by The Liberator Magazine
Word reached The Liberator Magazine, based in Philadelphia and distributed in 11 countries and nine cities, that revolutionary Black independent media is about to expand, with the impending launch of Block Report Radio Station on the internet. So they sought out its founder, Oakland journalist JR Valrey, to ask him why he devotes his life to independent media and what we can expect from the new Block Report Radio Station.
Liberator Magazine: How did you end up becoming a journalist?
JR Valrey: I became a journalist because very early on, I saw how the Oakland police abuse people day in and day out, with no consequences. They would rob people, plant dope, falsify reasons for arrest, and it was said that they were responsible for some of the unsolved murders.
Being solution-oriented, my maternal grandmother talked of a time in Oakland where people stood up for themselves under the guidance of Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party. That was the only time where we had some kind of power over our lives and community.
So when I became a teenager, I started to study the Panther movement and other Black people who had stood up for their human rights. I happened to get into a young journalist program in ‘95, and haven’t looked back since.
LM: What about growing up in Oakland prepared you for your work as an activist and newspaper and radio journalist?
JR Valrey: The revolutionary spirit and consciousness in Oakland is not like any other place in the country that I have been to. The influence and residue of the Black Power movement, under the direction of the Black Panther Party, and to a lesser extent George Jackson’s Black Guerrilla Family in the ‘60s and ‘70s created this culture.
On the other hand the Bay Area is also the home of crack cocaine and some of the biggest and most important government counter-intelligence programs in the country. Cocaine was introduced to the area to kill the revolutionary spirit and introduce a more capitalistic mind state of individualism. It has worked to some extent. At this moment, these are two of the biggest eras that lead to the forming of the Oakland and Bay Area culture.
This is where I have resided all of my life, so this culture has had a tremendous effect on me. My connections and consciousness were built in this atmosphere and prepared me for what it is that I do today. As a journalist, I speak to and for those voices who live in these government set up environments of chaos, where we are struggling to survive.
LM: What does it mean to be the “Minister of Information?”
JR Valrey: The title “Minister of Information” came to me when I was working with an organization that I am no longer affiliated with. Since leaving the organization, I added the word “People’s” to “Minister of Information” to clarify that I do not speak for an organization any more; I speak for the people in general.
Although I am not against organization in no way shape or form, leaders in many of these formations have allowed their power among their own followers to go to their heads, instead of trying to use it to be constructive in the interest of the collective or the masses that are supposed to be represented by the organization.
In protest of that phenomenon, I’m the People’s Minister of Information and will help all people and projects no matter what organization they are a part of, as long as I feel that the campaign is noble and worthy.
LM: What is Block Report Radio Station’s goal?
JR Valrey: Our goal is to educate people about the true history of the world via a working class perspective on the current events that we are living through with the intention of moving our listeners into action – shaping their own destinies.
After parting ways with the Pacifica Radio Foundation in September 2013, I realized the Block Report Radio Show brand of distributing news and culture needed to be expanded into a viable internet radio station. There are currently too many voices being left out of the media in our community. Block Report Radio Station will begin to fill the void.
The financial small fish can now compete on a more equal playing ground. This will have a positive effect on everybody who feels like corporate agendas are dominating terrestrial radio.
Our goal is to educate people about the true history of the world via a working class perspective on the current events that we are living through with the intention of moving our listeners into action – shaping their own destinies.
People who are interested in political, social and cultural happenings affecting working class Black and Brown people are the main beneficiaries of Block Report Radio. Besides donating (at Indiegogo), you can get involved by joining the national and international community outreach team or also by applying to have a show on the air. The project will start during the month of January 2014 and will be based out of downtown Oakland.
LM: Who are your most important teachers?
