[The following transcript was provided by Tom Gregg and posted on
the NewPacifica mailing list. The diereses (...) indicate
throat-clearings, ers, ums, etc.] .
©From: tom gregg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Speakers: Patty Hefly, Bernard White, Juan Gonzalez, Ray Laforest,
Janice K. Bryant, Grandpa Al Lewis.
Patty Hefly from listener's group gives an overview:
This has been a long developing problem. It's basically a
multimillion-dollar corporate takeover. ...Around 1995 or 1996 the
Pacifica Foundation instituted a 5-year plan. At that time it was Pat
Scott was the executive director, to be followed by Lynn Chadwick who
is no longer with us and now we have Bessie Wash .. there was a
move at that point, a move to the right, because they were searching
for funds by foundations, and also to ensure that the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting funds would keep coming in. ...We jump forward
to February 1999, um the nail in the coffin was that the National Board
voted to become self-elected. ... before, it was 2 board members from
each listeners area which that would make 10, 5 stations and then a
few at-large members. Our board members in New York City Frank
Millspaugh and Andrea Cisco were ordered by the local advisory
board, suggested that they vote against this move and they did not.
They voted for this move. So, in February 1999 is when they became
self-electing and that was basically, ... in my opinion and in many
peoples opinion, uh the beginning of the end.
...Move to July 1999 or in ... June the firing of the general manager of
KPFA out in Berkeley California uh there was a takedown, because it
was annnounced by this email (I'm sure many people have heard
about it by now) this email talks about the selling of kpfa or WBAI and
this was what brought on the takedown in KPFA out in Berkeley and
the closure for the 23-day lockout by armed guards. Well Pacifica got
a lot smarter about it this time y'know 'cause this caused a lot of
problems. It cost them a half a million dollars which they are making
KPFA pay for. The station was.. general manager was fired that was
what started the whole thing. The station was returned, the general
manager was not returned, and in fact an internal person was chosen.
...It was only a matter of time before Pacifica would come here. That
was 18 months ago. What is happening now is a brilliant move in
dividing the staff and the listeners. This is merely a distraction
(applaiuse). The most important thing to understand. This is a
distraction. ... The removal, The bringing back of any of the people that
have lost their jobs although it is a horrible thing will not change the fact
that there is a 2/3ds majority on the national board that is interested in
one thing and one thing only: a corporate takeover of our radio
network. ... That is the point.
...The national board is in control and only through pressure in the legal
intervention to remove them through those 3 lawsuits which will be
discussed later, there is little hope of stopping this illegal takeover. Um
the democratization of the local and national boards will be successful.
And, supporting the election of the local Advisory Boards will create a
model of accountability to the listener-sponsors because we are the
owners of the, of the Pacifica Foundation (applause). Without us there
is no Pacifica and that has been forgotten for much too long!
Support of the lawsuits, I think, is one of the most important ways that
we can support and to hold the board accountable... there will ... we,
we have to, ... democratize. We have to, well the lawsuits are the only
successful move that we have here because uh they will be held civilly
and personally liable by the lawsuits. There are three, the listeners, one
brought by the members of the Local Advisory Boards and one
brought by 2 national board members and without legal intervention, all
this is moot because we have only 2/3s majority that can control the
complete board and they have the say-- it doesnt matter what we want,
They own the licenses. Only through getting rid of them are we going to
be successful. And we have ways of doing that.
Supporting the... democratizations so that something is in place, when
the legal [when the lawsuits against the Pacifica National Board are
settled]. Hopefully. I don't believe much in legal things either, but there
really isn't much else [that has a chance of succeeding]. And I
appreciate your listening, thank you.
Janice K. Bryant:
Okay first I have a statement from Sharan Louise Harper, she is not
feeling well, things have been extremely hard on her.
Dear friends, Remember that our paramount goal is to keep free
speech radio alive. Don't get caught up in distractions. Our cause is to
continue to to give voice to the voiceless and to defend the rights of all
people everywhere. thank you all for your support though I could not be
with you tonight in person I am with you in love and in solidarity
Sharan Louise Harper
Okay and ... my name is Janice K. Bryant (applause). I used to be
the line producer for WBAI's wakeup call and I've been banned from
the station (boo). I worked with the show nearly 6 years. 2 listeners I've
come to know over that time called me last night to offer their support.
