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 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.


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.”


  1. As for what I would like to hear on the radio: I am interested in a broad range of topics dealing with issues around the world and from a Pan-African, Black nationalist perspective. I definitely agree with the statement from Mr. Tom Porter when he said that Black radio only deal with Black issues as “narrowly defined.” It frustrates me so much that I have to go outside of the Pan-Africanist perspective to hear other people dealing with human issues. Why isn’t there an outlet in Black radio for people who want to hear about international economics and business, political theory, social engineering, the newest scientific breakthroughs and what it means (something like the post with Dr. Burroughs about Amazon’s use of drones, but somebody who just do that kind of reporting), or any of the other thousands of topics that deals with the human condition. It is as if Black people have been herded into this tiny and well-defined space of acknowledged issues to talk about and those who do not stick to the script is ousted from their media post. This leads some to think that there are ‘Black’ topics instead of human topics seen from a Pan-African worldview. But, of course, we all know that Africans are not allowed to become internationalized, or else we might bug out and create another UNIA and finish what Garvey started.

    Second, for the artistic output. I certainly appreciate the type of hip-hop made available to those who may not have been able to hear it in their old media environment, I do not think that hip-hop or any of our other Black Classical Music to be ranked one over the other. Personally, I think that this whole ‘Hip Hop Nation’ and ‘Hip Hop Culture’ thing has gone too far and only represents the commodification and theft of the art form. Now we have young people who are totally cut off from our previous musical forms and I think that we are suffering as a result. Indeed, hip hop will probably go the way of jazz and rock or (god forbid) country (does anybody even remember that we made that???) as a music that was wrested from its original creators and made into a ‘culture’ instead of being constantly recreated out of an ever shifting one.

    And, finally, I think that the old maxim “act locally, think globally” is very apt in world activism today. I think that people need to gain control of their own community while creating chains of networks of likeminded people and groups. While I do wish for a strong national Black radio station and will continue to work towards that goal, I think that until that day, smaller African-centered stations are preferable and may even be more useful as a community becomes more tightly nit. Perhaps if the radio is local, it will be more creative and take more chances, maybe like giving a show to students or going directly to the streets to get the opinion of those who may not be the most politically savvy like callers typically are. Pacifica will go the way of the dodo, but inspiring radio does not have to go down with it if a community does not allow it do.

    I’m done


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