Advocacy On-Air: Transcript of a Discussion on Radio Activism

March 9, 2018

Audio Interference – the biweekly podcast produced by Interference Archive – launched its third season in October 2017. To mark the occasion, we hosted Advocacy On-Air, a panel discussion on the use of radio as a political medium and a community building tool.  The event took place on October 16, 2017 at Starr Bar in Bushwick, and speakers included Sylvia Ryerson, of Appalshop’s Calls from Home, Fabian Muenala Pineda, of Kichwa Hatari New York, and Naomi Brussel of Out-FM.  The panel was moderated by Rob Smith, Interference Archive volunteer and one of the creators of Audio Interference.  Marian Quequena acted as a translator for Fabian Muenala Pineda.
Rob Smith: I’m one of the volunteers at Interference Archive, and I will be playing moderator tonight. Joining me are, from your left to right, Sylvia Ryerson from Appalshop and WMMT’s Calls from Home, Fabian Muenala Pineda and Marian Quequena, who will be helping to translate, from Kichwa Hatari NY, and at the end we have Naomi Brussel from Out-FM. I’m going to turn it over to them to introduce themselves and play clips from their shows. They’ll just describe their programs and say a bit about themselves and then we’ll intro a clip.
Sylvia Ryerson: Hey everyone, really excited to be here tonight and hear about these great projects up here too. My name is Sylvia and I’m currently working on a project called Restorative Radio, where I work with families here in New York City that have relatives incarcerated far from home in rural upstate New York, to make postcards from home. So we make short five to ten minute radio pieces, a sort of soundscape of home, that is then broadcast on local radio stations to reach their loved ones in prison. And, in picking clips to share tonight, I wanted to go back a little bit further, into how I got started on this project, which was about ten years ago. I worked in a rural radio station in the heart of coal country in Appalachia, and hosted a weekly radio show, that was a call-in show for families that had people in prison, one of the facilities within the local broadcast area. Here’s just a little clip I’ll play of what this radio show sounds like and on the theme of radio activism: the show is just a regular two hour call in show, people phone in from all across the country, from California, Florida, Maine, to this teeny station in Kentucky, and just sort of give updates on daily life and whatever they want to share. But in that, often the political work happening against mass incarceration emerges, and on one night, I was hosting the show, and there was a hunger strike happening at one of the state prisons. And my fellow co-hosts and I had reached out to folks across the country, from folks in Critical Resistance in California, and other solidarity groups, to call into the radio show to get messages of support out to the men on strike. So this is what the show sounded like that night.
[Note–we cannot share the clip from the night of the hunger strike, but we have included an example of Calls From Home below.]

SR: And we got a letter at the radio station a week after that show aired. One of the strike leaders was a young man named Pierre, and by the point that that radio show had broadcast, the prison officials were trying to break up the strike, and so separated everyone they thought was involved and put them in isolated cell blocks in total segregation. And so Pierre, at that point, had had zero contact with anyone on the outside, any of his fellow organizers on the inside, for a week. But he still had access to his radio, and he tuned in and heard those messages. And he wrote us and he said listening to those messages that night, I felt like I wasn’t alone. I felt like I was a human being. And so through hosting that show for many years, it became a political tool in different ways. We worked to organize van trips to help families come visit these very remote prisons and communicate the latest news in the criminal justice system and just try to keep families connected. So that project led me to my current work, which, hosting the show, I sort of was thinking about how amazing this medium of radio is, to kind of people specifically in prison, and so I wanted to play a little clip, where I actually work with families in their own communities to make a little radio piece of whatever they want to share from home. So this is a piece, I worked with a women, Essie Manns, who made a beautiful radio piece for her grandson DeVaughn, who is serving a 25 year sentence very far from home. So here’s just the beginning.

SR: So that’s just the first three minutes of Essie’s piece. We ate at her home, had dinner with her whole extended family, and shared memories of DeVaughn as a child and talked about their hopes and dreams for his future. So I’m excited to talk more about it and how it relates to the great work that you guys are doing.
