Power Plug Radio founders Sharlene Emmanuel and Shundra Allison have come to represent the new wave of Black women becoming local movers, shakers, and scene-makers.
BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
ST PETERSBURG – Sharlene Emmanuel and Shundra Allison have continued expanding conversations and sharing community insights and experiences since starting in 2017 with their first media project, “On The Beat St. Pete (OTBSP).”
“OTBSP started off as an online media that really was designed to bring light to things going on in our community that the more mainstream media doesn’t necessarily focus on,” shared Emmanuel, recalling how, armed with her camera, she launched the project at the 2017 Black Arts Festival.
Emmanuel then set out to cover the streets of St. Pete and ran into Allison, who was working with some filmmakers at the time at the Royal Theatre. The two had gone to the same high school and soon realized they had similar interests.
In February, Emmanuel was covering Black Power 96.3’s radio station, which led to the station managers suggesting she return to do a spotlight radio broadcast on their channel.
“They invited me on one of the shows to highlight what I was doing. And then after that show, they called me and said, ‘Hey, you know, we’re looking for people to create a show. Do you want to do a show?’”
While Emmanuel acknowledged at the time she didn’t “know the first thing about radio,” she said it also sounded fun, exciting…and she knew just who to call to work with her on the project.
“The first person I called was Shundra,” noted Emmanuel, who knew Allison had been some exciting things, including writing for a column called “Single in the City.” Emmanuel felt her sensibilities would go perfectly with the new radio show.
Rounding out the team with Peaten and Holden, the radio program soon went from one evening a week for an hour to two-hour evenings twice a week. When the team decided to take it out of the studio and broadcast live from Rush Hour Lounge, Annie’s Beauty Supply, and even on the street below the Deuces underpass, it led to a fun, informative, and successful roaming show covering St. Pete’s young professional and community-centered crowd and various events.
Allison recalled that many early shows, “It was our friends, and they were happy to come. It was really cool because it was the first time they had been in a real radio studio set up, and it was the first time that they were able to tell mom and dad, ‘Hey, I’m on the radio; you can hear me.’”
Allison added that it offered a new outlet because “it’s really hard to get on the radio with some of the other more commercial radio stations.”
Also, in 2019, Emmanuel, Allison, and Peaten formed “3 Black Vegan Girls” to raise the conversation around healthy eating lifestyles and encourage awareness about alternative paths toward planning health – and tasty – meals.
Emmanuel said during that time they had started doing some shows at 99.1 Jamz WUJM, which she said was fun, and during the winter months had gotten them back inside, “out of the elements.”
By the time they left 99 Jamz, she and Allison were having “a lot of conversations about us wanting to have our own radio station.” In the meantime, OTBSP continued production right up until 2020, when COVID shut down outside events and gatherings.
It seemed fate intervened, and the two decided there was no better time to take it to another level. In February of 2020, right before everything shut down, they found a space for a studio, and Power Plug Radio was born.
While they had used equipment in other station’s studios, the duo had to purchase and figure out how to build their own broadcasting studio and run the equipment. While there were challenges, they were determined to make it work.
“We figured it out,” Allison recalled, sharing that they often used YouTube as a resource. “We looked up how to start a radio station. That’s how we roll; we figure it out.”
Emmanuel agreed that it was a lot of trial and error, and they laughed, recalling days with shows with no sound or distorted voices and other snafus. Still, as Allison noted, “You put out fires; you figure it out as you go along.”
Although Power Plug’s founders have come to represent the new wave of Black women becoming local movers, shakers, and scene-makers, they’re too focused and committed to community uplift to ponder their role-model status.
After all, running a radio station is just part of what they do. With 14-plus years at the FDOH, Emmanuel, MPH, RN, is also the agency’s director of disease control, with her own wellness advocacy project, ‘My Better Health.’ Allison is the founder of The Burg Cares community health nonprofit and owner of the hottest new spot on the Deuces, Urban Drinkery.
Still, there’s no denying these two women reflect the high-level commitment, effort, and community care that role models are made of. If they’re aware of being models for anyone, they both look to their greatest inspirations: their daughters.
“My mom told me when I was growing up, ‘go into the health field, you’ll always have a job,” Emmanuel shared. “And she’s absolutely right. I’m a nurse; I can always have a job. But the message that I passed on to my daughter is to do what you love and that you’re passionate about because it’ll always make you happy. You’re always gonna make money no matter what because you’re going to be passionate about it, and you’re going to want to do it all the time.”
Allison’s daughter is already working at the radio station as general manager, as well as helping run Urban Drinkery – and is clearly learning from her mother’s business savvy and community focus.
The Weekly Challenger is extremely excited to be able to partner with Power Plug Radio through their new app on our homepage. Check it out and enjoy throwback jams and classics throughout your day as you browse!