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“Yo Yo Mon Brooklyn!” New York City’s Pirates of the Air

Friday, July 26, 7pm

You can’t see them, but the skies above New York City hold a tangle of transgressive, culture-bearing radio signals. They’re sent from secret rooftop transmitters and pulse imperceptibly across the five boroughs, bringing familiar sounds to simple FM radios in homes and shops throughout tight-knit immigrant neighborhoods. These underground stations are often called pirates for broadcasting on the FM band without a government-issued license. They proliferate in communities that struggle to access the legal airwaves due to high costs and corporate control of the media. The operators of stations like Triple 9, Fierte Haitenne, Kol Hashalom and Radio Gospel Train risk fines, confiscation of equipment and the threat of arrest to keep their signals flowing to audiences that have strong cultural and historic connections to radio listening. The programs deliver music and news from home along with practical guidance and spiritual advice for making a way in a new land.

David Goren, creator of the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map has been researching the New York City’s pirate radio scene for the past five years, interviewing station staff and listeners on both sides of the legal divide. In this talk, David explores the cultural and political forces driving underground radio in NYC since the late sixties via live tuning, archival recordings and excerpts from his recent BBC radio documentary. David will be joined by a very special guest: Joan Martinez, a filmmaker, an avid listener to the Kreyol language pirates of Flatbush’s “Little Haiti” and an occasional broadcaster on them.

David Goren is an award winning radio producer and audio archivist based in Brooklyn, NY. He’s created programming for the BBC World Service, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Wall Street Journal magazine, NPR’s Lost and Found Sound series, On the Media, and Afropop Worldwide as well as audio-based installations for the Proteus Gowanus gallery, and the Ethnographic Terminalia Collective. In 2016 he was an artist-in-residence at Wave Farm, a center for the Transmission Arts. Over the past two years David has released “Outlaws of the Airwaves: The Rise of Pirate Radio Station WBAD” for KCRW’s Lost Notes Podcast and The Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map which was featured in The New Yorker Magazine.

Joan “Radio Free Joanie” Martinez is a Brooklyn-born-and-raised Haitian-American. She attended Brooklyn College twice as an undergrad and is currently working on her Master’s Thesis about “pirate radio” in Brooklyn. She’s laid the groundwork to becoming a successful on-air talent as a podcast host. Pegged as opinionated since a teenager and a smart alec, she brings a perspective that is usually elusive to the diaspora– a female voice that represents the children of Haiti’s “Lost Generation.” She straddles two worlds–the traditional Haitian household and an American growing up in America. She is an enigma at first. Her last name confuses the people she tries to talk to–she’s often pegged as a Latino that just happens to know Haitian-Kreyol. But after a minute of talking to her, people are at ease and fascinated that she is Haitian-American. She speaks the language though her name is Latino and her citizenship is American. Some are still standoffish to her and brush her off. She remains resilient however, a trait found in the Haitian people. They thrive from adversity and feed off obstacles. She is the product of her environment and brings this to her radio broadcasting.

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