Fabian Muenala Pineda [translated by Marian Quequena]: Good night everyone. I want to thank you for the invitation and I want to thank you guys for coming here. I want to share a little more about our experience in radio. First of all, I want to say that Kichwa is a language in danger of extinction, according to the United Nations. We consider of all the population in the United States that is Kichwa, it’s 40% of the Ecuadorian population. The population Kichwa in New York in this area, it’s very important. But we haven’t been visible. Maybe it’s because, when we get to this country, we lose our identity. We’re just seen as the Latin American people and we lose our culture and our roots. We lose our identity as Kichwas, as Ecuadorians, and see ourselves as Latin American people.
The program started three years ago. I think it’s really important, the visibility of our community, and our program. When we first started, we didn’t think that the community would accept us. This project started just as an idea. For us the welcoming of the community has been very important. We have been going not just on the radio, but we have different programs besides the radio. At this point, the radio has been a really good tool to interact with the community, to get to know the community. The radio is really important. It lets us know the community and work with the community, and also have that engagement with them. The reaction from the community has been really good, really high.
We have been reaching our kids with programs to share with them; to bring them back to our roots and traditions as an indigenous people. I think it’s really important, the concepts, the structure that we have. We are working on specific structure. Everything we’re doing, everything we’re working for is gonna help us. Our children, the future, to bring them back to our culture and our roots.
Before this program, Kichwa Hatari, came out our people were limited by the available media. It’s because our community was listening to programs like FM and they were listening to music like Bachata, Merengue, Rock. They didn’t have any programs to reach their traditional community and culture. Our teenagers were identifying with that. There’s nothing wrong or bad with that, but I think that bringing back the teenagers to our traditions is really important. This program helps us identify and be proud of our culture and our language. We have a lot of people coming to the radio station saying that they don’t even speak Kichwa or saying “I just want to say hi” or say a short sentence in Kichwa. By the end of this discussion, they ended up feeling more comfortable and feeling good about themselves and they ended up speaking in Kichwa for the whole conversation.
The radio program helps us identify and communicate with different indigenous communities. This is how we identify the different groups of identify the different groups of indigenous people that come from Ecuador. This is how we’ve been identifying the 40% of our community that comes from indigenous backgrounds or are indigenous.
I think we have audio from our program, and after that we’ll speak a little bit in Kichwa and speak about our experience. We also had a Television program called Kichwa Hatari TV. It was really positive but it was impossible to continue because of the time required, and the demands of everyone’s personal lives. We also have Kichwa classes. We have Kichwa classes through the radio but it’s hard to see the improvement of the people who are taking the class or just listening through the radio. We also talk about Kichwa philosophy, indigenous philosophy. Because this is important to know where we come from, who we are, and where we are from. We also have community programs. We help the community. We help other organizations to become stronger.
Now we will listen to the audio.
[Note: The excerpts played during the event were from minutes 7:17-8:42 and then from 9:50-13:04.]

FP: That was a little bit about the philosophy that we have been trying to reach our community, who we are, and how they can return to the culture. We were talking about a human being. We were talking about the difference in perspective between the indigenous community and the occidental culture. Now we will give the microphone to Naomi.
Naomi Brussel: Hi everybody. I want to say thanks to the Interference Archive for inviting me to represent the show that I work with here in New York which is called Out-FM. Out-FM is broadcast on a station called WBAI, anybody ever hear of that? WBAI is one of 5 stations in the United States that are listener sponsored. There is one in Berkeley, there is one in Los Angeles, one in Houston, Washington DC, and also here in New York. And we are always on the verge of bankruptcy more or less, but we have a transmitter on the top of the Empire State Building, which is a big deal because we have a 75 mile radius for how far the station can be heard. Maybe 60 or so, but it’s far. So that is really millions of people.
