Category Archives: Blackblogasphere
December 13, 2013
The ethnic cleansing of Black and Brown broadcasters off the airwaves this year claimed not only the careers of Luke Stewart, formerly of Washington, D.C.’s WPFW, Weyland Southon, formerly of the Bay Area’s KPFA, and myself, formerly of KPFA, but it also claimed one of its most talented producers, Dr. Jared Ball of WPFW.
His offense, which was very similar to my alleged offense against Pacifica, was that he made “disparaging remarks” against the station and network management, and it was determined that he would be suspended indefinitely from the airwaves of his Mid-Day Jazz and Justice weekly show. Known in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area as one of the most relevant and radical interviewers on the dial and for bringing on people and experts who are seldom if ever acknowledged for their contribution towards the self-determination of African people, Jared Ball will be missed on the airwaves of the DMV.
No matter what you do in the future, I salute you, Jared Ball, for your enormous contribution to our understanding of issues in our communities worldwide and to our understanding of how media can work in our interest or against us. The Block Report will continue to support you in your future endeavors that involve revolutionary media work.
Here is Jared Ball in his own words explaining his recent dismissal from WPFW, the D.C.-based Pacifica radio station.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people how you became interested in and later got into radio? When and where was this?
Jared Ball: I first became interested in radio while in college. I started and briefly worked with the sports “department” of our campus radio station. But before long I realized how difficult it is in settings like that to address political issues, so I moved on pretty fast. It wasn’t until I was coming home from graduate school in 2001 that I really began to think about the importance of radio and started to get involved in some local low-power radio projects in Washington, D.C.
I also still count the mixtape radio project we started, FreeMix Radio, that was meant to circumvent an absence on the dial of real Black radical thought and music. That was part of what I understood to be – potentially – the important function radio can still play in advancing elements of our struggle. Eventually, as part of a now defunct organizational effort, I got more involved in WPFW there and soon became a regular programmer.
M.O.I. JR: For out of towners, what is the history of WPFW in the DMV area? How long have you been with WPFW? How long have you been doing your Mid-Day Jazz and Justice show?
Jared Ball: I am far from an expert on the history of WPFW, but I can at least say that it has been on air in more or less its current form since 1977. It has been largely known as a jazz and broadly speaking a “Black music” station with a diverse and mostly “Left” programming body.
I, perhaps mistakenly, always associated with particular programming over the years, like that of Tom Porter, Bob Daughtry and later Damu Smith, so I always took the station to be a Black community and progressive station. That is not to say I was unaware or disinterested in other programming, but this was my focus and what always drew me to that station. I began doing partial production and small news reporting pieces for various programs somewhere around 2002-2003 and became more of a full-time regular programmer around late 2004-2005.
I was first on Decipher, the station’s nightly hip-hop block that many of us had pushed for for years; our show was The Blackademics. I then moved to early morning jazz once a week and eventually Mid-Day Jazz and Justice before finally settling on The Super Funky Soul Power Hour once I took over one of the time slots vacated by the late Ambrose Lane.
M.O.I. JR: When and what reason were you given about why you were recently dismissed from your show?
Jared Ball: Shortly after my show aired Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, I was called and told of my indefinite suspension by general manager Michelle Price, the interim program director Tony Bates, and Gloria Minott who I think at the time was the public affairs director. Officially, Ms. Price indicated that I had broken the zero tolerance policy on publicly criticizing the station and network management.
Though I’ve never been told precisely what I said that broke that policy, I am assuming it was during a 10-minute segment of the show in which I engaged in a “debate” with a friend over whether to keep my show on the air at WPFW given the decisions being made and the treatment I had received from the old and new management. I said that I have serious questions and concerns about all of Pacifica’s national public affairs programming being White, mostly male and mostly over 50 years of age. Those interested can hear the showhere and reach their own conclusions as to the legitimacy of the decision.
Officially, Ms. Price indicated that I had broken the zero tolerance policy on publicly criticizing the station and network management.
Unofficially there seems to be a continued move to purge the station of those who have been openly critical – on or off air – of management and network decision-making. Off-air, I had asked Ms. Price how the station and network arrived at these decisions, why other programmers – and yes, I included myself – were not selected, encouraged or supported in developing their shows to meet whatever the standards were or are.
I asked how could it be possible that a network claiming itself to be an alternative – one that will sell Malcolm X, John Henrik Clarke, the Black Panther Party and more during pledge-drives! – could not somehow find any representatives of the world’s majority population to serve as national public affairs programmers. Again, those interested can see here my comments to station management and my final statement on my time at WPFW and move toward developing their own conclusions.
M.O.I. JR: What has been going on recently at WPFW? How has that affected the whole Pacifica network?