JR Valrey: Some of my most important teachers have been my grandparents, my children, members of the San Francisco State University Pan Afrikan Student Union, the Young Comrades, the Prisoners of Conscious Committee, members of the Black Dot Artist Collective, members of the Prison Movement, Geronimo and Shabaka Ji Jaga, members of the Black Panther Party, Ra’Shida, Steph, Keita, Zahrah, Steve, Alaya and the rest of my East Coast family, my comrade Young Malcolm, Cynthia McKinney, members of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Khallid Muhammad, Asha, dead prez, 2pac, Digital Underground and others.
LM: How has fatherhood influenced your work?
JR Valrey: Fatherhood has greatly influenced my work. It has made me mature and sensitive to others in ways that I would not have imagined before. I have learned a lot from my children about the simplicity of life, while teaching them about the complexities.
I have also learned from them that I need to balance family and work since both are vitally necessary. I’ve learned to live in the moment and enjoy myself, because hanging with all of these organizers and artists, we are always looking to the future or the past.
My children are teaching me to live in the present as they do. These are just some of the many things that I have learned from them.
LM: Revolutionary journalism isn’t for the faint of heart. What keeps you motivated as an activist and journalist?
JR Valrey: What keeps me motivated is the fact that there are only a few of us nationally who subscribe to making constructive media for Black and Brown consumption. You are one of my inspirations, along with people like Sierra McClain in Houston, Jared Ball in D.C., Naji Mujaheed in D.C., Dedon Kimathi in L.A., Dequi Kioni in NYC and a few others.
We fill a void that allows Black people in this country and all around the world to know what we are going through and feeling like in different pockets of the planet Earth. As a human being, I feel it is my duty to stay active in creating a better world that me and my loved ones would want to live in.
LM: What has been your best interview experience?
JR Valrey: That’s a hard one because I’ve done over a thousand interviews. But some of the ones that I loved were with the late jazz legend Gil Scott Heron, with Young Malcolm Shabazz talking about his views on Dr. King, with Les Nubians schooling me on how Michael Jackson stole some music from an African artist, also Roy Clay, the Black father of Silicone Valley, Dr. Ernie Smith talking about ebonics, “Go Tell It” playwright Taiwo Kujichagulia Seitu talking about Harriet Tubman and spirituals, and peace activist Cynthia McKinney sharing her analysis on the Arab Spring/CIA Spring, just to name a few.
LM: Who would you want to interview first in 2014?
JR Valrey: Some of the people that I would like to interview are Lauryn Hill after her imprisonment for tax evasion, Winnie Mandela of South Africa now that everyone is exalting her ex-husband and South Africa is on the brink of Civil War, the legendary San Francisco bred Santana, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who is nationalizing mines and giving colonial controlled land back to his people in Zimbabwe.
LM: What are you reading nowadays?
JR Valrey: I just read a book about the history of Soul Train by Ericka Blount Danois. Also I just began a book on Jimi Hendrix written in his own words using interviews and songs. I will soon begin to read the new book just released by Sanyika Shakur, and the new soon to be released Oscar Grant book by Thandisizwe Chimurenga.
LM: What music are you listening to?
JR Valrey: I have been back and forth from the Bay and L.A. recently, so the five-hour drive each way has allowed me some time to listen to some new stuff as well as stuff I haven’t heard. I have been listening to Glasper’s Black Radio 2, but it doesn’t move me with the exception of the Jill Scott and Snoop tracks. The last “Black Radio” was a classic. I have also been listening to Sade’s last album, and M1, Brian Jackson and the Midnight Band’s Evolutionary Minded.
LM: What are the words you live by?
JR Valrey: “Power is in the people and politics that we address” by 2Pac. “Power is the ability to define a phenomenon and make it work in a desired manner” by Huey P. Newton.
Find more on Block Report Radio’s Internet Radio Station Campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/block-report-radio-internet-radio-station-campaign. All that’s needed to launch the new Block Report Radio Station is funds for equipment. Please give generously. This story first appeared in the Philly-based Liberator Magazine, an independent Black publication in print and online that looks back to the revolutionary spirit that inspired the Black Arts Movement, while at the same time embracing a contemporary aesthetic with its foundations in a pan-African consciousness.