by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Davey D’s Street Knowledge radio show on KMEL is where a lot of current Bay Area radio veterans first got a chance to cut their teeth on air 20 years ago, as interns and producers. That lists includes KPFA’s electronics technician Dev Ross, KPFA host and board-op Wesley Burton, local comedian Chris Riggins, Hard Knock Radio’s Anita Johnson, NPR’s Nishat Kurwa, Flashpoints producer Nora Barrows Friedman, me and more.
On April 18, Wesley Burton, one of the members of this former crew, was killed by a hit and run driver on Martin Luther King and 60th Street in North Oakland in the early morning hours after his show, Side Show Radio. This father, radio man, music producer, friend and comrade meant a lot to a lot of people.
I wanted to talk with Davey D about his thoughts on Wesley Burton, who he has known for at least the last 20 years. Here’s Davey D in his own words.
M.O.I. JR: How did you meet Wesley Burton? How did he become a part of your KMEL radio show Street Knowledge?
Davey D: I met Wesley back in the mid-‘90s when I was working at KMEL and started doing a show called Street Knowledge. I was already at KPFA doing a Hip Hop show called the Friday Night Vibe and was familiar with the then emerging Youth Radio program, which was next door. I wanted to take on folks at YR as interns for Street Knowledge vs. being assigned interns from KMEL. Wes was a part of the crew of teenagers who came on board.
M.O.I. JR: What made you let him work with you?
Davey D: Wes was part of a larger crew of folks that all hung together out of that Youth Radio collective. In preparing for Street Knowledge, most of the prep work was done at KPFA, so I would see Wes around. It was so long ago, so I’m fuzzy on the particular details. But Wes was a consistent presence. He wasn’t talkative or anything like that. He was someone who was dependable or you could count on to always be present and do the work at hand.
M.O.I. JR: How would you describe Wesley’s personality?
Davey D: Wes was always friendly. Wes was loyal. Wes was a hard worker. Wes was someone who was focused. Like I said before, he wasn’t all that outspoken, but he had a strong presence.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about how you two got along at KPFA?
Davey D: Wes was part of crew which includes folks like Chill and Devroll Ross, who went on to do a rap show that focused on local talent called the Side Show. That show was a holdover from my old Friday Night Vibe show, which I passed down to folks once I started doing Hard Knock Radio. I would always see Wes in the back studio with his crew working on beats and recording music and basically sharpening his broadcast and production skills. He was dedicated.
Wes was always friendly. Wes was loyal. Wes was a hard worker. Wes was someone who was focused. He wasn’t all that outspoken, but he had a strong presence.
In the past couple of years or so, I would see Wes when I would do my HKR shift. He was the board op. We always joked around and shared laughs. I often saw Wes outside of the station with his family because his wife was part of a Danza community. So I would see him and his kids and we would always run into each other at those events.
Wes was a proud family man who would stop at nothing to uplift his kids and support his wife. I remember seeing him at one point with his kids and just recalling how far Wes had come from being an intern who was a kid himself to someone who’s holding it down for his family and being an engaging father and husband.
M.O.I. JR: What will you miss most about Wesley Burton?
Davey D: Wes was a down to earth genuine cat. I will miss his smile and kind words. I will miss his passion for sports and music. I will miss his strong presence. He was someone you could count on to hold things down. His death is a big loss
M.O.I. JR: What are you currently up to?
Davey D: Currently teaching over at SF State, doing HKR which has been expanding, and working on a few Hip Hop oriented projects which shall emerge over the next few months. Been deejaying a lot, almost every weekend at this point, and trying to make sense of the increasing madness this world is heaping on us.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.