Why Black Folks Blast Their Radio's:
The Silencing of Black Talk
Min. Paul Scott
"My radio believe me/ I like it loud
I'm the man with the box/that can rock a crowd"
I Can't Live Without My Radio- LL Cool J
It's a familiar scene. You're rolling down the street on a peaceful Sunday evening. You stop at a traffic light and the dude in the car next to you is blastin' his music so loud that it rattles your teeth and knocks the Pepsi that you were enjoying right out of your drink holder. While you may wonder how the kid can enjoy playing his radio that loud, in reality it is not for his enjoyment. He's just trying to be heard.
Members of my generation have always played our music loud, from the giant 50 pound boom boxes that we used to lug around on our shoulders in the early 80's to the 10,000 watt boomin' systems that we installed in our jeeps in the early 90's. Although many people assumed that we were just trying to be annoying, like the youth of today we were making a statement.
There is a new movie being released nationally July 27th called "Talk to Me" that chronicles the career of Ralph "Petey" Green who went from being a convict to a populor DC radio and then TV personality that told "tha man" where to stick it during the 60's through the early 80's.
But in 2007, where are the "Petey Green's" who are willing to force America to hear the truth about the trials that Black folks face on a daily basis?
While there are hundreds of white journalists, talk show hosts and other media personalities across the country there only a relative handful of African American opinion makers and yet fewer who comment from an Afrocentric perspective.
In every market you will find at least one white conservative talk show host. The trend really kicked off in the mid 90's as a reaction to Bill Clinton's Democratic Administration when Rush Limbuagh, G Gordon Liddy and others became overnight celebrities. Not to mention the increased popluarity of Right Wing journalists that espoused the values of and spoke unappologetically for white conservative Americans.
But who speaks for Black folks?
While there are a few nationally syndicated talk shows courtesy of Radio One’s Syndication One and a few other companies, it is safe to say that Bill O’Reilly reaches more homes than all the Black commentators combined.
What is especially disturbing is the disappearance of local talk programing. During the 70's, it wasn’t uncommon to have Bro. Righteous Raymond on WBLK giving the 411 on all the issues facing Black America. Even mainstream television stations in urban areas aired the obligatory Saturday night "Soul Sister Sheena’s Soul Sensation."
It must be noted , however, that this was not the result of benevolence on the part of white corporations but a necessary evil in an America that was not even a decade removed from the urban rebellions of the Black Power Era. White America needed someone to interpret the meaning of the sounds the African war drums still reverberating through the hoods. They just figured it was better to have Black folks express their rage over the airwaves where it could be monitored and regulated by advertising dollars instead of having Black folks hold clandestine meeting in the back of barbershops orchestrating ways to "get whitey." But as the white paranoia of some great bloody uprising subsided, so did their need for black programming.
During the 90's, the post LA Rebellion multi cultural movement gave rise to a "universalism" that made all racial issues colorless. Also, one cannot forget the impact of FCC deregulations that allowed corporations to monopolize media markets and allowed public affairs programing to be almost totally eradicated.
Perhaps the main cause of the demise of Black public affairs programming was the fear of the infinite possibilities of Black Talk by those in power (ie rich white folks) to the change social and political landscape of America.
This is best exemplified by the Right's hatred of Hip Hop. Contrary to popular belief, the first attacks on Hip Hop were not leveled against the "gangsta rappers" but the overtly political rap of Public Enemy and Sister Souljah and during that period, full time gangsta's and part time revolutionaries Tupac Shakur, Ice T and Ice Cube. If given a choice most Right Wingers would choose the nonpolitical rap of Cam'ron instead of the problack politics of Dead Prez, anyday.
What has scared the pants off of white America is the potential for Black Talk to galvanize the masses of Black people toward social action whether deliberate or accidental as was the case when the Magnificent Montague catch phrase "Burn Baby Burn," unintentionally, became the battle cry of the 1965 Watts Rebellion.
I am sure that the success of the heavily attended 2006 mostly Latino , Immigration Reform Protests which were made possible largely because of Spanish speaking radio disc jockey's did not escape the watchful eyes of the media gatekeepers whose worst fears would be realized if black Hip Hop DJ's followed the Latino's lead and used the airwaves to politicize their listeners.
We need another Petey Green today, someone to push the envelope, to shake things up a bit. But we cannot expect him to descend from the towers of ABC, CBS or even the local commercial radio station.
The next media messiah will arrive via the new technology of internet radio, pod casts and blogs. Someone who demands to be heard. Just like the guy in the car next to you blastin' his radio.
To borrow the theme from "Talk to Me":
"You can't stop a man with something to say."
Min. Paul Scott is a writer and activist. His blog is http://www.nowarningshotsfired.com
He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org