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Black sounds silenced at KPFA?

March 29, 2012

by Kevin Weston

Minister of Information JR Valrey, host of Block Report Radio, broadcast on KPFA during Wednesday drive time, 8-9 a.m., is at the controls.
Oakland – Just when I thought I could almost start to trust KPFA, I hear that the Morning Mix may be snatched off the airwaves. I gave my first donation to KPFA ever because of the Morning Mix. To be real – I gave to the Morning Mix because of Block Report Radio on Wednesday mornings, 8-9 a.m.

That’s drive time for me; while I’m dropping my daughter off, I tune in. JR Valrey does a solid job delivering Black sounds through the 94.1 FM signal.

I don’t listen to the radio often; I’m not a big radio dude since podcasts, Sirius, Pandora, MP3s and iPods. Black thought and talk and Black sounds – aural communication guided by the history, struggles, current crisis, triumphs of African-American people in the United States and African people in the global diaspora – is almost nowhere to be found. So if I can find it, I check for it.

I grew up listening to KDIA, KSOL, KPOO – all at the time Black-owned stations – for most of my childhood in Oakland in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

I took them for granted then. Now, other than KPOO, the venerable old war horse of Bay Area Black radio, still cranking on Divisadero Street in San Francisco to this day, Black sounds, other than pop music, are almost non-existent anywhere on the broadcast airwaves.

In the Bay Area, you have a couple of options of significance: the resilient and steadily relevant Alive and Free/Street Soldiers Radio on 106.1 KMEL, the Clear Channel-owned Hip Hop and R&B station Sunday nights from 8-10 p.m., and Block Report Radio on the Morning Mix.

JR Valrey introduces Angela Davis to apprentices and programmers at KPFA before interviewing her in March 2009. – Photo: Adalia
This past Wednesday, Valrey – no stranger to controversy and issues with the station he’s been working with since he was a teen – opened with the news that the Morning Mix, a diversely programed show with different hosts every day during the work week, primetime drive time – could be cancelled.

I want my $150 back, KPFA.

In a media landscape where the dominant images and sounds associated with African peoples are negative, distorted, confused and suspect, losing the Morning Mix/Block Report Radio would be a blow to our community in Northern California.

The first guest on what may be JR’s last show, Black linguist Dr. Ernie A. Smith, is the kind of Black scholar that you’d never know existed leaving it up to the mainstream and alternative media. The interview with Valrey focused first on the history of Ebonics – ebony and phonics or Black sounds – and the information was revelatory. Smith revealed the African origin of language itself and debunked the old colonial European notion of pidgin and creole.

Dr. Smith then gave an articulate and thorough breakdown of the politics behind the 1996 Ebonics controversy in Oakland, but also put that in the context of the mis-education of African American children in Oakland then and now. Valrey’s questions carefully guided Smith and the listener through the white noise of the flash-in-the-pan story, fixated on the sensational, to a clearer truth.

Kevin Weston and Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff strategize on the future of the ethnic press at an event in the early days of New American Media, then New California Media, around 1996. The Bay View was a founding member of NAM, which now advocates for 2,000 ethnic news organizations nationwide.
There is no one else in Bay Area doing this kind of work on broadcast radio in 2012.

Supposedly the cancellation of the Morning Mix/Block Report Radio isn’t a done deal. I plan on calling the station and letting them know what it should do. Save the Morning Mix/Block Report Radio, KPFA, or it’s a problem. You won’t get any more bread from me – and you will get talked about.

If you’d like to help the Block Report stay on the air, contact

  • Andrew Leslie Phillips, interim General Manager, andrew@kpfa.org, (510) 848-6767, ext. 203
  • Carrie Core, interim Program Director, carrie@kpfa.org, (510) 848-6767, ext. 209

Kevin Weston, a regular contributor to the Bay View in the ‘90s, has long been the editor of New America Media and YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia. He can be reached at kweston@newamericamedia.org.

Block Report Radio on KPFA’s Morning Mix broadcast March 28, 2012 (click to listen)

8 thoughts on “Black sounds silenced at KPFA?

  1. Malaika H Kambon

    Why am I not surprised…

    Myself and several other AFRIKAN programmers have gone through the same nonsense w/ so-called listener supported KPFA & the Pacifica Foundation.

    A case in point is Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn's brilliant program entitled AFRIKAN Mental Liberation Weekend. Aired on KPFA's sister station, KPFK in Los Angeles, the program was cancelled due to false charges of anti-Semitism. http://radioislam.org/islam/english/toread/curren… He now does AFRIKAN history classes in Los Angeles, AFRIKAN Mental Liberation films at different southern California venues, lectures,

    This was a show that he did once a year for an entire weekend in 2003-4, which entailed the airing of 30 hours of non stop Afrikan centered educational programming. It was also a show which was heard internationally, and which made thousands of dollars for KPFK, more money in some cases than did their regular shows. I used to sit for hours and listen – not leaving my tiny battered radio for one second, until the sounds from the last bit of programming had faded away.

    He tried to bring the show to KPFA and was met with the same ridiculous charges. He now teaches AFRIKAN Mental Liberation CDs of those programs can be ordered online at http://www.drkwaku.com/AMLCDs.html

    AFRIKAN Women have been attacked, [case in point, Nadira Foster] unpaid, underpaid, silenced, and slandered at KPFA. It seems that true AFRIKAN programming is always under attack at Pacifica Foundation stations, especially if it is popular with predominantly AFRIKAN audiences. It doesn't matter whether the programming is music/interviews/breaking news/current events/cultural/social calendars, and/or spiritual – AFRIKAN political awareness just seems as though it isn't allowed within the Pacifica Foundation – even though the individual stations are more than happy to sell Black speeches, written works, videos, tapes, CD/DVDs, Black programming (on CD/DVD) for outrageous prices to make a profit when they are on the air begging for money. What do they spend it on? It definitely isn't worker salaries.

    The Pacifica Foundation is a poverty pimp. And as corporate (in their own minds) as Clear Channel.

    It is my feeling that the Pacifica Foundation is a racist organization that doesn't truly want serious AFRIKAN programming, by and/or for the global AFRIKAN community; and definitely doesn't seriously want to speak to the needs of said AFRIKAN community.

    Maybe at its core, the Pacifica Foundation is a lot like Gloria Steinem, who start and built her Ms. magazine empire with funds 'earned' as a CIA 'asset,' while she chased after the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover…

    The question is: who is the Pacifica Foundation an 'asset' for? Because it certainly is trying its best not to be an asset to a global AFRIKAN community.

    Reply
  2. Unk Herm

    TRUE but WHY do we not support this type of programming!! With the 21st Century, the MEDIUM has changed!!
    CREATE OUR OWN!! we still vent/ complain about "mainstream" owned stations, but fail to generate an comparable alternative (especially for our Younger generastion) its up to us "older godz' to keep it ALIVE or at least RELEVANT!!!
    jus MY two centz..

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