Movin’ On From WPFW/Pacifica Radio

 

“I’m never surprised when I’m asked to leave.  I’m only surprised by how long I’m allowed to stay.”  - Tom Porter

 

Greetings good people,

Today i was told by Michelle Price, General Manager of WPFW 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio, that i have been “suspended indefinitely” for publicly “disparaging” the station and its management.  During my show today, which can be heard here, i did indeed say that i feel as though there is a problem with public affairs and national programming being all White, mostly male and mostly over 50 years of age.  I did indeed say publicly that i have felt unsupported and disrespected by station management old and new.  i also made it clear that my concerns are based in a particular love for what i perceived to be the function our time on-air, a love for the community and a love for ideas often described as “radical.”

 

For those interested in reading my half of an email exchange with Ms. Price, Mr. Tony Bates (Interim Program Director) and Ms. Gloria Minott (Public Affairs Director) about these and other concerns (particularly over funding and decision-making as it regards national programming) i’ve posted them below.  i will not without permission post another’s private emails.  But i offer mine because they include some details of my concerns (none stated on-air) and questions i feel had more to do with my suspension (beyond being the impetus for my on-air comments). Of course, the views of the others should be sought, as well as, answers to some of my questions as people form their own  conclusions.

 

i would like to say though that mostly i loved my time with WPFW.  i am grateful for having met good friends there, like Dr. Mark Bolden, Luke Stewart (who also was kind enough to make sure the show ran after i had stopped going into the studio live) and DJ RBI.  I was fortunate enough to share a show with DJ 2-Tone Jones and to be part of bringing a nightly hip-hop block, Decipher, to the station.  Shoot, i got to watch Asheru and The Els perform live in studio! i am proud to have been part of an effort to get Mr .Tom Porter back on air, though they foolishly let him go too.  i even got Dr. Todd Steven Burroughs to at times begrudgingly bring his brilliance to the air, 228! i got to do programming with one of my favorite people in the world SuGar and sit in studio listening to Katea Stitt break down the wonders of music, i even got to hear her shout out my daughters while driving them to school! Parenthetically, nothing makes pops look better than when baby girls get to hear him shouted out on the radio! i got to sit and rap with Askia Muhammad about the world and hear off-air classic arguments about music, politics and more with folks like Bob Daughtry (also foolishly let go). Of course, i did some of my earliest work there in support of the late Damu Smith whose truly humble guidance still has its impact.

 

i am most proud though to have done my honest best to uphold a tradition of broadcasting and conversation that has long moved me.  i loved that i got to have an intro that routinely featured (and still will) Drs. James Turner and Marimba Ani, Kwame Ture, Kathleen Cleaver, Barbara Sizemore and Dr. John Henrik Clarke.  And i really did (and will continue to) do my best to engage in conversations and cultural expression that assumes the need for revolution and says so, encourages it, even makes us want to do it right now.  i love that we had the first (and correctly predicted last) Hate Awards Show and that i joined some of my favorite people, Drs. Quito Swan, Brian Sims and Greg Carr, in humbling ourselves in good (but real) political fun.  i love that we got to host a debate between Afrocentricity and Scientific Socialism to determine the best way to liberate African people.  i got to play Malcolm X and Kwame Ture over DJ Premier beats! i got screamed on by Amiri Baraka! i got to host a discussion with Rosa Clemente, Dereca Blackmon and Dr. Dawn- Elissa Fischer in  what may have been the first public discussion from the point of view of women about the rise and fall of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in 2004! i got to talk with great revolutionaries like Marshall “Eddie” Conway with Dominque Stevenson and Dylcia Pagan with Rosa Clemente.  I was the first (and only?) to interview both Michelle Alexander and her sister Dr. Leslie Alexander at the same time and then had them both (rightly?) catch feelings when we aired heavy criticism of the former!  There are so many more too…  i got to interview some of my favorite thinkers and be educated on-air by some of the best artists, activists and listeners the world can produce (there are too many to mention but check even our limited archives here since some might doubt that what i say is true)! i also liked to think, “where else you gonna hear The Cornel West Theory, Head-Roc, and Skipp Coon at 11a on a weekday?”

