Stepping in to end Apartheid Radio: an interview wit’ Adam Hudson, candidate for the KPFA Local Station Board
by Minister of Information JR
Although there is an East African immigrant woman who is the top face, the general manager, it is hard to imagine a more racist radio station in the Bay in these times. Without a Black public affairs show, listeners were not/are not privy to up to the minute coverage in the historic murder trial of police officer Johannes Mehserle, who was the triggerman who cold-bloodedly murdered Oscar Grant. We have to get those types of reports from the mainstream because KPFA doesn’t think that Black people want to do anything but play and listen to music.
We didn’t get the community’s sentiments about Lovelle Mixon, who murdered four cops in Oakland after the murder of Oscar Grant. In the rest of the media we heard how all the cops and pro-police supporters felt, but we didn’t hear from the Black community – the people most affected by this incident.
For this reason, KPFA has already earned the name of Apartheid Radio in the Northern California Black communities that are capable of listening. Within the 168 hours that make up a week, none of that time is scheduled to talk about the affairs of the Black community locally or nationally.
Now that People’s Advocate Cynthia McKinney has been unfairly rejected twice after applying to be the executive director of the Pacifica Network, which runs KPFA and four other stations nationally, the Black community is putting its faith in Adam Hudson, who is running for KPFA Local Station Board in an election that ends next week – ballots must be received at KPFA by midnight Thursday, Oct. 15.
He has three main points in his platform, and if he can win and accomplish those goals, then maybe KPFA will be able to stop the mass exodus of listeners of color and youth, who are tired of the liberal tokenism. The station may even be able to attract new listeners.
Check out Adam Hudson’s views on how he thinks that he can help in fixing the Bay Area’s “alternative” Apartheid Radio station.
M.O.I. JR: What are you running for at KPFA? And when are the ballots due?
Adam Hudson: I’ll answer the second question first. The ballots are due on Oct. 15th at 12 midnight. [The KPFA election supervisor will be at KPFA on Thursday, Oct. 15, from 5 p.m. to midnight to accept ballots and, if needed, provide replacement ballots.] If you’re mailing your ballot, you have to make sure it physically gets to the KPFA station by Oct. 15th. It’s not enough to have it postmarked by that date. The station’s address is 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, California, 94704.
As to why I am running for a position on KPFA’s local station board, there are several reasons but I’ll do my best to be concise. I support Pacifica’s principles of peace and social justice. I’m a card-carrying member of the NAACP and co-founder of Stanford Says No to War, so fighting for peace and social justice plays a big role in my life. I think independent media outlets, such as KPFA, are important for educating the public about crucial issues. Since they are independent, they do not have to toe the corporate party line the way mainstream media outlets do. This makes the information conveyed via independent media more honest and accurate and it gives a voice to the voiceless.
In addition, I see KPFA as an organizing tool for correcting the horrific injustices witnessed in our world, such as war, human rights abuses and oppression. Education plays a crucial role in social change and the information conveyed via KPFA can arm the public with knowledge to combat societal and global injustices. However, KPFA is at risk of becoming obsolete because of its declining listener base and tight funds. As a young activist, I wish to provide fresh and vibrant energy to help revive the station and make it better.
M.O.I. JR: What is your platform? Who are you aligned with and why?
Adam Hudson: My platform can boiled down to these three basic things:
1) Increasing KPFA’s outreach to underrepresented communities, particularly young people and communities of color.
2) Integration of Internet tools at KPFA, such as blogs with comment sections, online articles, video uploads and Facebook advertisements. These tools will help expand KPFA’s listener base, especially to young people, since most young people get their news from the Internet.
3) Support for democratically and community-run structures at KPFA, such as restoration of the Program Council and support for unpaid staff members.
I think these three reforms will make KPFA stronger. If people want to learn more about me, they can read my candidate statement, which is on my blog, ajhudson.wordpress.com, and the Independents for Community Radio website, www.indyradio.org.
I’m running as an independent but I am endorsed and supported by Independents for Community Radio, which is an affinity group or collective of independents who share the same principles. Their principles, such as bringing diverse and younger voices to KPFA and making the station community-run, are very much in line with mine so that’s why I’m aligned with them. I’ve gotten to know Independents for Community Radio well and find them to be a great group of smart and dedicated individuals who care deeply about KPFA and want it to be reformed for the better. There’s no doubt that they would all do a great job of running KPFA.
I’m also endorsed by South Bay Mobilization, which is a peace and justice group in San Jose that does excellent work in peace activism, especially on the issue of Palestine. They have been very supportive of Stanford Says No to War ever since I helped found the group, so I am very glad to have their endorsement. Some of my other endorsers include Todd Chretien of the Bay Area International Socialist Organization and the San Francisco Green Party. I listed all of my endorsers on my blog.
M.O.I. JR: What was your view of KPFA as a listener and how has that view changed after being involved in this campaign?
Adam Hudson: To be honest, I did not know about KPFA until I was 19 – and I’m 21 now. I’ve only listened to KPFA a few times on the Internet but the main program I listen to is Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. I met Nora Barrows-Friedman about two years ago and found her and her work to be really awesome. Even though I’m not an avid listener, I think the work the station does is very important.