Out-FM is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirit show. We try to bring out the voices of people here in the US, here in New York, as well as people who are doing international work. So, for example, we often broadcast stuff that is coming from an organization called OutRight Action International , which is a queer international organization that is doing work really everywhere in the globe. And we try to publicize the work that they are doing. For example, in the United Nations, which a lot of people don’t know that much about, there is a lot of work that has been done by queer organizations trying to change the international situation of people who identify or differ in terms of their sexuality. We try to focus on what you may have heard of — intersectionality. We want people to realize that it’s not just being queer or lesbian or gay that matters. It’s also that people can be discriminated against in many different ways simultaneously and that the issues that relate to queer people are important as part of the overall movement, the progressive movement. So we see ourselves as a progressive program on this station. And the station sees itself as a way to bring progressive politics — that is lefty politics or socialist politics, or whatever terms you might want to use — into the public sphere, so that people can hear those words.
You are probably familiar with Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now. That started at WBAI and is being broadcasted now all over the USA. That is where I get my terrible news in the morning. We also broadcast a fair amount of terrible news, I am sorry to say. And we often have a segment at the beginning of the show that is just stories that are coming from various places about particular struggles that people are doing in different parts of the world, or different parts of the US, or in New York.
Louise took out a little piece from a fund drive show that we did last week, to give you a sense of the kinds of things that we try to do. This show was about Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, the movement against the Israeli persecution and horrific behavior towards Palestinian people. So we did it in two sections. First we had some sound that came from a program that was done at Verso Books at the end of September [2017] that we called Free Speech Palestine, and we had four speakers there. I worked with one of the groups that sponsored that, Adalah, as well as Jewish Voices for Peace were sponsoring that program. And we had several speakers including Susan Abulhawa, who wrote a book called Mornings in Jenin . Maybe some of you have read that book. It’s kind of a historical novel about a Palestinian family that is forced to leave it’s village and forced into a refugee camp and tells the story from the perspective of one of the daughters of this family. So Susan was on that panel. And we were trying to explain to people what the issues are related to Palestine. We have covered it before, it’s nothing new for us, but we are trying to raise some money and so we pitched a book that is written by Sarah Shulman and we also pitched a DVD of that program that Adalah and Jewish Voices for Peace did. So we took the piece from Susan’s presentation there, and then we had an interview on air with Sarah Shulman.
I am just thinking that as compared to the work that the other people on the panel are doing, we have access to a lot of resources. We have a studio. We have some full time paid people. We have engineers. We have stuff that a lot of people would wish to have, although of course it has taken many years for that to develop. The station has been here in New York for about 50 years, maybe a little bit more. And the network of stations has been around for longer than that. You can accumulate after a while various kinds of resources if you are able to sustain yourself and if you are able to survive, and all of this kind of radio is just barely surviving most of the time.
So we tried to take the Palestinian issues and issues related to Palestinian queer people because Sarah Shulman has done a lot of work related to that. Sarah Shulman is a relatively well known author, she wrote novels at the beginning of her career. She is now a professor at the CUNY college on Staten Island. And she wrote a book, which we were also pitching, which is called Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. And she talked about her relationship to the Israeli persecution of Palestine and her awakening to those issues, which she hadn’t been aware of. And she had been invited to go to Palestine–well I can say that it was Palestine, but the Israelis would say that it is not Palestine. She was invited to speak, and people were telling her that if she did that then she would be breaking the stipulations of the cultural boycott of Israel. So she decided not to go to do that, but she decided to go and do her own tour of Israel and Palestine, and talk about queer issues there. So we were trying to show the intersection of the particular issues that Susan and other speakers were talking about as far as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] Movement and the persecution of people who are trying to do the BDS Movement and what it’s got to do with queer people. And that was part of the trajectory (39:00) of this particular show. So if you could play just a portion of Susan Abulhawa’s presentation on September 18, 2017 we can do that, and then you will hear a little bit of our interview with Sarah Shulman.

