Transcript of 12/27/00 WBAI listeners meeting,  Part 1

                  [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 <>
                  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.

                  (Unidentified speaker)

                  ...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.

                  Ray Laforest:

                  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,
                  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)
                  (inaudible) (laughter):

                  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
                  my office.

                  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
                  resolved internally.

                  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)

         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)
                  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:

                  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?
                  (Audience: "no".)

                  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.

                  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) 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.