After being involved in this campaign, I still think KPFA is a great station but I’ve learned how byzantine and tumultuous it can be to work there. Part of me asks myself, “Why am I running, again? Do I really want to be involved in this chaotic environment?” There’s a lot of in-fighting that goes on in the station and some people, from what I’ve experienced, can be quite nasty. There have been a few people, mainly from Concerned Listeners, who have made some condescending remarks about my age and inexperience, even though there is nothing in the bylaws that state one has to be a certain age in order to run for the board.
Speaking of which, I hate to add more fuel to the KPFA in-fighting, but I feel I must speak on this. In talking with people who have been involved with the station for a long time, reading Concerned Listeners’ platform and witnessing their lack of appearances at candidate forums, I think something is wrong with KPFA’s management, which is dominated by allies of the Concerned Listeners slate. They have done a number of things that I think are wrong. For example, they have de-recognized the unpaid staff organization, even though the unpaid staff contribute a great deal to the everyday functioning of KPFA. Second, they eliminated the Program Council, which was a crucial instrument in fostering listener democracy and strengthening KPFA’s ties to the community. Management has also refused to post minutes of Local Station Board meetings online, which is a severe lack of transparency between listeners and KPFA management.
In addition, throughout the entire election, Concerned Listeners have barely shown up to candidate forums to field questions from listeners. The most they have sent are two people out of their slate of 10 candidates, while the other groups, like People’s Radio and Independents for Community Radio, usually sent more than two or three people. One of the forums I attended – in Palo Alto – saw no CL candidate show up. However, they do spend lavish dollars on sending ballots to key constituencies. Such a practice, however, is not technically illegal and ICR has sent ballots to people, too. But it does say something when a slate focuses more on sending ballots to key people than showing up at candidate forums to answer listeners’ questions.
In my opinion, the management at KPFA, controlled mainly by the Concerned Listeners, operates as a highly organized and well coordinated vanguard that cares more about maintaining its hold on KPFA than fulfilling the broader mission of Pacifica.
Now, I’m not saying this just to bash CL for fun. I’m saying this because I think these actions have not benefitted the station. In order for real change to occur, policies that have not worked should be corrected. If I were to get elected, I would work to change these things by re-instituting the Program Council, support the unpaid staff workers and get meeting minutes online for listeners to read.
The station has also not taken enough advantage of the Internet. Its primary medium is radio but many people, these days, receive their information through other sources, particularly the Internet. Integrating new Internet tools, such as blogs with comment sections, online articles, a section for listeners’ views and discussion, and video and audio streams can make KPFA a vibrant independent media outlet for the future. If it does not take advantage of the Internet soon, then KPFA risks seeing its listener base decline further.
All in all, I think KPFA could use some new blood and I hope to bring it.
M.O.I. JR: I was one of the first people to bring up a need for a domestic Black public affairs show at KPFA, and you have also talked about that need. Why is it important?
Adam Hudson: As an African-American male who was raised by a single mother, went to school in a low-income, disadvantaged district and is now attending Stanford University, I am intimately aware of the current struggles facing African-Americans and African-American youth.
Unfortunately, mainstream media does not provide a deep analysis of the current situation Black people find themselves in. They talk so much about how great the economy is doing, but there is little mention about how the economic crisis is impacting the Black community and other marginalized communities. However, whenever a Black voice is needed on a hot-button topic, like race, the mainstream media immediately turns to someone like Al Sharpton and a random Black conservative that no one has heard of and make the two battle it out. The spectrum of discussion on issues impacting the Black community goes from Clarence Thomas right to pro-Obama and pro-Democratic Party left, which, in my opinion, is not much of a spectrum and doesn’t represent the diversity of views within the Black community.
After Obama’s speech to the NAACP, Democracy Now! had an excellent segment with Dr. Cornel West and Revolutionary Communist Party member Carl Dix. While the two did not always see eye to eye – West is a democratic socialist and Dix is a Maoist – the two of them engaged in a very insightful discussion about race and offered very critical opinions of the Obama administration. Unfortunately, it’s very uncommon to hear voices like these on the mainstream media. In addition, I think the Black elite, who are the most prominent voices and make up the leadership of the Black community, are very disconnected from the struggles of poor and working-class Black people.
This is why I think a Black public affairs program at KPFA is crucial. Because KPFA is run independently and controlled by members of the community, it’s free of corporate media spin, which is controlled mainly by people who have no connection, stake or interest in the Black community. Such a program can be a tool for the millions of voiceless, struggling African-Americans to tell their stories to the world.
I envision a Black public affairs program that offers a deep and alternative analysis of issues affecting the Black community, such as police brutality – including the horrific shooting of Oscar Grant – economic injustice, racism in the judicial system, education and elsewhere. One idea I had was to have a segment on the experiences of working-class Black students who attend elite universities. I, myself, would be willing to provide my own personal experience growing up in a working-class neighborhood and coming to Stanford.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope to be able to accomplish by running for the KPFA LSB?
Adam Hudson: Ideally, I hope to accomplish everything I mentioned about my platform plus the implementation of a Black public affairs program. Considering the nature of KPFA and how it is run, I don’t know if I will be able to accomplish everything. However, I will try my best to work in getting my goals accomplished.
M.O.I. JR: How do people stay in contact with you?