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The need for a Black public affairs show at KPFA

October 24, 2008
This was the big feature photo on the front page of the Sept. 12, 2007, Bay View. It had been taken outside KPFA after a group of rappers, who had recorded “Free the SF 8” (learn more about the SF 8 freedom fighters at www.FreetheSF8.org), were interviewed for Block Report Radio. At the left is Nadra Foster, who had helped produce the Block Report interview. The rappers are Sequoyah Sankofa, Sinista Z, Ras Ceylon, Oakland POCC Coordinator Jay, Lexxo, Sha’killa and Ron G. – Photo: Minister of Information JR
by POCC Minister of Information JR, producer of Block Report Radio

Recently KPFA radio station, located in Berkeley, Calif., has been making headlines for a number of reasons, most notably the Aug. 20 police beat down of Black programmer of 12 years Nadra Foster, after Lois Withers, a member of the KPFA management team, called the police on her with approval from Pacifica management after Foster was accused of using a KPFA telephone for a personal call. When the police arrived, Foster was thrown to the ground, severely injuring her arm, kicked in the head, and put into a straitjacket-like contraption and hauled off to jail. She has been released and is still facing five charges from the incident.

On Aug. 23, in a separate incident, Black KPFA programmer August “Fef Nitti” McCoy was shot dead in Vallejo. Did you hear anything about these two incidents dealing with Black programmers at KPFA on Democracy Now, the KPFA Morning Show or the KPFA News? Hell no. When I asked KPFA news directors Aileen Alfandary and Mark Mericle and Morning Show Executive Producer Mitch Jeserich why there hasn’t been a story about these issues on their shows, all of them, almost verbatim, explained to me how “this is an internal matter at KPFA that is not newsworthy.”

Weeks after the incidents, when I talked to Democracy Now Executive Producer Amy Goodman, who was recently arrested at the Republican National Convention, why were the cases of KPFA Black programmers Nadra Foster and August “Fef Nitti” McCoy never reported on, she claimed she did not have any information. I gave her websites where she could inform herself and still today, weeks after this telephone conversation, nothing has been said on her show, which airs twice on weekdays on KPFA. When she was elegantly arrested, KPFA made a big deal out of it, but they refused to do the same for their own Black programmers in two incidents that happened less than 10 days before she was locked up.

So whose job is it to report on issues such as these in the Black community in and around KPFA or nationally? A daily or weekly Black public affairs show. That would sound like the proper place for news like this, if not the KPFA News.

But the fact is KPFA does not allow for Black people living in America to have political talk radio shows on its airwaves. Some KPFA listeners might say, what about the interviews done by Black programmers Greg Bridges, Davey D, Funky Man, Queen Jahneen, Ricky “Uhuru Maggot” Vincent, T-Kash and Anita Johnson? All of these programmers are regular music programmers who try to make up for the void in Black public affairs on the station with occasional political interviews in between the songs and poetry that they are scheduled to play.

What about Walter Turner, who hosts Africa Today? Africa Today is a weekly public affairs show about news on the continent of Africa which sometime spills over into domestic politics. That’s as close as KPFA gets to allowing the Black community in its living room to access the airwaves for organizing purposes, although when fund drives come many of the premiums include Black political giants from this country like Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz), Paul Robeson, the Black Panthers, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King.

It is not important enough for KPFA management to make sure that the masses of listeners get a domestic view of happenings in the Black world from involved Black journalists. But they continue to pimp our struggle with sweet voices pleading for money, a kid glove hiding an iron hand that uses our struggle to support itself while allowing us none of the social or political benefits of having our own public affairs show on the station.

Many in the Black community have been calling KPFA “apartheid radio” for good reason. Even KMEL, the Bay Area based corporate radio station that is owned by the media monster Clear Channel, has “Street Soldiers,” which is a two-hour weekly talk show.

So much for the liberal-progressive feeling that KPFA listeners felt years ago when they put on their KPFA t-shirts or looked fondly at their KPFA bumper stickers. Now the racist (they also come in Black face) wolves that run KPFA have been discovered in progressive sheep’s clothing. Are you ready for the truth? Will you continue to support kkkpfa’s style of apartheid radio?

Block Report Radio is heard on KPFA and KPOO in the Bay Area and dozens of other stations around the country. On other Pacifica stations, all of which feature Black public affairs shows, Block Report interviews are often given as thank you gifts during fund drives. Email POCC Minister of Information JR at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

The people’s voice on the airwaves and internet

In connection with www.sfbayview.com, and in the absence of the weekly printed newspaper, we want our readers to check out www.blockreportradio.com, where Bay View Associate Editor and POCC Minister of Information JR posts his regular radio interviews as well as other pertinent news. If you enjoy his writings in the Bay View, you should know that most of them are transcribed from his audio interviews.