Jared Ball: I cannot speak to everything that has been going on; I was never the most involved member of the station. However, over the last two years or so there has been a struggle over the financial, managerial and programmatic direction of the station. Program grid changes were imposed, well-respected programmers like Tom Porter were removed, the former interim program director, Bob Daughtry, was removed, they just fired another brilliant young Black engineer and musician, Luke Stewart – whose latest “offense” was letting air an imperfectly edited speech by Fred Hampton during an on-air commemoration of the great man – and many other issues that have led to terrible in-fighting, divisiveness and, speaking for myself, a sense of hostility and unease in the studio space itself.
How this has affected all of Pacifica I cannot say. It seems part of a process that impacted you and many other programmers, particularly at WBAI in New York. I would say, though, that this affects Pacifica in weakening further its D.C. affiliate, one that should be among the loudest, most diverse and highly political but one that has, as others have noted, been more interested in Black music than Black thought.
I also think this weakens the network, which I still contend would be better served by reducing more of the extravagant salaries executives and managers earn at the network and redistributing those funds throughout the network in order to develop more programming, investigative and radical journalism – all of which I think would increase our audience and impact on those audiences.
This is the only way I see to save the network: Get more radical, more diverse and more involved in producing news.
M.O.I. JR: Ethnically cleansing the airwaves seems to be a trend every few years at Pacifica. What do you think? What are some of the reasons being said behind closed doors for the recent dismissal of Black broadcasters on Pacifica like you and myself?
Jared Ball: I think this is part of a long-standing struggle with White liberalism. From Hubert Henry Harrison to Claudia Jones, to DuBois, King, Malcolm X and Kwame Ture, all – and more – have noted the shortcomings of the White “Left” in dealing with Black people and Black liberation. I also think this is an issue of ideology and politics.
The Black hired hands who carry out management policy at WPFW are there for their commercial and corporate capabilities, not their interest or ability to program the most forward, critically thinking and stylish content. I listen to all their favorites too: I learn a lot from Amy Goodman, Richard Wolff and Doug Henwood, Project Censored and Counterspin – I do appreciate their work.
I asked how could it be possible that a network claiming itself to be an alternative – one that will sell Malcolm X, John Henrik Clarke, the Black Panther Party and more during pledge-drives! – could not somehow find any representatives of the world’s majority population to serve as national public affairs programmers.
But as I have long argued – and demonstrated – they do not have strong track records of including Black, Brown, Indigenous thought, worldviews, perspectives or concerns. And as I have said to our management, I think my show was better than theirs. I think there are plenty of other – and far better than me – world’s majority programmers who could be cultivated into strong national public affairs hosts.
The issue is that Pacifica feels that only these and those like them are worthy of an audience, of network support and of real promotion. So there is simply not a lot of room for people critical of their dominance of public affairs and national slots or critical of the limitations of their perspectives and analyses.
Or if the goal, as it once was at WPFW, is to bring NPR and NPR-like programming and to think that mirroring that kind of programming will improve the economic state of the network, then it stands to reason that those critical of that approach will not find themselves welcomed – certainly not those of us who have publicly equated NPR with Fanon’s description of Radio Alger in colonial Algeria.
Those of us who prefer an approach born of what can broadly be described as the Black radical tradition, including those of us who bring music and particularly hip-hop from that perspective, are less likely to be welcomed. But really, it is just offensive to suggest that WPFW could not find one Black or Brown programmer to promote for the national grid or to air as prime drive time evening public affairs.
M.O.I. JR: How do you look at what just happened in your situation and relate it to emancipatory journalism? What does this incident say about the state of the unfiltered political Black male voice in the media?
Jared Ball: I, too need to be reminded that my initial interest in emancipatory journalism – a philosophy of journalism that presupposes an on-going colonialism and need for bottom-up, organizationally based journalistic practice – and it being applied to the tradition of the hip-hop mixtape, all derived from an assessment of our media environment that there is no other more viable outlet, on or offline, for that kind of work or expression.
Pacifica and the rest of the so-called “Left” or “alternative” media world have proven themselves in this regard – and long before my removal – to be insufficient at best. I have to also be reminded that the political function of media is to prevent unsanctioned change, which means that, prior to any revolutionary change, there will never be unfiltered Black – or otherwise – women or men in prominent spaces. I think we have to again conclude – or should have long concluded – that the “Left” has not produced such space either and begin again to move accordingly.
Those of us who prefer an approach born of what can broadly be described as the Black radical tradition, including those of us who bring music and particularly hip-hop from that perspective, are less likely to be welcomed.
M.O.I. JR: What is next for you? How do people stay up with your podcasts?
Jared Ball: I don’t know exactly what is next for me. All I know is that I will continue to produce interview and discussion segments – and more – for anyone to use in their media work and that can all be found atIMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” 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.
