there … it looked like a giant Payday, but it was rocks. So the rocks were the peanuts. I always loved this park. The water was off, so we would go inside the lip of it and put our hands up on the side and take pictures of us playing inside this fountain. Loved it. We went back — I can still smell the chemicals — and developed it, and then the hands appeared … loved it! What was it about that? I was drawn to that, but I moved away from it. And then back in the earlier days of the radio show I got back involved with it. I had been shooting before but nothing as consistent. Got involved with it, and it became something. I started using it as a ministry: What can I do with this camera? … It became a ministry: Capture the good and the God. That’s what I’ve been doing. I try to capture that.
I didn’t realize what I was doing … and now the love of photography has brought me back to what I did when I was a kid. But now it’s full circle, because now I understand it’s not about taking the picture; it’s about capturing what’s out there and sharing that picture. Taking the picture’s the easy part, but then capturing it and sharing it with others — you want to share the best of it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I call it Walking Photography on my Facebook page.
I’ve worked with the Gazette folks … I see my role as different from theirs. In terms of the news, you have to report. You can’t pick and choose. … you have to go and report that, you have to get that picture, you have to do that story; that’s important. I, as a citizen … I can pick and choose. ...
I just think we can do more, and I try to use that camera that I have as a way of doing that. And I hope I have, I really hope I have. … I capture what’s there and share that. And that’s the beauty of it. People say, “Oh, that’s a great shot.” Well, it’s there; I just capture it. I don’t mind the credit, but the credit shouldn’t stop at me. Take that picture and let it inspire you to do what you need to do. And if it mentors you, if it speaks to you, if it encourages you, then that is the beauty. That’s what I want. And I’ve wanted to reach people from when I was a little kid. I wanted to help, and that’s what I’m doing with photography, through music … nothing has changed. Like I said, if they pick you up and drop you over there, and you’re doing the same thing, then that’s what you’re called to do. And when we don’t make it about us, and you make it about that inner voice, that thing that’s telling you, “I haven’t done that in 20 years; I’m going to start doing that,” that’s what I’m talking about. That’s the encouraging piece.
Question: What would you say has been most rewarding to you?
Answer: To see people succeed and to be a part of making it better. That’s rewarding. I don’t ask for much, I don’t demand much, but I just think we can do more. And we’re kind of off track … so we have to stop and fix the track and get people back on track. And there are all different tracks; not the track I want, but different tracks. That’s how I see it: If I can stop and fix the track and help someone get back on the path they need to be on, that is rewarding.
I work with Celebrate Recovery programs and these young kids, and there are kids I work with and then two weeks later they’re dead. So you go, “Do you know how precious it is that you’re here?” So the opportunity for someone to say thank you very much and “This helped me through this,” that’s the kind of stuff that’s rewarding to me. It’s helping.
Anthony Frazier, at a glance
Job: Data management specialist
Where I grew up: Washington, D.C.
Just how tall are you, by the way? 6-foot-7
Hobbies: Photography, reading, biking, swimming, music, social gatherings
Favorite food: Chinese
Songs/artists you’d find on my playlist: I’m pretty eclectic: Christian contemporary, classic, jazz, folk, indie, original, musicians such as Harry Chapin, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder — I really enjoy story songs, lyric songs.
Favorite books: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou; “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
Favorite way to spend a day: Outside in the park
Life goal: To continually help people and be the best that I can be in terms of how can I better serve and do whatever I do
Person/people who most inspired me: Person who inspired me was my grandmother; people who inspire me now: the people I see making it through, exemplifying the strength in our humanity; someone overcoming ridiculous, impossible odds or doing something and not taking credit for it