More about: DON DeBAR & COLIA LIDDELL
I have been
morning news headlines editor at WBAI-FM since July 2007. I
began at that time as one of three volunteer producers and, as
the others left to take on other projects, eventually settled in
to a five-days-per-week, three newscasts-per-morning production
These newscasts are
a part of (as they say in radio) the morning drive-time program,
Late last year,
management at WBAI's parent company, the California
not-for-profit corporation Pacifica Foundation, Inc., resigned,
and the chair of its advisory board became, as is provided for
under California law, the acting Executive Director.
Although the usual
role for interim management in any corporate environment is to
act as a ministerial placeholder - administering such tasks as
paying the bills, signing payroll checks, etc. - in
this case, the acting ED, Grace Aaron, instead decided to take
an active role in reshaping the network personally. Acting in
tandem with a local station board at WBAI that is run by a new
majority - itself the product of a lawsuit brought, on behalf of
members allied with board members Steve Brown and Mitchel Cohen,
by an attorney who helped strip the NYS Green Party of ballot
status in 2002 - Aaron began acting against WBAI's management in
a number of ways that, in my view, threatened its
In that context, and
as context for any further news reporting that either I myself,
or any others at the station, might make going forward, and,
further, with an eye on the fact that the station is financially
supported by listener contributions, I began reporting on
significant developments concerning the station as a part of my
newscasts. Over a period beginning in March of this year, these
reports have covered such events as the discussion of a plan at
the national board level to place the station in "internal
receivership;" the seizure of control of the station's
transmitter by the acting ED; the ousting of the station's
general manager; and other items which, in my view and,
facially, objectively, are matters of primary concern to the
listeners who pay to keep the station on the air.
For the purpose of
absolute clarity, I must state that officially, and in the
internal parlance of the station, I am a volunteer news producer
for the program Wakeup Call, and not a part of the WBAI news
department which produces the WBAI Evening News.
This past Monday
(May 4, 2009), the head of that department, Jose Santiago,
issued a statement which was repeated several times during the
week after the Evening News. Within that statement was nested
another, to the effect that the news department had made a
decision not to air any discussion of "internal politics" at
WBAI, adding language that was critical of those (presumably
myself included) who had done so. This statement is particularly
chilling given that Mr. Santiago, the AFTRA shop stewart at
WBAI, was appointed this past weekend as a pro tem
station manager by Ms Williams while she is out of town for the
particularly be noted here that Mr. Santiago's statement
came shortly after the acting ED issued what can only be
described as a gag order on WBAI's on-air personnel. Certainly,
all can agree that prior censorship of news is contrary to
In just the past
week, both the station's general manager, Anthony Riddle, and
its program director, Bernard White, have been removed by the
acting ED. Mr. Riddle, who previously was the CEO of the
national public access television advocacy group Alliance for
Communty Media, was removed as general manager and offered a job
as a national fund raiser for Pacifica. He was replaced by the
Foundation's acting CFO, LaVarn Williams, from Berkeley, CA,
where Pacifica is domiciled. As a public access TV producer
myself for better than 30 years, I can tell you that Mr. Riddle,
as the head of the ACM, almost single-handedly saved that
particular means of public communication from being dismantled
under both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Mr. White's removal
took the form of a temporary suspension. However, according to a
statement issued by Mr. Brown, the local board member, Mr.
White's "keys (were) taken from him and building security
instructed not to permit him on the premises."
Mr. White's removal
has long been publicly advocated by Brown, who has often used
the most barbaric and racist imagery and language in doing so.
The purpose of my
letter is to inform your readers that, unlike Mr. Santiago, it
seems clear to me that the "internal politics" of a news outlet
are contextual for any reporting that may issue therefrom, and
changes in the political dynamics - particularly including the
issuance of a gag rule barring certain and undefined speech from
the airwaves of "Free Speech Radio" - are not only worthy of
reporting; they are necessary pieces of information for
listeners trying to determine such basic questions as "who am I
getting this information from?" and "what is the agenda of the
reporter feeding me this information?".
To our listeners, I
can only borrow from Bernard White's long-time signature - stay
strong, and pay close attention!
NAACP, SCLC, 1959-70, Mississippi,
PO Box 273
Glen Olden, PA 19036
Let me start by saying that these internet
sites expect well prepared statements on the spot. This is very much like
the fight for basic civil rights in the Southern USA in the 1950's and 60's.
Be ye therefore ready because you don't know what the white folk might
Between 1959 and 1970, I spent pretty much
full time working on civil rights and human rights causes. The major work
being concentrated on the removal of those seemingly ancient symbols of
subordination that marked the southern terrain and the struggle for the
simple rights to vote.
My career started with NAACP at Tougaloo
College and move rapidly to special assistant to Medgar W. Evers, field
secretary for the NAACP. I am the founder and first president of the North
Jackson NAACP Youth Council which is now infamous for initiating the 1963
mass movement at Jackson under the leadership and guidance of Medgar Evers
and our advisor, John Salter. Many other adult leaders of North Jackson were
involved in helping to shape the course and program of this small band of
students and youth. The North Jackson NAACP Youth Council needs a major
biography and a calling together of all the young men and women and the old
ones who made this organization the center point of a major struggle for
which most of the young people involved have not been given any credit.
Anyone interested please call me at 610-532-1817.
In June 1962, I resigned my job with the
NAACP and joined with Mississippi SNCC under the leadership of Robert P.
Moses. We worked in Jackson, Hattiesburg (Forest County), Sun Flower County,
Greeville on projects that were directed towards helping local
Mississippians get registered to vote. One has to know that it is near
impossible to work in a rural state under the feet of oppression and not
work on related issues of the peoples.
In November, 1962, I met and married my
first love, Bernard LaFayette, Jr., SNCC Field Secretary. In February, 1963
Bernard and I moved to Selma AL, where he served as director of the SNCC
Black Belt Alabama Voter Project and I continued as SNCC field secretary.
The project was headquartered at Selma but we had responsibility for
developing voter registration and direct action projects in the seven Black
Belt Counties. While at Selma, I was appointed by James Forman, executive
secretary of SNCC, to assist with the Birmingham, Alabama Movement under the
leadership of Dr. Martin L. King. It was in Birmingham that I took one of
the worst beatings of my career in the civil rights struggle. Three fire
houses assaulted me for what seemed forever on May 8, 1963.
In 1964, I was privileged to be a part of
the birth of the Southern Organizing Committee at Nashville, Tennessee where
Bernard and I were attending school at Fisk and giving birth to our first
son, James Arthur. Nashville was the culminating point for the early years
of civil rights in the South. Beyond lie Chicago, New York and national
politics. By early 1973, I returned to my home state Mississippi and worked
on a number of other projects including the editorship of the Jackson,
Today I recollect experiences of anti war,
racism, Diallo, reparations, workers rights and the battle to end the Africa
debt along with that of all of Central and South America. This work has
taken me into the international arena where I think the progressive forces
and especially the Black forces in the USA must centralize future struggles.
These struggles around issues of imperialism, colonization, capitalism,
racism, environmentalism, anti-woman, anti-youth, anti-age, anti-human
struggles must be internationalized as a part of the struggles of other
world groups and issues. It is important that the struggle of the African in
the USA be removed from domestic servitude to international leadership-human
I speak all over the place having just
returned from Algeria where I participated in a Parliamentary two day
conference on the "devastation of Africa its causes and dimensions, why and
what can be done about it."