NB: So that’s just a little taste of what we’re able to do, we’re trying to show that queer issues are— that they are not heteronormative, that’s some of the language that you may have heard. We talked about homonationalism and actually that’s Sarah talked about, homonationalism which some of the manifestations of that would be that, for a short time, queers were allowed to go into the military, well why would anybody queer, why would anybody want to go into the military, but why would queer people want to go into the military. But if you see that as a central issue that everybody should have a right to go and kill people, you know like that’s not something that we want to associate ourselves. So now the idea that trans people are not gonna be allowed to be in the military, I mean it’s hard to tell from day to day what’s happening, well that’s not such a bad thing for trans people necessarily unless they’re already in the military which means they’re really getting messed up in a whole different way. But the concept that, for instance the concept that everybody should have a chance to get married is a way of reproducing heterosexual norms without taking a look at some of things that are not so wonderful about the heterosexual norms. So that’s the kind of things that we want to talk to people about and explore when we’re doing this show. I think I’ve said enough for now.
RS: Thank you Naomi. So I have a couple of questions and then we’ll open it to the audience in the half hour we have left. So this is a question for all of you, what are the advantages of community radio as a political medium and what are the limits?
SR: So the station I worked at in Kentucky was similar to WBAI, it was a complete community run, all volunteer programmed station, and I think to me the most important thing about community radio is that it’s place based and it’s local, and I think that’s the biggest advantages it has in terms of being able to survive in the future when we all listen to everything from our phones, and—I want to come back to advantages real quick, I think the limits for my work there is I think every community radio station—the most important goal is to reflect the community and the community I was in was a very politically divided community and so I think it was a really amazing learning experience for me to be, first to reckon with questions about the importance of holding a public space where you have a constant balance of people who are radical, environmentalists sharing radio space with people who work for the coal mining industry, and the constant tension that creates. But how in a community that is dealing with really polarising issues, I think that community radio is a very sacred space where people actually come together and grapple with those things in a shared space. I think to me there’s a few things that radio can do that podcasting can’t that I think are really important to highlight.
I think first of all that this is a public infrastructure that receives funding from the CPB and it’s so important to invest in, that we aren’t beholden to Apple to receive this programming, and I think that for my work radio was a way, an amazing way that rural communities that were hosting prisons could work with urban communities that are overwhelmingly targeted by the prison industrial complex, and a way to create these sort of geographic alliances working—bringing urban and rural communities together on this issue, and I think that has a lot to do with it being place based. I think that radio for my work also is significant, in that prisoners don’t have access to really any forms of media at all, and every kind of media or information they get is censored so that means every letter is read, every visit has to be pre-approved, phone calls are exorbitantly expensive and can also listened in upon. Radio is actually this rare medium that doesn’t go through prison bureaucracy to reach prisoners, that as long as they tune in on their FM dial they can listen to whatever is being broadcast and as long as we as a radio station are following federal communication commission regulations nobody can stop us, which is a pretty amazing thing and is because it’s public.
FP: I think we have three different very important aspects that we have been working with the radio. First of all is the visibility of our community, stronger identity for our community, and also the rehabilitation of our language and our community. Through the radio, we can actually see where our indigenous people and communities are located. Thanks to technology, we have been able to see how many people in—where they are actually listening to, we have been reaching Ecuador as well and according to that technology we can actually count how many there are listening to the programme at that time. I think a very important thing is that radio has been a very good tool to connect each other, we haven’t broken that connection with our community and we have been connecting instead. This has been a good for our communities, in different Kichwa communities that are in different countries and different parts of the world. I think when we speak about language, I believe our language is coming back. I think in a way we are helping our Kichwa language; it will be getting stronger every day. At the last part of the audio that we just listened: it was a poem, and we could see the stronger significance the poem has in a way that we express the political issues, at the same time it’s sensitive how they express that poem. So I believe that our language is very important to survive in our communities, and this is why we are fighting to bring back our language and make them stronger. Because when a language disappears, the communities disappear as well.