On www.blockreportradio.com right now you could hear the voices of Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Martina Davis, the sister of Troy Davis, Apollonia Jordan, Paul Mooney, Mos Def, Mumia Abu Jamal’s daughter Goldii, the Welfare Poets and more. You could see videos that have to do with the police beatdown of KPFA Black programmer Nadra Foster, who was beaten and kicked in the head by police and taken to jail after the KPFA and Pacifica management teams called the Berkeley police on her, falsely accusing her of being banned from the station.

Block Report Radio is the people’s voice on the airwaves and the internet. Tune in and financially support them. To get in touch with the Block Report Radio Show, hit up blockreportradio@gmail.com.

Without a Black public affairs show, prominent Black voices aren’t heard on KPFA

After this story appeared on a new blog called Media Justice KPFA, http://mediajusticekpfa.blogspot.com/, Gabrielle Wilson, producer and co-host of the KPFA show The Gospel Experience and a recent law school graduate, posted the following comment:

With no Black public affairs show at KPFA, people like novelist Cecil Brown, Eva Paterson of the Equal Justice Society, writer Ishmael Reed and others do not have a voice. I suggested Dr. Brown as a guest for the Morning Show and the executive producer, Mitch J., told me he would “get back” to us and never did.

Check out this piece below that appears in the current issue of the Berkeley Daily Planet [at www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-10-09/article/31318?headline=The-Life-and-Loves-of-Novelist-Cecil-Brown], who felt Brown to be quite newsworthy indeed.

The Life and Loves of Novelist Cecil Brown

by Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet

When novelist and educator Cecil Brown – longtime Berkeley resident and teacher at Bay Area colleges – was introduced for a reading and talk he gave a few weeks ago at Washington University in St. Louis, Prof. Gerald Early recalled when he was in high school in the ‘60s, “The three books that everybody just had to read were James Baldwin’s Another Country, John A. Williams’ The Man Who Cried I Am and Cecil Brown’s The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger.”

Now, Brown notes, Baldwin is dead and Williams doesn’t have a major publisher. “He isn’t appreciated anymore. I’ve tried to review him, and it’s been hard to get the reviews published.”

Brown’s most celebrated book, The Life and Loves, was reissued at the beginning of this month by North Atlantic Press in Berkeley. Originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1969 to great acclaim, Brown recalled his book’s reception: “Roger Straus was the greatest publisher in the world! There were Hollywood stars at the book party. I was on the Tonight Show, went to England … I doubt any African American writer today would get the accolade we got in those days. It’s dead, now. No one’s interested.”

Brown’s books continue to get published, reprinted and garner critical acclaim. His nonfiction book, Stagolee Shot Billy, published in 2005 by Harvard University Press, was praised by Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Guardian (U.K.) and in the Times Literary Supplement. The Life and Loves has been reprinted multiple times in Europe, Germany in particular (“But I don’t usually hear about it till later!”).

With the Stagolee book, “I found the nonfiction material so interesting, I novelized it.” I, Stagolee was published in 2006, and “there’s the possibility of a film. Samuel Jackson read and liked it.”

Brown, who also works with the UC Berkeley Department of Information, developing digital education video games for 3- to 5-year-olds, has made a video game based on the Stagolee tales for 13- to 15-year-olds, “for drop-outs,” he said. “Forty-eight percent of Alameda County’s young black men drop out of high school. Violence is such a waste of time. They need recourse to understand the structure of racism they’re involved in. And it would behoove us to find out what in playing video games, not reading – which about the same percentage doesn’t do – is a reaction to the system making learning boring, penalizing African Americans for a different understanding of what is play, what is work.”

Brown was born in rural North Carolina. After he and several other students were lent a coach’s car to drive to an SAT test center, Brown received a scholarship to A & T College in Greensboro, N.C.

As a college freshman, he was influenced by an event: when Jesse Jackson (“He was in a fraternity”) came in late to class, he answered the teacher’s query of where he was by “saying he’d been across the street at a sit-in at the Woolworth’s five-and-dime, protesting that black people couldn’t eat at the lunch counter there. The teacher turned to us and said ‘the rest of you should be doing that, too.’ I was witness to that history when it really got started, and never forgot how students could influence a country’s history.”