The first thing I told them is what I'm going to tell you now. You don't
know what you've lost; you dont realize what has happened to you. I
come from a place that doesn't have a BAI and anybody here who's
lived anywhere else understands what not having this station means.
But something went on, Friday night, at 11:20 pm, that could make a
singular difference in our future. I think that when the new locks went on
the doors at 120 Wall Street, 10th floor, our voices were compromised
and I believe that the actions taken by the current management have
already begun to have a chilling effect on programming at WBAI. For
instance, I have talked with colleagues who recently were putting
shows together, and then they hesitated, they started considering that
perhaps they would be kicked off the air because guests they have
invited are community organizers and others who happened not to
agree with the station's current management. Since when have we
cared about management's opinion of our guests? (applause)
Think what you will about the former manager, there never ever was
any fear that she would disapprove of program content. Most of the
time we didn't know what she thought but we didn't care and it didn't
matter. Do you remember the "Atlantica" cart that's been playing over
the last few weeks (inaudible)? (applause) I've been listening to the
radio a lot lately. I haven't heard that cart since last week. I asked and I
was told that it is in the studio so if somebody wants to play it it's there,
but I contend that folks are reluctant to play that cart because they are
afraid. People who work there are afraid they'll be fired, others fear
losing their shows, and I don't blame them.
I strongly urge everyone who has a WBAI job or program not to
abandon it as some form of protest; to me that would be
counterproductive. If you have the airwaves, please keep them. Right
now, tensions are high and many statements are being made out of
spite and in anger, and some simply are not accurate. Please, those
of you here who are on the airwaves stay at the station, and be the
ones who express rational opposition to what has happened. You're
creative, I'm sure you can find a way. Free speech took a big hit Friday
night. It's up to all of us, on air and off, to make sure that blow isn't fatal
and that it doesn't happen again. Thank you for your love and support.
...before moving on, I just wanted to confirm what Janice was telling
you about the change of climate at the station. As a listener, I was
listening all through the weekend. I couldn't understand (commotion in
audience)... I just couldn't understand why the air sounded so tepid and
why everyone seemed so cautious. These are people I know and they
are people that I know feel very strongly, as I do. But when I arrived
there Monday I understood what the problem was. It was a very chilling
atmosphere, it was a lot like the voting booths that have these big guys
trying to deter people from voting. When I walked into the station
Monday night there were some guys there hanging around who I had
never seen before, I didnt know what their intentions were, and it was
not a comfortable situation. So I had to assume that all the producers
who had been there that weekend were under that influence and just
didn't know how to respond in that on-the-ground situation. So I would
ask that we be patient with each other and give us each a chance to
assess and come to the airwaves when we're ready.
Coming up, I would like to introduce Ray Laforest, he's on the LAB,
he's a local union leader and organizer and he's gonna be giving you
some information about what's happening with the local LAB.
I don't want to thank you for being here, but rather I want to to
congratulate you, for understanding the importance of being here even
though it's cold and we realize that the meeting is taking place under
very difficult circumstances, i'm very proud to see you tonight this is the
largest political meeting I've ever been privileged to participate in. This
is an important meeting, I would not be happy unless we had at least
35 (?) issues at stake, the importance of this station, this Pacifica
network in our lives and our future. I believe that we should build on the
organization that is existing already, and transform it as quickly as
possible in to a fighting force that can fight, and win, this battle, that is
a battle, to our interests.
Now again, I said a thousand people is a rather difficult venue, for...to
resolve these issues but this is what we have, this is our strength and
we should use it positively. I am speaking to you now both in the
capacity as a listener as a member of this community, someone who
has used WBAI repeatedly ... to further the struggle of the Haitian
community whether is has dealings with police brutality, immigration,
information about situations such as the last election, that we just
witnessed, but we did not call it an election...we understand that with all
its flaws that BAI, part of Pacifica, and Pacifica itself is a necessary
institution that we have to maintain to continue struggle. And I hope we
can lay the basis for that ... tonight.
