by Sarah Allen
On Dec. 7, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association (BABJA) honored veteran journalist Davey D Cook with a lifetime achievement award for his decades of service to the community as a radio DJ, journalist, educator and activist during a luncheon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in Oakland.
The event was much like a homecoming for those in radio and television broadcasting who kicked down many doors in the early days of Bay Area media. Those who shared 30-year careers along with Davey D were in attendance, including a much anticipated reunion of legendary hip-hop radio pioneers Renel Brooks-Moon, Chuy Gomez and Sway Calloway.
Attendees were gifted with programs that were commemorative album covers including real vinyl records with the title, “Born in New York, Made in the Bay,” an homage to Davey D’s longtime contribution to the national hip-hop scene.
The afternoon, hosted by Chuy Gomez, set the tone immediately with a nostalgic tribute by Renel Brooks-Moon.
“There’s just so much love in this room today and it brings back so many amazing memories that me and my homies got to share over our extraordinary years on KMEL,” Brooks-Moon reflected. “We changed the face of radio in this market.”
She shared a story about how the morning radio show on KMEL had been looking for their “missing piece” and ultimately found it when Davey D was invited to do the sports segment.
“His authenticity came shining through. Davey brought his sense of humor, his genuine love of and care for our community and the community at large. He brought his political knowledge. He brought his crusade for social justice. He brought his hip-hop knowledge of course and our listeners loved him and ate it all up.”
Sway Calloway, who started off in Bay Area radio with his “Wake Up” show on KMEL, and is best known for his morning radio show “Sway in the Morning” on Sirius radio, spoke endearingly about Davey D as a mentor and big brother.
“Davey D is somebody I’ve often said is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing, the way that I am doing it,” Calloway stated. “This is a man to this day that I call when I need grounding. The ‘Wake Up’ show was a double entendre for waking up people to what they don’t know. That tutelage came from him playing break beats with Martin Luther King speeches and letting us know that playing break beats with Malcolm X speeches was OK.”
One of the many highlights of the afternoon was a guest appearance by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who spoke about his decades long friendship with Davey D. To many, Chuck D is a force in the hip-hop world with hits like “Fight the Power” and “Rebel Without a Pause.” Yet that day, Chuck was just there to honor his close friend and brother.
“Now when it comes down to talking about Dave, understand that I will say nothing about myself, but if you talk about yourself, it’s connected to somebody you know for so long, before 8 tracks, Cadillacs and Similac,” Chuck D joked with the audience.
“People, whether they know it or not, when they go around with their little gadget and want to get an interview, want to take a picture, it came from this dude doing it first.”
Leading up to the award presentation, the audience was treated to a video tribute that illustrated Davey D’s career highlights and featured interviews by Too $hort, Suga-T and Mistah FAB.
Davey D was presented with proclamations from Stanford University, the Oakland City Council and the office of Mayor London Breed in San Francisco. Sway Calloway also presented him with BABJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
A visibly emotional Davey D stepped on stage to accept these honors.
“I’m reminded that there is always a lot of work to do. I am also reminded that I am not here on my own, but I am here because, as Sway just said, there’s a village. The village starts at home and extends to my family,” said Davey D.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This means a lot. To see everyone here, I’m beyond speechless. I hope everyone really understands what it means when bridges are built. It’s built off of sacrifice and prices paid. Hopefully I’ve represented those who built those bridges. My job is to continue to build bridges for others with the same attitude like ‘y’all better not mess up.’”
The afternoon was capped off with a special guest appearance by renowned political activist Dr. Cornel West, who addressed the audience.
“Brother Davey D, I love and respect you after all these years and that’s true for each and every one of you!” exclaimed West.
“We’re trying to pass this tradition onto the younger generation so they understand love, justice and solidarity. It’s just a blessing to be here and anytime I come to Oakland, I feel the fire.”
Founded in March 1982, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association (BABJA) is an organization of African American media professionals and students representing radio, television, print, public relations, online journalism and advertising. The association is the Bay Area’s Black media organization of choice with the objective to groom Black media professionals for leadership; to enhance the coverage of issues of concern to African American people; to work with Bay Area media in hiring and cultivating more Blacks in management and to make the media more responsible.
BABJA is an affiliate of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and, as such, has hosted two NABJ Regional Conferences, attracting more than 250 Black journalists to the Bay Area. BABJA has been the conduit through which many journalists have gained successful employment in the Bay Area media market – an area that has a reputation for being one of the most difficult markets to enter.
To become a member, go to babja.org.
Sarah Allen, media strategist and writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.