March 11, 2001

To: Utrice Leid, Interim Station Manager, WBAI
From: Dred-Scott Keyes, Production Engineer
Re: "Nigger"

      I want to preface this memo with an opening statement about myself. For the past eighteen years I have been at WBAI and during the course of those years, I have seen at least five changes of management and participated in the struggle to diversify the stations' programming.

      During those 18 years, I have been trained to produce the highest quality of programming within my capabilities and am continuing to learn the craft of radio. Over those years, the station has been the most prolific in the nation in producing one award-winning production after another.

       Aside from the George K. Polk award, I have at least 9 awards from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, some individually and some produced with fellow producers Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Nancy Rodriguez, Peter Bochan, Leslie George; The Midnight Ravers and the WBAI News department.  This year, I have been fortunate enough to win two more awards from the NFCB and will receive them at their conference in two weeks.

      Besides those honors, however, the most important thing I feel I have accomplished at the station, is the training of other people, just as I was trained.

      The sudden deaths of some of our colleagues over the past three years, have made me realize our temporal nature and the need to pass the torch on to others through consistent training and the constant upgrading of our radio production skills. As long as I have been at the station, it has been a place that has been open to those who wanted to learn the craft of radio.

      I am saying all of this to highlight my passion for this station and to say that through the good and bad times, it has always been my goal to become more professional in my approach to producing and disseminating information so folks can make informed decisions.

      Since the changes in station management personnel at WBAI in late December,  I have said publicly (in an Amsterdam News article by Herb Boyd) that I disagreed with its' heavy-handedness and stated my feelings towards the national leadership of Pacifica.

      However, despite the fact that the persons who have been banned and fired from the radio station have been my friends and colleagues, my over-riding concern was to keep the station going and to work with the current management as things began to settle down. But it has been very difficult to work in such a highly charged atmosphere and the unfamiliar presence of guards and gag orders.

      The firing of Bernard White and Sharon Harper and the banning of the Wake Up call crew and the subsequent dismantling of Wake Up Call-which had one of our largest audiences-has presented the station with the problem of re-building that audience. It is this concern about that listenership that I have taken a special interest of what happens at the station in the morning.

      For over two months, the morning show was a battleground and got quite ugly over the air- with both the hosts and listeners engaged in verbal fisticuffs over what has occurred here at WBAI. And just when you think things have settled down, temper's flared and that ugliness would reveal itself again and again. The level of disrespect among those involved. Devolved into the two people  remaining from Wake-Up Call (Amy Goodman and Robert Knight) being called a "white bitch" and a "slave" at some point by host Clayton Riley.

      Another disturbing developement this past week, was the resignation of one of our most respected producers, Mario Murillo, from the morning show. The stated reason for his resignation was that the acting Public Affairs director, Djabel Faye told him who he could and could not have on his show. Rather than working under these conditions, he resigned.

      Meanwhile, the bannings have continued, culminating with Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash and the killing of the Community Labor Report last week. Banning has always been bad publicity for WBAI, but particularly so after Congress member Major Owens put into the Congressional record, his thoughts about the situation at WBAI.

        It should also be said that this was the first time that I have ever heard of people being banned from doing their own shows (Bob Lederer and Cathy Davis), after the acting Public Affairs director, Djabel Faye refused to let them on during the marathon.

      So while I would like to say things have improved, I have to say that these aforementioned actions have further demoralized a staff that has been trying to cope with an uncertain future.

      It is under this backdrop, that I want explain or give my version of events of last Friday which led to my being called a "nigger" for the first time ever at WBAI.

      I happened to see Djabel Faye on his way out the door and I wanted to ask him about what was going on with the Morning Show and why was Santiago Nieves chosen to do the show. Since the events of late December, it has been my policy-since there are so may rumor- to go straight to the horses' mouth, so to speak. I just wanted to know the reasoning behind that choice.

      So much has been said about living up to the ideals of Samori Marksman, that I found it odd that someone whom Samori disliked so much would be placed in that position.

      The reason is that Nieves has threatened  producers like Nancy Rodriguez and threatened to sue the station because he said Samori promised him the Morning Show for four days a week. Samori refused to give any legitimacy to his demand and refused to meet with Nieves and his lawyer.

      Having said that, when I pointed this contradiction out to Djabel, he went into a diatribe about how I wouldn't be at the station because so many people disliked me. I told him the same goes for him. It was at this point that he first called me a "nigger".

      Meanwhile, I was returning some reels to the newsroom, when he verbally assaulted me again.

      Now, understand, I have seen people argue and raise their voices at the station and I confess my guilt in that regard. However, this is common, not only at ‘BAI but other work places where parties disagree. But the line is drawn, when someone calls someone a "fat-assed nigger" as our acting Public Affairs director has done. This incident, interestingly enough, took place in front of the station manager and Samori's brother Lambert, among others.

      The question for me, given what has happened or not happened before when folks were called "white bitch" or "slave" by other producers, is whether this level of disrespect will be allowed to go unchallenged. Or will there be a further deterioration of staff morale.

      Will there continue to be a double standard at the station as some producers break the gag rule and go unpunished while others are banned for doing the same thing or will there be one set of rules for everybody.

      Further, I am preparing to talk with our Union about this incident that I hope will be resolved in the very near future.

      Secondly, I hesitated at writing this memo because it seems that all that happens at WBAI, seems to make it to the Internet and this is not a pretty picture of how staff members are being treated without any relief.

      I would hope you will take the appropriate action regarding this inappropriate behavior by the acting Public Affairs Director. To this end, I am also sending copies of this memo to Bessie Wash, the National Board chair and the UE union.

cc: Bessie Wash
       David Acosta
       R. Paul Martin, United Electrical Union
       Djabel Faye
       Santiago Nieves
       Sydney Smith