A SINGER-songwriter who entertained residents in Uttoxeter and around the world during the UK lockdown has returned to the town after receiving devastating news in May.
Raphael Tate became stranded in Uttoxeter when the coronavirus pandemic triggered a UK-wide lockdown in March. Staying with friends in the town, Raphael used his talent to host a series of garden concerts, entertaining neighbours and viewers on Facebook.
But in May, Raphael returned to his family in the United States, after the heart-breaking news that his beloved mother, Patricia Ann (Lloyd) Tate-Graham, had passed away.
Raphael said: “I was in Uttoxeter when I got the call from my brother. My mom had been watching the garden parties on Facebook and I’d sent her a package including a copy of an interview I’d done in the Uttoxeter Echo. My mom had a saying she lived by – ‘if I can help somebody as I travel along the way then my living is not in vain’ – that’s what inspired the garden concerts.
“I spoke to her on May 11 and 12, asking if she’d received it yet, but it was still in the post. We talked about the garden parties and she asked me to send two of my songs that she really loved, Jealous and Shallow. She said she was proud of me and she was commenting on Facebook and YouTube which was kind of unusual for her – it was out of the ordinary.
“I didn’t speak to her during the day on May 13, but it was 4am on the 14th I got the call that she had passed away. The package I’d sent was unopened on the table. It was a big shock. I knew she was under a lot of pressure working from home and not being able to see all of our family, but she wasn’t sick at all. She was enjoying her smoothies and working out.
“I guess I did have the opportunity to say goodbye, but I didn’t know it was going to be goodbye forever.”
One of 12 children, Raphael, who usually lives in Cyprus, immediately flew to Washington DC, to join his family, but in the midst of a global pandemic, restrictions on visiting different households made it hard for the family to grieve together.
Raphael added: “It was a very difficult thing to do – every step toward the plane hurt. My body just crunched up because I didn’t want to face the reality that my mom was gone. It was strange and difficult to be there in that time with the pandemic, trying to lay my mom to rest, give her an honourable burial – even that was difficult to do in these times. We had social distancing and there were different laws about people gathering and restrictions on people attending funerals. I have 10 brothers and sisters, so that was a bit crazy.”
Patricia, who was born on March 8, 1953 and died May 13 2020, single-handedly raised her 11 children and leaves a legacy of 26 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Less than a fortnight later, as the family tried to come to terms with Patricia’s sad passing, a distant cousin to Raphael and his family, George Floyd, died after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Video footage showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for more than seven minutes until Mr Floyd became unresponsive. His death sparked protests across America and saw the Black Lives Matter movement gain support across the world. New bodycam footage of Mr Floyd’s death emerged this week. The recordings are part of a criminal case against four police officers in Minnesota.
Raphael said: “George was a Tate on his mother’s side, he wasn’t a close cousin, and while I was aware of what had happened to him, I couldn’t think about it at first. Then when I watched the video it basically felt like it was just another day for a black man in America. It was traumatising, but it’s not just that video. It’s all the other cases we see all the time.
“My brothers and I took my niece to North Carolina. It was a six hour drive and we got pulled over by a Caucasian police officer. My brother is a police officer, but all we got was aggression because he’d been over the speed limit and it took a while for this man to believe my brother was a cop.
“When he let us go on our way we were all so relieved, it could easily have turned ugly. It was just another day of being a black man in America, to feel despised, hated and unwanted – an undesirable. I’m 6’5” and 250lbs, so on first impressions I can be taken for a threat, so I make sure to show I’m extra nice – I have to over-compensate for that.
“This is the way you feel and that’s the reason I travel. I don’t feel comfortable or safe in America, so to have this exposed and to see support for black lives from all over the world was very encouraging. When I’m in Europe or the UK I don’t worry about anything like that.
“Uttoxeter is a very welcoming place. I’ve never felt uncomfortable, never felt displaced. I’ve been welcomed everywhere with love. The people I’ve found here are a blessing and it is somewhere I consider to be a home away from home.”
Raphael is planning to return to his home in Cyprus later this summer, so he can take some time to grieve privately, but then hopes to return to the UK to finish his upcoming EP.
He said: “At first I felt like I didn’t want to do this anymore, but about a month after my mom passed away a radio show played one of my songs and it reminded me why God gave me this gift and that my mom wanted me to enjoy this gift. I was also invited to audition for The Voice in America and I knew I needed to just keep going.
“I can’t get back into the studio yet because of the pandemic, but when I can I want to finish my record. I’m going to dedicate it to my mom and I’ve got some older songs that I’d like to re-record in her honour, they’re kind of encouraging and hopeful, especially one called ‘Every Day is Mother’s Day’ which BBC Radio Stoke played last week as a kind of tribute to her.
“My mom was my best friend. I have a few things I need to sort out here and then I’m going back to Cyprus for a little bit just to have a little time to process everything and make sure I’m ok before I get back to work.”
We are the only family run, independent newspaper and magazine business in Staffordshire, established 1896. We are home to three weekly newspapers – The Cheadle and Tean Times (aka The Stunner), The Uttoxeter Echo and The Leek & Moorlands Echo.
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