 

i crossed paths with more good people than bad, it is just as always that the good have too little power and organization, but it was still a cool place to swing through for a long time.  i will continue to do the work here at imixwhatilike.org and keep thinking about how best to build something with others too.  A truly special thanks to all those who supported the program and who have sent kind words of support.  We are still here, its all good, and as Fred Hampton used to say, “to you we say peace, if you are willing to fight for it.”
Peace everyone,
jab

 

—-
[initial email to Ms. Price, Ms. Minott, and Mr. Bates]

 

I’ve just received word that I am to be preempted again Friday.
1.  Again, the hours I put in each week in scheduling, producing, etc. continue to be disrespected and wasted as I am told less than 48 hours that I will have no show.  This is discourteous to me and my guests, perhaps even our audience.

 

2.  I am also wondering why, again, after so many years of volunteering, filling in, producing Jimi shows and Indigenous tributes that I could not even be asked to contribute, invited to participate, or even told directly that I would have no show.

 

3.  How are these decisions made and on what basis? Is there someone who can provide me with detailed and constructive feedback/criticism that would help me to be better and worthy of the involvement during my own regular time slot? I am happy to get better but yet I’ve never heard one word of critique or advice as how to go about improving.  I am simply treated as though I am not valued.  Is the silence simply an extension of that notion?

 

4.  I would add to point 3 that I feel the same way about the selections of national and paid programming.  I listen to Mitch, Wolfe, Henwood, PC and CS and i know my show is better than theirs and yet I’ve never been asked to develop a national program or offered money for my contribution and certainly never supported in such a way that would increase my audience or improve my show (since such improvement is clearly seen as necessary by those making these decisions).  So I would truly welcome a discussion of why those shows were selected over mine, how I might improve my production to reach the standards that they have apparently met to earn such positioning and support.   I would also welcome information as to how those shows were selected or how it was determined that there are no representatives of the world’s majority population who do radio well enough to earn such prized slots and support.  An all white national programming and funded grid while the rest of us work for free – or not at all whenever these seasonal moments arise and we are simply shelved unceremoniously.  What an interesting development at WPFW in DC.

 

Gloria, are you not supposed to be in contact with public affairs programmers? Tony, do you have any feedback here that you can offer as PD?
Feel free to email your response or call me directly at 202-997-0267.
——

 

[Email i sent to the programmers listserv]:
Hello everyone, (Miyuki and Bryan thank you for helping me get the right email address).  Below are the comments/questions i meant for the group.  Again, i don’t mean to be late or at all disrespectful of the many discussions, meetings, efforts, etc.  that i routinely miss.  So i am sorry for being late or for perhaps bringing up stuff already covered elsewhere…

 

I know i am missing plenty but i am wondering if there are others with concerns about the changing grid.  Are there conversations taking place about the national programs, which shows are being paid for, how those shows were selected, etc?  Am i missing something when seeing white only paid programmers while the rest produce for free and with little fanfare or support? Are there really no Black, Brown, world’s majority people under 50 who can create quality programming that gets national air time for money? Is this really the programming that WPFW’s audience wants?  Is there truly justification for all of this?  Were there attempts to recruit among world majority communities? I hear tons of good radio, i happen to think my own show is better than those i see moving into national, prime-time and paid for slots (and I don’t mind people disagreeing with me on this at all but would love some feedback).  If my show and others on our grid are not welcomed or seen as worthy of pacifica’s air i would truly like to hear it, be given feedback and certainly a word or two about the selection process.

 

I understand if my inability to make station meetings or to keep up with emails I’m not seeing makes all this moot, but i had to ask upon further reflection on this new grid and all that is not there and seems never to return in any form or fashion.
thanks,
jared
—-
[My response to Ms. Price's]
Hello Michelle,

 

First, the preemption issue is more than one of communication or timing, it is for me an issue of decision-making, inclusion, courtesy, etc.  I see no reason why I should not be asked to participate in topical programming, for instance.