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Monday, January 7, 2013
What We Can All Learn From Whores
(But first, a disclaimer: I don’t believe in “whores.” I don’t believe in assessing the character of a person based solely on their sexual behavior. I think all people make different sexual choices that, if they are practicing them with equally consenting, adult partners, are awesome for them. But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume whore = the agreed upon social norm that a woman who engages in sexual behavior including but not limited to; sex with a high number of partners, multiple partners #atthesamedamntime, leveraging sex for material goods, etc. is a hoe.)
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
ook a long time to assemble my thoughts on Shawty Lo’s new show and the outrage it’s inspired primarily because I was deeply conflicted. Shawty Lo’s recklessness is indefensible. I have no desire to defend the show or its right to be on the air. I don’t believe that the arrangement the rapper has with his 10 children’s mothers and 11 children is a justifiable alternative family structure. The discussion around the show, however, has been largely unproductive and intellectually lazy. Too many men and women missed the greater, ongoing tragedies in black communities that this show represents.
Prescriptions of marriage for all Black women who wish to have children are bullheadedly misguided. Marriage, across many segments of American society, is dying, and black folks aren’t going to revive it. Yet compassionate conservatives continue pushing it without acknowledging that this institution simply does not align with the lived experiences of most Americans. Now that white folks are doing it in larger numbers, cohabitation and unwedded co-parenting will be normalized, but it’s a shame that majority culture has to adopt a habit so it will not be seen as pathological among blacks. Out of Wedlock shamers feel emboldened because their ideologies are validated by majority culture. That will soon not be the case.
If teaching young Black couples the value of marriage were the answer to problem of abandoned children, these discussions wouldn’t be necessary. Blacks are extremely conservative when it comes to theoretical moral stances, but morals, standards, and ethics are not fixed. They are situational and contextual. They require continual evaluation. I’ve known many men and women who’ve expressed a belief in the value of marriage who went on to have children out of wedlock. Things happen. Life happens. Stern lectures and catchy slogans don’t displace real trials and tumult life brings.
Marriage fell out of favor in Black communities decades ago because of shifting economies and values, and the shift we’re seeing away from marriage largely reflects that in the whole of America. When black folks do it, it’s primitive behavior. When white folks do it, it’s cultural evolution.
We have yet to discuss real solutions. Pro-marriage advocates refuse to acknowledge that a likelihood to marry is tied closely to education. College-educated women marry later and stay married longer. We also know that better health outcomes and financial stability also accompany formal education. Why then would “personal responsibility” campaigns focus exclusively on fertility. If you want young Black women to lead more stable lives, encourage them to stay in school. Of course, acknowledging that fact requires reading beyond the headlines, and takes away the fun of slut-shaming. But that’s a real solution – not a hash tag. A diploma.
Then again, higher education has become increasingly unattainable for those without family and financial support, and those are the women most at risk. The education solution does not account for the women who will not ever earn a diploma. That means we must turn to the women themselves and the families they produce.
In order to progress past the hand wringing, black communities have to embrace and encourage supportive, non-traditional families. This is, however, difficult to do with a family that is the result of the kinds of coercive sexual relationships that produced Shawty Lo’s situation. The majority of the mothers met the rapper when while they were underage or barely legal. This man is a predator, and he created a family born not of consent and support but of the perceived limits of black women’s romantic options. Without a commitment or assurance of stability, the women had his children. It seems they settled for what was available to them rather than what they deserved. It’s a mindset not uncommon in women – onne that stems from internalizing constant degrading messages.
Our worlds are limited by constant attacks. I question the motives of the black women bloggers who’ve taken this as an opportunity to further degrade women who clearly cannot see how valuable, beautiful and capable they are. You cannot claim to care for black women, especially those at risk of exploitation, and hurl the same insults at them as everyone else. Quite frankly, if you don’t hesitate to refer to black women as livestock, you’re not really for us. If further stripping Black women of their humanity is a central component of your movement, I have no choice but to hope for its speedy demise.
We grossly underestimate the intelligence of the women who find themselves in less than ideal romantic and child-rearing entanglements. In reality, women must get creative in order to navigate the landmines of patriarchy. “Respectable” black women talk down to those they presume don’t know any better and do nothing but preach to the wannabe upper class choir.
Alternative families can be beautiful; however, ideally those family structures would be created with consent and support. Support is more than financial. We must demand men assume emotional responsibility for their children as well as financial culpability. This requires a fundamental reimagining of the foundational roles of fathers. The problem cannot rest solely at the feet of women who birth the children.
Shawty Lo and the mothers of his 11 children didn’t reveal to me anything I hadn’t seen or imagined. But they did force me to think through the ways we can improve the lives of the adults and kids caught up in less than ideal circumstances. Attempting to silence or erase them won’t fix anything for the countless other women who face similar challenges. Empower women to pursue higher education. Empower them to seek partners that will uplift them. Empower them to use birth control and condoms. We must remember that strong families cannot exist without strong women, and the work of building them never ends.