NB: The funding model for an organization like WBAI is that people are asked—listeners are asked to support us. It’s not a great system. I want to just tell you that because especially many of our listeners don’t have as much money as we need to keep the station going, we had to lay off of two thirds of our staff a few years ago just because we—and the complexity of the politics of the Pacifica network is beyond anything really that you would want to know (laughter)—and it kind of plays out a lot of the stresses in the left and that happens right here in New York, the local station board has two sections that are in constant battle with each other and so it’s—it’s part of the problem of this kind of structure. On the other hand, we don’t want to be dependent on—we’re not taking any commercial—General Motors is not supporting us, Goldman Sachs is not supporting us, JP Morgan they’re not supporting us, so it means that we can talk about anything we want to in a way because there’s nobody to smack us in down in that way. They’re not going to withdraw money. We don’t have money to withdraw, I mean it’s that kind of weird situation. So there’s a certain kind of freedom that we have to communicate with people and also we have a way of announcing events—I mean talking about for Out-FM announcing events that are happening to people are queer and are supporters, there’s a way for us to cover events, like every year I go to the trans day of action march and the trans day of remembrance in October, you know, to let people who didn’t get a chance to go to that event to hear what happened there. So in that sense, we’re able to draw people together and we’re able to impress our political perspective on it. Not to say that there aren’t people who disagree with us. I’m sure there are lots and lots of people who are queer or who identify that way who don’t necessarily agree with us. It’s kind of the internal contradictions of the situation that we’re in. I think we’re very lucky, I feel very lucky to be able to do this, to do that kind of work, and also it means that we’re letting people know all the aspects as much as we can of what is going on among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people, so in that way I think it has a very positive effect. I feel very lucky and it gives me, as you can see, a way to express my own politics which is part of the deal.
RS: So speaking of politics, under the current administration, has your work been affected? If so, how?
SR: Yeah, I think one thing that might happen under the current administration is that there’s a huge victory to regulate the cost of phone calls to prison that happened in 2015. And Trump replaced the head of the FCC, somebody who is in the pocket of Global TeleLink and all these horrible for-profit companies that have contracts with prisons to gouge families to make prison phone calls almost impossibly expensive. Rates prior to this ruling were up to a dollar a minute. So if you talked to a loved one for a half hour, twice a week, that’s $60 a week, so it became impossible to stay in touch via phone, which is how the Calls From Home show emerged in the first place. Families couldn’t afford to call each other, so they used the radio station. So I think that’s one specific threat, phone call rates to prisons could rise dramatically.
FP: I think it’s an advantage that we don’t depend on the government. It’s a community program. And now our work is voluntary. In a way it hasn’t affected the radio, but it has affected our community because our community is scared. Immigration is not a subject we can hide. There’s a lot of people who don’t have a voice, and the radio is a way to help them. Also in the radio we have been helping our Kichwa communities with translation to let them understand their rights, that they do have rights. For them to understand better, we do that in Kichwa.
NB: It’s hard to say how the Trump administration has impacted particularly on WBAI, except that the stuff that we’re reporting to people is all about this horrific stuff that’s going on that’s coming from the administration. It doesn’t affect our funding particularly, because our funding has always been precarious and still is. And some of it is coming from the–you mentioned the CPB–
SR: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
NB: Right, this is actually federal money.
SR: Right, exactly. And for stations like WBAI, it’s critical.
NB: Yes, it’s very important. Although we have other problems that are related to that money, like whether proper reporting has been done by each of the five stations in order to get the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to give us hundreds of thousands of dollars. So we’re in this weird nexus of power dynamics. But I would say as far as the so-called queer community is affected, yes, there is all this stuff over whether we can be in the military, or want to be in the military. That’s part of what Trump’s playing around with. The questions about how he’s trying to impact–I can’t say him–that the gang is trying to influence what is happening at the United Nations by withdrawing funding for the United Nations, so it means withdrawing funding for a lot of programs that actually affect LGBTQ people internationally. That’s another aspect of what the Trumpies are doing.
So we try to report on some of the things, to explain to people what the impact is, related to queer immigration. There’s an organization, perhaps you’ve heard of it, which is called the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, and actually we’ve had Jamila Hammami, the person who is in leadership there, we’ve had her on several times. We’ve covered some of the issues that are affecting queer people who are subjected to immigration law and almost all of the people who are coming into the US from other countries who are queer are coming because they have been persecuted in their countries, but they’re coming to a country where they can also be persecuted. Let’s not pretend that that’s not true. But perhaps persecuted much worse in the countries where they don’t have as many civil rights as exist here. So all those people for the most part are eligible for asylum here, so we want that to be known and we try to put the word out through our show that people can get legal help in order to get the right to stay here.