 

Secondly, so I am to gather from your email that national shows are selected based on the randomness of who applies for funding?  This sounds ridiculous. Either the network fails here to target, nurture, develop quality national programming or it simply hopes and waits that quality programming will somehow fund itself and find pacifica.  In each case the process seems outrageous.   I am to believe that no prior conversation takes place between pacifica and particular hosts? Counterspin and PC, for instance, have been in existence for many years so it was only some new application for cpb funding that led them to national slotting on pacifica? Really? Ive spoken with CS staff before about their inclusion in pacifica’s lineup and never did anyone mention that their absence was based on their having not applied for cpb funding.  But somehow your email reads as if cpb funding or the cpb itself determines national programming for pacifica.  How could that possibly be?

 

I must have been previously misinformed that cpb already funds pacifica stations to develop national programming.  Shouldn’t WPFW be funding such projects born out of our existing line-up or community?  Shouldn’t paid staff be searching for funding and working with programmers to develop such content?  Why should that be left to volunteers (if that is in fact how it works)?   All of this sounds extraordinary.  It sounds beyond belief that pacifica would simply sit back and let programmers do their own research, grant writing, etc. and once funded then decide which of them is worthy of national time.  And if pacifica noticed that all continue to only be white it seems other measures should be addressed to be the progressive difference the network  claims it is or wants to be.

 

Finally, station meetings often occur on wednesday evenings when i am teaching in baltimore and have been for years now.  And while i am sure you are bringing a wave of change with you it would indeed be new and fresh if attended meetings did indeed result in new levels of inclusion, clarity and understanding of station operations and decisions.  Ive been attending various station meetings for years and have never once heard anyone mention anything that would have answered these questions.  I am also noticing that others who miss no meetings have expressed a similar lack of clarity as to grid changes and the process by which these kinds of programming choices are made.  So while i was more than gracious in copping to my own infallibility here it can hardly be said that my lack of clarity is related solely to my absence at meetings.  Plus, it is the end of 2013, there should never be a need for everyone to always be physically present to get notes, video, audio, etc. from meetings so that all who care to be would be kept easily in the know.  And then are you telling me that at station meetings these grid decisions and the process behind them were discussed? Everyone who was there knew these changes were coming and were informed that these programs had all received cpb grants and, therefore, acceptance to the pacifica national grid? And then this process was outlined so that other programmers could follow suit and make similar attempts to be funded and aired nationally? And then there was a discussion about how every single one of them is white and mostly male? I really did miss some new and improved meetings.

 

15 Responses to “Movin’ On From WPFW/Pacifica Radio

  • Geez… I knew that you were going to be kicked out, but I wasn’t expecting it to be 4 days after I said it. You work fast Dr. Ball.

    Thanks for the emails to clear up any lingering questions I had on the altercation. The idea that they dismissed you because of “publicly “disparaging” the station and its management” is simply foolish. They were planning to remove you all along. Besides, you seemed to love the station and have only spoken well about it… it was the managers that you dissed. And, if I am correct, it is legal to dislike a person or group of people and still keep doing your job (but then again, you are a volunteer, so perhaps there are differing rules in this regard).

    DC don’t know what they lost. I guess I was right in supporting JR!

    Peace

  • Damn! I really looked forward to each Friday and wished you had another two hours to further explore the topics covered. DAMN!

  • I’m very sad to hear this, but I’m glad I decided to come to your site today to hear the first half of your show that I missed this morning so I could sign up to get updates from you. I will be sure to let the station know how disappointed i am.

  • Thanks again everyone. Yes, ill still be here doing much of the same. That much is certain, no worries there.

  • Sad to say that most people fear what they don’t understand. If the management at this so called, “Radio station”, had a clue about what they and their listeners (ex-listeners) will be missing out on as a result of doing the devil’s dirty work and, “Indefinitely Suspending” your show, they are indeed clueless, delusional, and down-right out of touch with what the people really want and need. I truly enjoy your show…truly. I hope that you will continue to keep it going online because i’ve learned so much by simply having an open ear and an open mind. I believe that if we all had the insight, courage, and dedication to do an ounce of what you’re doing, the world (our world) would be a better place. I am definitely going to drop a line to the GM and her henchmen at WPFW to voice my concerns and utter disappointment with her asinine shinanigans. As you have said many times at the conclusion of your show to quote the great Fred Hampton, “To you we say peace if you are willing to fight for it”. Keep fighting, Brother. One.

