At 4 p.m. on her very last day of employment as the executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, Nicole Sawaya permanently appointed Lemlem Rijio as the general manager at KPFA-FM, a position Rijio has been occupying on an interim basis for two years. Rijio has been under fire as of late, with Berkeley police violently arresting a station programmer who had allegedly been banned in a dispute over copier usage. Seventy-four of 215 station staffers have signed a statement of no-confidence in her leadership.
The officers were waiting, loaded firearms dangling from their waists, steel filled chests puffed out, glassy stares behind helmets. She was one woman alone. She was a reporter doing her job. She was attacked by the police for no reason at all. Her only crime was being a media producer in a hostile location.
A new KPFA policy essentially bans all listeners from the station except those that management deems "authorized" and it permits police to remove anyone not authorized. KPFA recently called the police on an unpaid staff person, Nadra Foster. The calling of police by any progressive organization or institution is a racist act by definition. If anyone should be banned from the station, it should be the present management, which needs to be replaced immediately.
Black radio really is vanishing. Out of 10,315 commercial AM and FM radio stations in the United States, only 168 are Black-owned. In the new film “Disappearing Voices: The Decline of Black Radio,” veteran radio personality Bob Law and independent filmmaker U-Savior explain why.
It is a sad commentary when the management of KPFA Radio, a nonprofit dedicated to social justice in my hometown of Berkeley, Calif., calls the police on a staff member who volunteers her time, donating talent and skill to bring the mission of that organization to bear.
As a member of first the advisory board and later the governing Local Station Board at KPFA through 2006, I witnessed events that I believe gave rise to what the writers of yesterday's Berkeley Daily Planet commentary call a threat of "civil war," and I contribute these words to the struggle for a just peace. KPFA managers are apparently oblivious to the everyday police war on Black people that I believe KPFA is obligated by its mission to cover.
Almost 20 years ago, we declared this KPFA building a sanctuary against violence, a new home for peace and a network that was created nearly six decade ago to promote peace and understanding among all communities. And here we have the Pacifica patrones mimicking their corporate twins, using police power to sustain their political point of view.
As I read the post about what happened to Nadra Foster, I broke out in a cold sweat and my heart started to beat faster and faster. I experienced painful flashbacks and felt that burn of tears welling up in my eyes. I knew this would happen again.
I was outraged to hear that my "daughter," Nadra Foster, was attacked, brutalized, hogtied, arrested and charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, assaults on police, and other charges, with bail set at $81,500!
One of the officers has his knee on her groin. Another one is pressing her arms against her chest and his full body weight is top of her. Nadra and the officers are rolling and struggling on the ground. Nadra is still screaming for help.
On Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, between 1 and 2 p.m., Nadra Foster, a young Black woman programmer and single mother, was beaten to the ground by the Berkeley police, arrested, hog-tied and taken to jail, after the management of KPFA radio and the Pacifica Foundation had called the police on her, falsely accusing her of being "banned" from the station.
For small non-commercial radio stations across the country, the ability to stream programs on the Internet is indispensable. Instead of being limited to the wattage granted to them by the FCC, streaming on-line allows stations to reach listeners all over the world.