What is July 4th to Us?

Protesting an abrupt holiday programming change that will eliminate alternative views on “Independence Day” and world affairs, Concerned Members and Supporters of WPFW (CMS) is issuing a statement and will protest on Friday, July 5, beginning at 12:30 p.m. outside of the temporary station studios at 1819 L St. NW in Washington, DC. This action and statement is in response to the decision by station manager John Hughes to pre-empt vital news and public affairs programming, in favor of playing all music, on July 4 and July 5. Friday’s protesters will rally in support of Jay Winter Nightwolf, veteran Native American programmer at the station, who will come to the station to do his show on Friday, in defiance of the unannounced pre-emption.

CMS, made up of listeners, paid and unpaid staff, station programmers and other volunteers for the Pacifica Radio station in Washington, DC, says that the decision by Hughes hampers the station’s ability to fulfill its historical mission as a “Jazz and Justice” resource for the community.

On June 28, a management representative told Friday programmer Jared Ball that his 11 a.m. program “The Super-Funky Soul Power Hour,” as well as J. Winter Nightwolf’s 1 p.m. program, “The Nightwolf Show,” would be among the shows replaced on July 5, by jazz programming “in celebration of” the July 4th holiday. There was no consultation with the programmers, despite the fact that both hosts had planned and announced on-air the programming for that day. Ball had already promoted his show on Nelson Mandela, the critically-ill iconic leader of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Nightwolf’s show was to feature the prominent author and historian James Anthony Hall, author of the acclaimed book, Earth Into Property, which explored the relationship between the dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the making of global capitalism

WPFW has always been in the forefront of regional media efforts to raise the consciousness of its listeners regarding political developments now and in history that impact on the well-being of diverse communities. It has particularly offered an alternative vision of national holidays by those struggling to expose injustice and support human rights. Considering that holiday periods allow new listeners time away from their everyday work lives to explore new media, it is crucial for the station to continue to offer programming at those times that introduces it as a vehicle for alternative views and voices, as well as for African-American classical music and music of other cultures. Not to take advantage of such periods to maximize outreach to new audiences and uplift regular listeners sabotages the station’s ability to survive in accordance with its mission.

Racially-oppressed communities and all working communities find themselves this very month confronting a plethora of issues that critically affect their futures. Last week’s Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act shows us the relevance today of the speech by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass 161 years ago, in which he declared the popular July 4th celebration to be “a sham.” Moreover, this year commemorates 50 years since the assassination of Medgar Evers, the 1963 March on Washington and the murders of the four little girls in Birmingham. This year, 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, we witness the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. As of this writing, Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition in South Africa and people all over the United States are preparing to rally to “Restore the Fourth” on July 4, to protest government spying and violations of the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States. All these significant events require our attention as we continue to face rising unemployment, failing schools, inadequate health care, crushing housing shortages, escalating food costs, a voracious privatized prison industry, police brutality and war abroad. We need to protect the vehicle for grassroots organizing provided by WPFW, our safeguard of freedom of speech, more than ever.

Those protesting the decision of management to scuttle locally-produced news and public affairs shows demand support for programming that integrates the people’s music with the people’s politics and doesn’t segregate justice talk from justice music.

CMS was formed in December of 2012 when the current station management unilaterally enacted sweeping grid changes without consultation with programmers or community representatives. The organization has made significant gains in restoring some of the grid through broadly-supported petitions, letter-writing campaigns, street demonstrations, rallies and town hall meetings.  It mounted a successful, multi-faceted campaign to prevent management from moving the station to a property owned by ultra-right wing media conglomerate Clear Channel.

CMS regards the recent steps as a further effort at diluting WPFW’s role as a station for social justice. Censoring progressive programmers during a key holiday broadcasting period is just the latest manifestation of management’s intention to install nationally-produced programs with corporate sponsorship in place of vital, ear-to-the-ground, incisive programming by our roster of experienced activist-programmers. We intend to meet every challenge in our fight to save our beloved community radio station, which is a “voice of the voiceless” in Washington, DC.


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