I will read a brief statment that was issued by the LAB that met last
night... It is adressed to Ms. Bessie Wash (hisses boos then laughs)
executive director PNB from LAB WBAI NY date December 26, 2000
1. We deplore the actions of the Executive Director in recent days
including the removal of general manager Valerie van Isler without due
process and consultation of the local advisory board. We see a
disturbing pattern of increasingly undemocratic procedures and a
straying from the original mission of the Pacifica Foundation.
2. We demand that the firings of Bernard White and Sharan Harper be
revoked (applause) and that the ban of any staff member be lifted
(applause). Although we know from previous experience that this
request is likely to be ignored, we demand an immediate response to
this resolution from the National Board regarding these important
So this is the feeling of the Local Board... we are with you in this
struggle. This is our fight, too, we shall win.
Bernard White (prolonged and lively applause and cheers, whistles)
First off, good evening fellow inmates, good evening fellow inmates.
First of all, you had me a little worried, I didn't know that uh this many
people were coming out this evening, If I did perhaps you could have
met me at 120 Wall Street and we could have gotten my things out of
I'm going to be brief, because tonight we have to face some painful
realities, and that is that we have been sold out by a group of, uh,
quisling elements that are inside of the station, who, even though I
have had several conversations with them about what might happen if
we invite Pacifica in to remove a station manager, they chose not to
listen and embarked on this journey that has brought us all together
this night. Pacifica recklessly exploited some internal contradictions
that we had inside the station, contradictions that we could have
However because of people's petty sense of vindictiveness and
jealousy, they chose to move, and ... at all speed to get their desires
met. The staff on several occassions, we've had several large
meetings at the station where the staff-- before this happened-- when
the staff requested that this not happen. And this group went ahead
anyway and went ahead and moved against the wishes of the majority
of the staff and I think you oughttaknow that. But I think that we right
now we have, running the radio station, someone who is loved by
many in the community because they have done some good work and
I think we ought to recognize that. but we also ought to recognize that
this right here is a bad move ...It places WBAI in serious jeopardy.
Since this precedent has been set, they can come at any point in the
future and do it again.
My termination without any explanation which came at 7:00 in the
morning and Sharan's which came 45 minutes later. And as well as
Janice K Bryant, who.. they won't let her inside the station, they have
decimated wakeup call, if you've heard it (roar, commotion from
audience). So the programs have already been changed at WBAI, its
not a question of "will they be changed?", they've already been
changed and people have already been pulled out of WBAI. So, I'm
proposing in my brief time here that one of the things that we consider,
that the person running WBAI right now is a Pacifica appointee, and
that we have to get out Pacifica appointees and and put in people that
are picked by the community, by the paid and unpaid staff...
(applause) Any way we can we must get this decision reversed.
A voice from the audience: "How?"
Bernard White: By any way we can, we're gonna sit down and figure
out exactly how. But I think you already have an idea. I hear that many
people.... S-see this is the dilemma that we face, once this happens
people call up and they say "we don't want to pledge to the radio
station." Then the real crisis occurs, because then the radio station
can't meet its revenue then Pacifica comes in and say "Well, look, you
can't make the money that you need in order to stay alive so we'll sell
you." That's what I mean about them putting us in this situation right
now because I know that the next fundraiser it's going to be very very
difficult to raise any money. Because the trust in the station is lost.
That is the question that, that we'll have to resolve ... y'know this is a
natural question that comes up as a result of what's been done to
WBAI, in the middle of the night. So, as I said, what we need to do is
demand that this person is removed, that we come up with another
process where we, as a staff, evaluate a station manager, that we
begin to determine whether that station manager is doing what we
want him or her to do for the radio station and then if theyre not then we
recommend their termination and go out and look for somebody to do
what it is that we want them to do, and we do not ask Pacifica to step
in here and take care of anything for us. (applause) (pause)
...you know, \it's very difficult because I, y'know I'm not used to coming
up and talking about people and I'm not gonna talk about ... (pause)
Utrice too much (yells from crowd, rowdiness). ... we really need to
move because, I think one of the things that is being planned right now
is that, ...there is going to be a race card that's played, where ...You
know it's so beautiful to see the faces of the people who listen to BAI
because it is everyone who is interested in justice. (applause) I want
you to just be aware that the next card that will probably be played is
the race card.
Woman's voice from the audience: It's happened already.