Brown later attended Columbia, publishing stories in the student magazine. “I was writing everything I could; I always wanted to be a novelist. I went to Europe for the first time. None of this had been in the cards for me. I’d been a plowboy. After Columbia, it gave me such confidence … worldly classmates inviting me to Nantucket – ‘Meet my mom, she’s a painter’ – I’d never have been accepted in such homes in Mississippi or Georgia, and I came in the front door with their kid, treated as an equal … .

“That’s why I feel such pain about the avenues closed to young blacks today. Young guys don’t get to hang out like that, meeting sculptors and musicians like I did, people thinking about what to do with their life – and so did I.”

At Columbia, Brown was encouraged to write “by LeRoi Jones, now Amiri Baraka, who gave me a tip for an agent, and Seymour Krim, who sent me to Evergreen Review.”

Brown later attended the University of Chicago, where he witnessed “the eruption of the Democratic National Convention, and when Martin Luther King was assassinated, the rioting on the South Side that spilled over into Hyde Park.”

But it was with a recommendation from his Columbia teacher Mark Van Doren’s son Charles that Brown drove west “in a Cadillac, with a couple other students” to interview for a teaching job at Modesto Junior College.

“I took one look at Modesto and could not even stop the car. We drove straight to Berkeley,” he said.

Brown ended up teaching at Merritt College “and ran into Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, students organizing their own curriculum – and the Black Panther Party.” Brown staged his own plays at Merritt, where a UC Berkeley professor saw them and told him he should be teaching in the UC English Department.

At UC, Brown met Leonard Michaels, Al Young, Ishmael Reed and David Henderson – “And I added Claude Brown and Richard Pryor,” who was performing at the Mandrake in Berkeley. Brown later followed “when Richard went down to Hollywood, working with him, being his full-time running buddy, day-to-day,” before “taking off to Berlin,” where Brown got involved in filmmaking.

Asked what influence Pryor had on him – or vice versa – Brown replied, “I had such admiration for Richard. Taj Mahal claims Richard got all these nuances he needed for his characters from me, being from the South, Richard being from the Midwest. Like Taj, living next door to blues players, he paid attention. He says Richard did that with me.”

(As Brown was explaining this, his cellphone rang. It was Taj Mahal, who, asked to amplify, said: “I bought a four DVD set of Richard Pryor, and said, ‘Wait a second! This cat’s from Peoria, Ill., and sounds like he’s Down South – like Cecil Brown.’ You meet Cecil and see how much Richard got from him for his characters.”)

Brown’s Hollywood experiences found their way into a 1982 novel, Days Without Weather. Currently, his biography of Pryor, Kiss My Rich, Happy, Black Ass (a remark Pryor famously made to gay leaders, with Brown a witness) is making the rounds of publishers.

Brown returned to Berkeley in the late ‘80s to teach, gaining his Ph.D. in African American Studies, Folklore and Narrative in 1993. Currently, he’s preparing a class at Stanford: Classics 130: From Homer to Hip-Hop, on the oral tradition, studying “Greeks and Griots.”

He said he believes that “with their feet in the oral tradition, African Americans anticipated the digital age.”

“No Child Left Behind is the negative onslaught of the world Marshall McLuhan predicted in his famous Playboy interview in 1966, when he described the conflict between the white world versus the black as rooted in envy of a life left out for whites – and that blacks should maintain their connection with the Africa within,” Brown said. “I want to remind the academic world – and certainly students – of that, and to look at what real change is.”

Cecil Brown’s website is www.cecilbrown.net.

3 thoughts on “The need for a Black public affairs show at KPFA

  1. mary Post author

    That’s true and I enjoy listening to both of them. Neither of their shows, however, Aimee’s Morning Show or Andrea’s Sunday Sedition, focuses on Black public affairs, and that is what this story is calling for. NPR, including its San Francisco stations KALW and KQED, devotes an hour every day to Black public affairs with News and Notes. Why not KPFA?

    Mary Ratcliff, editor
    SF Bay View

    Reply
  2. Inaccurate

    Agreed. The need of a black show is an easy and righteous argument to make. There is no need to embellish the story with inaccuracies and selective use of the facts. I have been following the Nadra Foster case as I am a reader of your paper (and do miss the weekly edition) and listener/subscriber to KPFA. I fear all sides have been expediently selective in how to tell the story. Your paper has not been immune to the vitriolic behavior employed by all the differing sides of the conflict. I am no supporter of management but I am asking YOU to please do better.

    Here’s to the future. May the paper reach my hands on a weekly basis again, soon!

    Pablo

    Reply

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