SR: Yeah, I just wanted to add one note on the CPB, which is that I would say that is the biggest threat to community radio right now in this administration. I think that one thing I learned working at a community radio station was that the CPB federal funding was over 50% of our station’s budget. Especially for rural or smaller stations that are in communities that don’t have a lot of money, they can’t make up their budget from listener donations. So there’s a huge difference between public radio and community radio. Cutting CPB would be a death sentence for many of these small stations–WNYC would be fine. But that’s where the axe would come. So, donate to these smaller, weird stations, because it really keeps it possible.
RS: And a final question before opening to the audience–what does the future hold for your program and community public radio at large?
SR: I’m trying to create a network of radio stations in New York State, working on a mapping project of both college and community radio station broadcast areas and all of the prisons in New York State. So the dream would be to basically find a station that’s willing to broadcast to reach every single prison in New York State, so we could create a system for sharing information and messages and love and support. And I think that can happen because the public infrastructure already exists. It’s about creating the network, and I think it could grow beyond that. I think that’s what’s amazing about the public radio infrastructure that’s already there, that it has that ability. If there’s people in those stations who are willing to broadcast this material, that honestly a lot of NPR stations wouldn’t be willing to broadcast. So I imagine my project growing in a very local, station by station way, getting new station partners on board.
RS: What does the future hold for Kichwa Hatari?
FP: While I think it’s very difficult to talk about the future, I think the Kichwa Hatari program has been helping the community to bring them back to our culture. The word Hatari means “get up” and “come back.” I think we have taken a big step because Kichwa Hatari is the first Kichwa program in New York and in the United States. From this, we have seen two more radio stations that have begun, also in Kichwa, and we have been helping them to work on that program. I would like in the future for all the different Kichwa communities to get their own radio stations. That’s just one idea to get stronger and let other people know that Kichwa is a language that won’t die.
NB: I think what we are hoping for for the future is that we survive–I mean that’s true for all the precarious cultural stuff that’s out there. And we would like our audience to grow and the situation at the local station has been so tumultuous, it’s hard to even go into a description. But the problem of that has been that we had a larger group of people who were working on the show, and things changed, a couple of people died, one person went to graduate school, which is not the same as dying, thank goodness, although it’s sort of a social death for some people. Things change, and it was hard for us to recruit new people into our group because we weren’t sure that we were recruiting people onto a sinking ship. So we were kind of hoping that we have a facebook page, a website, and we would like to expand our audience and we would like to include more groupings and more people who are interested in helping us to produce, cause it gets to be–you have to do a show every week. Except, this is during the fund drive, so I don’t have to do a show every week. So it’s kind of like show business. It’s like uh oh, you just finished your show and you have to figure out what the next one is gonna be. And being able to have long term planning, that would be wonderful for us. We’re not that good at it right now. Especially because everyone else has lots of things to do and we’re all volunteers. So there’s nobody who’s doing it as their job, to do our show. And I’m sure that’s true of you as well. So that’s part of the question of human labor is what we’re looking for also.
RS: Thank you Naomi. Does anyone have any questions in the audience? In the back. This only reaches so far, so just speak loudly.
Audience Member 1: I’m asking this as a first year electrician apprentice, because it’s really interesting to me. Thinking about radio broadcast in terms of differences between the internet broadcasting and the radio in terms of how it reaches people, and the energy requirements for that and the practical basics of it. Does anyone have any answers on that? Even if you’re in prison, radio is accessible if you have the right equipment for it. And if you don’t have that, it doesn’t work. It’s the same thing with the internet. I’m just thinking more about those kind of infrastructure questions. If you have any experience or commentary?
