by Karen Hutton
On March 6, the Bay’s “Free Speech Radio” aka KPFA suspended one of the best broadcasters and shows that they had on the air because The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey of Block Report Radio, who’s also the associate editor of the SF Bay View, reported on the fact that members of management and of the CWA union, aka the “White Citizens Council” inside of KPFA, have been engaged in racist activities.
In November, Michael Yoshida, a member of KPFA’s management team, intentionally erased a breaking news interview from the Congo before it aired when JR was a few minutes late coming out of the studio. His rash action was reported to KPFA management, but nothing was done. JR then requested a meeting with Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reece. Two months passed, and neither she nor her staff responded.
The Bay’s “Free Speech Radio” aka KPFA suspended one of the best broadcasters and shows that they had on the air because The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey of Block Report Radio reported that members of management and of the CWA union, aka the “White Citizens Council” inside of KPFA, have been engaged in racist activities.
On Feb. 6, JR took the issue public on his drive-time show, the Block Report, the Wednesday 8-9 a.m. Morning Mix show, apparently creating a whole heap of complaints from the management and union, which KPFA management with Pacifica backing used to “suspend JR indefinitely,” which is a white liberal way of saying he is expelled from the prime-time slot. His offense: reporting on racism inside this bastion of progressive broadcasting.
Just to show the inequity of penalty enforcement at KPFA, the former Program Director Sasha Lilley, currently co-host of the KPFA radio show Against the Grain, let the word “fuck” out twice in some pre-recorded tape on her Jan. 8 show. Each FCC violation could have cost the station $350,000. She was never punished. When she was the Program Director of KPFA five years ago, Youth Radio, a local non-profit that trains mostly youth of color, was taken off KPFA’s airwaves permanently for a similar, inadvertent violation. Sasha Lilley, who is white, was allowed to slither away unaddressed.
I took this opportunity to talk to Tim Killings, who is part of the Laney College Black Student Union and the main organizer of the Black Broadcasters, People of Color and Unpaid Staff Town Hall Meeting on April 11 at Laney that will be addressing some of the issues presented in this article and more.
Karen Hutton: Why did you used to listen to the Block Report on the Morning Mix?
Tim Killings: I used to listen to the Block Report on the Morning Mix because I would be up every Wednesday taking my son to school, and JR’s show is by far the best radio morning show airing at 8 a.m. It is a very good show. It became a Wednesday Morning routine.
Karen Hutton: What made the Block Report different from other radio shows on KPFA?
Tim Killings: The Block Report is different because the diversity of issues covered by the show. The Block Report is not just a political show; it exposed its listeners to many genres of music and musical artists, such as Gil Scott Heron or Seun Kuti, the youngest son of Fela Kuti. The show talked about very good political issues from around the globe, from Oakland to Africa. There is not another radio show that you can really compare to the Block Report.
JR’s show is by far the best radio morning show airing at 8 a.m.
Karen Hutton: Why is it important for the Black and non-Black community to have access to the information that the Block Report provides?
Tim Killings: It is very important that the community have access to the information the Block Report provides, because the radio is how a lot of our community receives information. The radio has been a tool of disempowerment, misinformation and propaganda when used by the dominant culture in this society.
The information that the Block Report gives empowers its listeners with the truth. In the age of media conglomerates who promote war, imperialism, fear mongering, exploitation and racism through companies such as News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom, Comcast, NBC Universal and Sony Corp. of America, it has never been more important to have independent media journalists such as JR Valrey, who report truthful information and do not hide the truth no matter what the consequences.
The radio has been a tool of disempowerment, misinformation and propaganda when used by the dominant culture in this society.
Karen Hutton: What do you think about KPFA suspending the Block Report from the Wednesday morning time slot for criticizing the racism that goes down in this “progressive” “free-speech” station, administered by management?
Tim Killings: I think that KPFA suspending JR Valrey was a huge mistake! This is usually the fate of anyone who stands up and exposes institutionalized racism.
I have seen this happen to many people who speak out against racism. Sometimes you get punished for speaking the truth.
Racism is the reality that this country has yet to deal with. The mere mention of racism makes a lot of White people very uncomfortable in their false post-racial paradigm, progressive or not.
So when I heard JR call out the management of KPFA for a clear pattern of racism, I believed him, and I was like, “Right on!” That needed to be exposed. When KPFA suspended the show, it was clear to me that it was retaliation for JR speaking the truth, which is wrong no matter which way you look at it.
I have seen this happen to many people who speak out against racism. I have been fired from two jobs for speaking out about racism and know a lot of people who have suffered the same fate, so this is not surprising to me at all. Sometimes you get punished for speaking the truth.
Karen Hutton: What do you think people should do?
Tim Killings: I think that people should recognize the importance of this fight and support and join the fight to get JR Valrey back on the air, and let KPFA know that the community will not stand for racism and retaliation against their Black radio personalities. The community should call into the station every chance they get. They should not pledge one cent to Pacifica as long as JR is suspended.
Black Broadcasters, People of Color and Unpaid Staff Townhall Meeting is Thursday, April 11, at 6 p.m. in the Laney College Student Center Room 401, fourth floor, 900 Fallon St., Oakland.
Karen Hutton: Why should we support real community media? What effect has it had on you?
Tim Killings: I support real community media because I am so tired of stations like 106.1 who promote rappers like Lil Wayne and Rick Ross who destroy the minds of our youth. I am tired of KTVU’s biased reporting and negative images of Oakland as some sort of crime haven.
I am tired of all the lies and negative images being projected through corporate media. That’s why I support real community media, because it’s resistance that is needed in our community to combat and change all of the negativity caused by mainstream media that is not controlled by our communities.
Karen Hutton: When is the Black Broadcasters, People of Color and Unpaid Staff Town Hall Meeting?
Tim Killings: Black Broadcasters, People of Color and Unpaid Staff Townhall Meeting is Thursday, April 11, at 6 p.m. in the Laney College Student Center Room 401, fourth floor, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. I hope to see a lot of community there.
Bay Area writer Karen Hutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.