DECLARATION OF RIGHTS FOR BLACK RADIO
On Thursday December 19, 2013 we held “A Gathering of Warriors” organized by The Committee to Save Public Broadcasting (CMS), The United Black Community and The Listening Group. The event celebrated and honored the work of former WPFW 89.3 FM (Pacifica Radio, Washington, D.C.) programmers and staff including Jared Ball, Luke Stewart, and Tom Porter. Many in attendance were interested in using the time to discuss strategies and collective responses to the ongoing challenges with community radio. Rather than opening up the discussion fully, we asked audience members to think about what they expect of Black community-owned radio. We promised to open up a page that would allow free space and time to list demands and a declaration of rights for Black Community radio. To be clear, The Super Funky Soul Power Hour made no unclear statements about who we are, serve, and are attempting to liberate. We are Black radio; we play Black Classical Music; we end our shows with the immortal words of the murdered Illinois Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton who offered: “Peace if you’re willing to fight for it.”
At this time we are asking those in attendance and in attention to share your thoughts. What do you expect from Programmers? What would you like the content of their music to express? What would you like to hear in their air discussions? What is the role of the programmer?
What do you expect from the administration and management of the Black community responsive radio station? Should they be evaluated, hired, and fired by the community? Should they be local members of the community? Should they have a resume’ filled with revolutionary efforts in addition to successful direction of other radio stations?
What do you want? Make it known.
The online predecessor to IMWIL was the now defunct voxunion.com which was itself originally the online home to Organized Community of United People whose own COUP Proclamation (2002) was modeled on the Gary Declaration. Here is our still-relevant amendment to the Gary Declaration section on communications/media:
“Media are the most effective method of social control and conditioning. This was recognized by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, who in 1827 created the Freedoms Journal, the first African-American newspaper. The main purpose of Freedoms Journal was to properly inform the Black Community. Their mission was to provide the information and perspective purposefully kept from us by those in power. We must recognize that this reality is even more powerful and more apparent today and move accordingly.
This requires challenging, “Black journalists” to stop referring to themselves based solely on complexion. We must demand that they make the phrase applicable to only those who perform their duties for the community. Independently wealthy and/or famous Black personalities are of no more use to the average African-American than their white counterparts. A Black journalist must be someone who can properly explain not only the full story, but also how it relates to Black and oppressed people. Without this minimum requirement, we are simply supporting Black-faced representatives of the same evil. The National Association of Black Journalists is one place we must start; this organization must be challenged to move beyond being another Black social club. It must aid Black* people in our need for succinct and relevant information otherwise it is useless.
As the Congressional Black Caucus has said, “. . .it is still impossible to find in the media anything like an adequate picture of Black culture and Black lifestyles.” With these realities in mind, we move toward a Black Agenda for Communications.
COMMUNICATIONS ACTION AGENDA
We must support and develop independent media sources. We can no longer accept making money as an excuse for poor dissemination of information. Currently, the media -including television, radio, film and literature- does more than schools to “educate” our people. This is dangerous because this monopolization of the industry this means that fewer and fewer people will be able to determine what we see, read and hear. We cannot turn our education and need for information over to those who would prefer we knew nothing at all.
We must revive the mission set forth in 1827 by John Russworm and Samuel Cornish. In founding the first African American publication, Freedom’s Journal, they called for an independent voice that would take the responsibility of informing the population away from the enslaver and give it to the people whose own views were ignored. That mandate is as necessary today as it has ever been in human history. The ability for images and sound bytes to manipulate entire populations of people cannot be overstated nor can it be ignored.
The Telecommunications Acts of 1967 and 1996 in television and radio and a general monopolization in publishing and music distribution have made the freedom of exchange all but impossible in major media as power has been given to the advertisers over the viewing public. This means we have little say on what is shown, discussed, printed or heard. We cannot expect that the owners of these media will willingly pass along information that would properly inform the populace. We understand that if everyone knew tomorrow what happens on a daily basis in our world there would be a revolution by nightfall. So do the owners.
We must not only be critical of the media, we must become the media.”