  • The writing was on the wall. The rewhiting of public media spaces was to long on the march for this to be a surprise. Hopefully this leads to more financially rewarding and less controlled conversations about the issues of the time. The body of work you’ve put out so far is impressive enough to walk away feeling accomplished.

  • since it seems like you’re going to have some free time on your hands in terms of radio, can you please reupload all of the stuff that you have on Amos Wilson and Frantz Fanon? I’ve been restudying Dr. Wilson lately and I wanted to listen to Dr. Hate’s presentation on the matter, but I cannot find it on the site.

  • Coast-to-coast the gentrifica ax falls, first JR now JB. But can we really blame them and their non-profit mindset? Afterall, they sincerely empathize with “you peoples” and your collective, historical sob-story and further apologize for it. So now step aside and go quietly and let them rightfully assume the leadership of “the movement”; although, you folks can continue to provide the soundtrack if you wish. Isn’t it just great how everyone now can feel apart of and can play their respective roles in the mlk-mandela-obama lineage? Return to the Democratic tent so they can be assured of future funding and keep this thing happening, for all of us!

  • Brother Ball I much appreciate the work, commitiment, and passion you have articulated over the years following in the footsteps of Ambrose lane and Tom Porter. Most of us knew it was just a matter of time the present management at WPFW could no longer tolerate independent free progressive radical black thought and commentary. Michelle Price has only done what for whatever reason John Hughes did not finish. I will continue to support, share and promote informational options via http://www.imixwhatilike.org. Congrats for standing up as Tom Porter said this year he was not going to beg somone to disrespect him. Peace -The other Greg Thomas

  • Jared,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your suspension. WPFW needs revolutionary black voices, and this is coming from a 50+ year-old white man who lives in the suburbs. I used to listen to the Spear (the late Dr Jessie McDade) and I really miss Dr. Ambrose Lane who spoke at the St. James UCC Church here in the suburbs. I couldn’t find the blog post of his talk but did find other content about Darwin, Christianity and racism here. Please don’t write us all off. You have allies, everywhere. Btw, I miss Tom Porter too.

    When I encountered other white people who “didn’t like rap music” I would ask them to listen to Decipher. I particularly liked the Blackademics show that I think was on Wednesday nights. That’s another loss, isn’t it.

    I listened to your show and found your work on Malcolm X and correcting Manning Marabel’s biography to be priceless.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my few short years, it’s that organizations must foster and grow local talent. WPFW seems to be going in the opposite direction. The management’s disrespect for your volunteer contribution is just unconscionable. I don’t want to hear Gary Null, motivational speakers and all that nonsense. I want to hear serious, passionate scholars like you.

  • Thank you, Jared. For all the great work that you produced on air and on the streets. I’m proud of you, and You have left a indelible mark in my mind. Whatever your next stop will be, I’m sure to follow.

  • Dr. Ball, Thank you so much for your wonderful show. I can’t believe it was taken off the air. I am so disappointed in the way things are going at wpfw!! Anyway, I can’t tell you how much you have opended my mind and given me so much knowledge about important issues. I didn’t know about black political prisoners until I began listening to your show. I had never heard of most of your guests and found them to be so powerful and their presentations thought provoking. And the topic areas you covered, history, politics,art, movies, music! So much in just one hour. And most of all, thank you for helping learn how to HATE! Much love. I will keep checking out your site.

  • Sorry to hear this. I don’t get to listen to PFW here in Bmore much anymore, for many reasons, but mostly due to the erratic transmitter performance. At some point trying to extract content from the static gets tiresome. As a result I haven’t been following recent programming changes, but I will miss your show, I enjoyed it very much. It was refreshing to hear the S word (Socialism) on PFW now and then, and you were one of the few who had the courage and unapologetic conviction to do so. Keep fighting and speaking out my friend, we need your voice.

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