SR: I mean I think there are some great stations that started as radio stations. And I think it’s a great avenue to take now. I mean, it would not work for my project because prisoners don’t have access to an open internet. I think it’s a great way to also learn what having an internet station means. Like what does it really mean to have 24/7 programming? You can apply for an LPFM license which is a low-power FM license which, you know, is a small broadcast area. There are some that the FCC is offering. I would say those are the two avenues to start if you are interested in trying to start with the nuts and bolts of what building a station is. The Prometheus Radio Project is a great resource on building a station. They actually have some really cool stuff on how to build a DIY small transmitter. They have resources that will be right up your alley, of how do you actually build a transmitter that could transmit around this block. So, cool electrical stuff. I would try that before an Internet station. Build your own LPFM.
FP: Well, talking about the radio, we actually are a station, Radio El Tambo Stereo, that’s actually just transmitted through the internet. We don’t have any FM or AM connection. I think this is why we can actually see how many people, where they actually listen and how we reach the people. But, like I said before, the Radio El Tambo Stereo started like 5-6 years ago, and it’s just an idea of one man that came from Ecuador, as an immigrant. He had this dream, to have his own radio station. But in this country we all know that it’s kind of hard for people who don’t have resources, and he’s been working very hard on this radio station. And then Kichua Hatari came along also. It was his idea, and a lot of people might know him: Charlie Uruchima. He was a student at NYU. He started this radio station together with Segundo Angamarca, who is actually the founder of the radio. And like I said, it’s just transmitted through the internet. If somebody wants to come to the radio station, you are welcome to.
Audience Member 2: Could people access the station [Kichwa Hatari] easily, like in Ecuador?
FP: Yeah, it’s because it’s through the internet. Everyone who has access to the Internet can access it. But we also have a little space in the Bronx. So if anybody wants to come in, you are welcome to. Like I said, Kichwa Hatari program is every Friday from 6 to 8 PM.
NB: And as I said, WBAI is a much bigger project, more firmly established. So we do have offices on Atlantic Avenue and a studio there. The studio is fairly primitive compared to what we’ve had in other spaces. I mean, it has walls that don’t go up to the ceiling. So we have to tell people in the hallway: “Don’t talk when the neon light is on because you’re going to be cutting out on the radio and we don’t want that to happen.” You know, it’s a bigger system. WBAI is also on the Internet, livestreaming at You can also get archival material there. As I said, we have a website and we put up archival materials there, so there’s a way for people to make the connection. There’s this huge and very costly dispute going on about money that’s owed for the transmitter on the top of the Empire State Building. We’ve just had a judge decide that the station owes more than a million dollars, a million and a half dollars to the Empire State Building people. That’s system-wide, because there is five stations. That’s a system-wide impact because the bill is owed by Pacifica, that’s the Pacifica Network. Those are the problems that are big-scale, compared to the little-scale.
RS: Let’s not forget, there is always pirate radio. (Not that anyone endorses it!) Any other questions from the audience?
Audience Member 3: For Sylvia: Are you making it for the audience of one, this one prisoner who is going to hear a single piece, or do you think it could possibly have a greater impact?
SR: The Calls From Home show, the phone messages that we put on the radio that you heard the cuts… I think the really amazing thing about the show is it happened every week with basically no production time. We just recorded the calls and put them on the air every single week. But I also knew that… I don’t think it was reaching a wider audience, I think it was a very functional program. The people in prison were listening, and there were messages directly for them. But I also knew from other people in the community that the Calls From Home show came on and the people turned the radio off, if they weren’t going to get a message. Part of my design was how do you take this medium and create pieces that are both deeply meaningful for the families but also interesting for the general audience. And so I’m trying to do both at the same time. The core process is working with the family to create a piece for, you know, for DeVaughn. All the pieces are in second person, so they’re all addressed to someone: “We are thinking of you. Keep your head up. We have such great hopes for you.” So they are all targeted towards one specific person but… I don’t know, my hope is that the production quality of the pieces will make them interesting. The sound of our pieces also has this human intensity. I hope that they will reach a broader audience. And I also think that in doing that, stations are more likely to air them in times when more people are listening. So airing them during the news show, not just in the late night hour, but trying to actually get them into the main chunks of listening time.