According to Amy ... Pacifica, .. the indication was that it was a white
racist plot, and you too, Bernard, that you were a part of the plot (crowd
Bernard: So we have to be aware of that. We also have to be aware
that there are people who are coming in as bodyguards for Utrice um
(Male voice from the audience: "She don't need 'em.") (laughs) ...so
we have to talk to these groups, the, ... 100 Black Men in Law
Enforcement (one male voice from the audience laughs very loudly),
the folks at the ... United African Movement, we have to talk to them
and let them know just whats going on, because they're only hearing
one side of the story. OK, so I do want to thank you for coming out this
evening and hopefully we'll come out of here with some kind of unified
resolve. They didn't think that you could come together, but I'm glad
that you did. So until next time, (audience: stay strong, and pay close
(Transcriber's note: Mr. White's customary opening and closing lines
in hist show Wake-Up Call were "Good morning, fellow inmates" and
"Until next time, stay strong and pay close attention.")
Hosts give list of people who have been banned from the studio:
Bernard White, Janice K. Bryant, Sharan Harper, Eileen Sutton,
Serene Roberts ,Valerie van Isler.
And websites: www.wbai.org www.wbai.net www.savepacifica.net
Grandpa Al Lewis:
We will win! Short history lesson: At KPFA, in spite of the fact that 2
people were not rehired (Larry Bensky, who put in 31 years there and
Nicole Sawaya who was the general manager), we must understand
that the National Board had their ass kicked in Berkeley! For 50 years
the general office of Pacifica was in Berkeley. They had to run behind
the walls in Washington DC with their tails between their legs! And I
wanna tell you it was not the staff, it was not the volunteers, it was the
community that did it! Thats what we have to do here.
Because the community when they came out, and they came out in a
demonstration of 10,000 people, politicians said "I don't know if they're
Democrats, Republicans or radicals, but those are voters, and what is
going on? The natives are getting restless!" So they demanded
answers and and the state legislature in California demanded answers
and they've gotten a little wiser now but they're still stupid, they're not
gonna lock anybody out now because that backfired on them.
But we have the one thing that we always talk about on the radio. Talk
is cheap. This is a community station, listener supported? Well, its
about time the community that we have supported for 40 years comes
to the aid of the station. I am not... you'll have to listen Saturday, but I
am not going to talk about Toms, Aunt Jemimas and (inaudible)... I will
do that Saturday... information, not innuendoes not insults.
We have a board, a community radio, listener-supported. Who is on
the board, the National Board, that gives the dictates? It doesn't matter
which Aunt Jemina. Mary Francis Berry, who was a government
employee--the first time I met her, I told her that. Bessie Wash, another
one. Who is on the board? A man from Citicorp which has a history
this long of redlining. We have housing shows. We fight for tenants
rights! And this is our board? We have a man who specializes in
selling radio stations. Is that what, we, the audience, are about?
We have a man on the board who is with a law firm that specializes in
keeping establishments and unions union-free, a strikebreaker. this is
what we are about? I have a suggested list, 1 minute, somebody
please tell me... first, I have to tell you that the William Moses Kunstler
Fund for Social Justice which we have been in the forefront of fighting
the Rockefeller mandatory minimum drug laws ....(inaudible) I do
prisoner work, my wife does prisoner work, I've been barred from the
prisons like people have been barred from WBAI Why isn't Herman
Ferguson on the board Why isn't ...Prejean, who fights to eliminate the
death penalty? Why isn't she on the board? Why isn't Danny Glover on
the board? ... I just wanna say one thing about govt oppression. I've
been here since 5 o clock waiting outside. I can stand the cold, one of
my great great grandmothers cohabitated with a polar bear.
A young man came up to talk to me, he was from Turkey, I wanna tell
you what he said. On Christmas day, Amy's #1 assistant went to the
station. They were going to do a program on the prisoners in Turkey.
(Horrible. They're on a hunger strike. They may die.) She was going to
interview them. They set up the interview, she went up to the station.
They wouldn't let her in. She said, "please I have to call them, it is at
great risk to their lives that they're giving this interview."
Habte Selassie said "You can't get in." She yelled. Utrice came to the
front door and said, "did you put in for overtime? You didn't? Get up."
(transcriber's note: perhaps it is "get out"). She called the guard
downstairs and they escorted her out of the building.
