ST. PETERSBURG – Under the slogan of “Our own black media, our own black voices, our own black stories” the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) —with the help of the Uhuru movement— created Black Power 96 a radio by and for the black community with the goal of helping people in Midtown.
On Sept. 20, Burning Spear Media hosted an event at the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg celebrating Black Power 96. The fundraiser included tours of the studio space, a live broadcast and a Karamu (African feast). As well, a special round-table discussion on the importance of independent black media was presented.
For Ron Bobb-Semple, Uhuru Radio Station Manager, the African community in St. Petersburg doesn’t have a voice. Bobb-Semple believes that there are no outlets for black people to be able to express their concerns, frustrations or to show their talent.
“I think this is extremely critical especially at this time in which we all live. There are lots of young people in our community that do a lot of good things, but you don’t hear about that, they accentuate the negative because that’s what sells papers,” Bobb-Semple said.
While Charles Barron, New York State Assemblyman who participated in the discussion “Our own black voices, our own black media!” held during the event, affirms that in a couple of years from now he sees this station developing.
“I see its funding supporters growing because this radio is happening at a critical juncture time in our history when people are fed up [of] capitalism, of greed, poverty, and crime, so this is filling a great vacuum because people are looking for effective leadership that can really lead to victories,” Barron said.
Cleopatra Bollers and Javy Davis, both attending to Gibbs High school, are going to have a show on the radio to talk about problems with young people.
“Just the topic on cultural appropriation that’s like is a huge problem that teenagers would like to talk about,” Davis said. “We hear in school ‘that white girl can do that, but we can’t’ and [that] there are race things going on in our school, and [that] we’re divided,” Davis added.
According to Bollers and Davis, this is a great opportunity for young people because they can listen to their music, and talk about what’s going on with them.
“We’ve been talking to other students of our school and they’re already interested. We know a lot of people that are interested and looking for an outlet,” Bollard said.
On the other hand, as a young black artist, Jiant WitaJay said that it has been difficult for him to promote his music. He expects 96.3 FM to empower the community and give the young a voice so they can navigate through oppressive forces in a way that gives them some power.
“Black artists don’t have any outlets so they could go to radios and their music can actually be played. St Pete radio would reach to African people of Southside of St. Pete. Being able to promote my music on there and being heard among others black entities would expose me to more people of different classes and origins. It’s a wonderful thing”, WitaJay said.
Gypsy Gallardo, publisher of “Power Broker” magazine and CEO of the 2020 Plan (a project that seeks to reduce poverty by 30 percent and to add 5,000 adults and older teens to south St. Petersburg’s employment rolls before the 2020 United States Census is taken), sees this non-commercial radio station as a much needed and welcomed addition to the media community.
“We urgently need more bandwidth bringing diverse voices and perspectives,” Gallardo said.
On its web page, 96.3 LP FM states it “will stand tall as a non-commercial radio station owned and controlled by the black community of south St. Pete where 70 percent live under the poverty level and where full access to employment, housing, health care and quality education is routinely denied.”
For Gazi Kodzo, video blogger with more than 25,000 followers on social media, 96.3 LP FM is going to be real and directed to the African community in St. Pete so they can tell what’s going on inside their communities.
“This is a radio station for the community and we will have control of our own media by fundraising,” Kodzo explained. “We are going to have young volunteers and colleges coming in and working with us and getting some great experiences from radio, working with media, which they would never get otherwise. Also, we have older people who do have a passion for radio and that haven’t been able to tap into because living as poor African American you just focus on really surviving,” Kodzo added.
Glen Ford, executive editor of “Black Agenda Report,” said that 75 percent of black households listen to a black-oriented radio. The number of black listeners loyal to black radio are unmatched by any other demographic group. He added that black people consume black radio in ways that are incomparable to any other community, including Latinos.
So, what makes this station different from others in the state of Florida? Ford says that people from the Uhuru movement are going to be training young people to report on the community in addition to making news through their politics.
“I’m not obviously impressed with black ownership, per se, what the history has shown is that black owners behave exactly like white owners do. Black corporate ownership has the same business plan as white corporations. But I’m impressed by the ownership of this radio for who they are, not just because they are black, because of the mission of community service that this station is dedicated to,” Ford explained.
According to John Tomas, manager of Tyron Lewis Community Gym, sometimes to have power is a scary thought for black people.
“We’ve never had real power… we don’t even know what real power looks like,” Tomas said. “Initially, I think there will be some resistance to this, but then people will see that the role we need to take is the role of power and to organize. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m hopeful because people finally are fighting back for their own resources,” he explained.
Akile Anai, who is in charge of social media for the project, adds that this movement is presented to be hostile and people around the community are afraid to come to them because they feel a certain way about it.
“So, we need to tell people that this is not what we are and we’re going to let them know what we are from our perspective,” said Anai.
Let’s see what happens…
Ford — who is also a founding member of the Black is Back Coalition— indicates that it takes a little while to change listeners’ habits. He explained that statistics show black people do behave as if they think black-oriented radio stations are their stations.
“Any new radio will have to deal with loyalties, but St. Pete is not a big city and the impact of hearing different sounds coming by should work a change more quickly that in a big city like Washington, Chicago or New York,” Ford explained.
The $3,000 goal that the APEDF had that day was accomplished, and they keep on working to get this radio on air by January 2016. They say that with $5,000 the studio can be equipped.
“We are going to continue to raise funds and reaching out to members of the community. We are not going to go to the colonialist, once you latch on to get its funding, you have to do things in a certain way, their way,” Anai said.
The Uhuru House is located at 1245 18th Ave. S. For more information about this station or contributions, call 727-824-5700 or contact email@example.com