I want you to know that along with Israel, Turkey gets the most military
support from the United States. This is a government takeover, I'm
telling you this. You have to wake up, ...with all her verbiage, she's not
even smart enough to know that she's being used. (sustained
Host gives phone numbers 212-209-2900 studio, 212-209-2800
switchboard 120 Wall Street. "Also, anybody who is giving money, it is
imperative for you to understand that at this time we cannot take a
check, it must be in cash."
Host: The cohost of [Democracy Now], also a columnist for the Daily
News, Juan Gonzales.
I wanna try to be direct as possible. #1, is we, those of us who have
been following the crisis at Pacifica very closely now for the last few
years understand that there has been inexorable movement of what is
going on here. The people on the board at Pacifica try to deal with
each situation as a particular local situation that has nothing to do with
anything else, nothing is related to anything else.
But the reality is that if you see the movement, from the taking-away of
autonomy from the local stations and the centralization of power in a
self-perpetuating board, to the move in Berkeley, to the, to the purge
that occurred at the PNN national news when Dan Coughlin and Verna
Avery Brown were moved out (and you know, those of you who listen to
the PNN news, what it has been like since then.) To the attempt to
place gag orders and problems with Amy Goodman and myself and
the rest of the staff at Democracy Now now to the attack at WBAI.
This is all, now every particular situation has its own contradictions.
There are always internal problems within any organization. But the
general trends, what we must keep focused on. The reality is the
Pacifica network is the most valuable asset the left in America has.
For all of its failure to fulfill the potential that everyone would like it to
have, it is still the most valuable asset the left in America has.
Materially, and in terms of the people that are connected to that
network throughout the nation.
The reality is that the Pacifica network still, especially WBSA [must
mean WBAI] and KPFA, set the agenda, raise the issues that no one
else wants to raise and have a power and a force far beyond the
listenership and the numbers, ... and amount of dollars that come in.
So that, of course, at some point or another, in the gradual
corporatization and expansion and concentration of the means of
communication, there had to be a move against the Pacifica network,
and it came gradually when this board grabbed control, but now it is
trying to snuff out any form of independent community-related radical
dissent within the network and therefore in American society.
We've gotta understand that, we've gotta be clear because, listen, I
worked with Utrice Leid for 5 years. I had immense respect for her, I
always respected her, until saturday night, when my respect for her...
that she would allow herself to beome a pawn for (inaudible- applause)
... she's being used but shes also using the
Pacifica...(inaudible-applause) for her own ends and that she would
participate in this, I've lost all respect for her...this can be won, but it will
take a, a, a big fight. Because they are using all the internal
contradictions, that exist here and in any station. We are gonna have
to be in this for the long haul.
I think that one goal that I'd like to see...I would like to see the
"Concerned Friends of WBAI" raise more money than the pledge
campaign for WBAI. Raise more money than the pledge campaign of
WBAI does, ... in the next pledge campaign, that everyone here has to
go out into every organization that you know, that you're involved with,
explain the issue to them, get them to take a position, send it in,
because we've got to spread the word. We can't assume that, just
because there are 1000 people here, most people in the city
understand, or even all the listeners understand what's going on, so
you all have to become emissaries, organizers, and get out to every
organization that you can, get them involved. We've got to have some
clear structure. We've got to be able to support the people who are
taking the brunt of this attack. (here his cadence sounds like Amy
Goodman) I mean, the idea that Bernard White after all of the years of
dedication and committment, a, a person who has paid his dues in the
community and at that radio station--
See, 'cause you have to understand one thing. Organizations, social
movements and institutions are all built by people, by human beings,
with all of their frailities and all of their problems. It's people with their
sweat and blood who build organizations and institutions and the
clearest sign that the people who are involved in this are up to no
good, is the snakelike, serpentine and scurvy way that (inaudible)
(applause) ...no sense of dignity, no sense of respect, and that is the
key sign of a pig. (applause, inaudible)
We can all have a victory on this. The only way that this victory, I think,
is gonna be achieved is when this whole board is removed. When all
the members of the board who are in the majority and who are
perpetuating this atrocity, and when the people how have been most
directly involved in this latest escapade are, uh, run out. (applause)
End of part 1.