We're pleased to bring you a special guest blog today by CEM contributor Lea Gilmore.
First, where is everybody? It seems that very few of you have questions or comments for Mayor Sheila Dixon. So, is that disinterest in city politics, or more who could care what she says, or this kind of stuff is just ho hum? Well, we will be in her office at 4:30 on Monday. Hope to have it up on our site when we get back from City Hall.
Next, we will be focusing some of our work on school violence, talking to the CEO, teachers and students. So, if you have thoughts on it, send them in. If you are a schoolteacher or student maybe you can be part of the interview. Comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone asked if Martin O’Malley ever voiced his support. I heard he did from a third party. I also received calls from many elected officials outraged by what happened, including Senator Ben Cardin, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Congressmen John Sarbanes, Wayne Gilchrest and Elijah Cummings, Delegate Jon Cardin, State Senator Jamie Raskin and many others. I heard there was a lot of outrage from many within the Baltimore Metropolitan delegation.
I wake angry and frustrated many days thinking about what happened. Usually, once I say good morning to my little one, walk my dog Charley, and have coffee with Valerie, I am over it.
We keep up the good fight with them where it needs keeping up, but we are moving on. We have so many stories we want to do, interviews we are waiting to produce, town meetings to organize, and a new public media we’re working to create to worry about their board and management too much. They are a distraction.
I have been thinking a lot about Obama’s comments and the continuing ad nauseum conversation about what he said. How much can we talk about it, over and over and over. The other day when I was in Hagerstown for our Maryland Humanities Council performance of Martin, Malcolm and Marc, we were in a hotel bar. Fox was on. It is amazing to me that all the discredited political professionals, like Dick Morris and angry caustic commentators of new like Geraldine Ferraro kept going on and on saying so little of any substance. Is there no other news to be covered by our major media than what Obama said at his fundraiser? Their choice of commentators tells us everything about what they are attempting to make important in this election. Their base of thought is so limited, yet has the broad power to define the discussion. We can end that with new media and new conversations.
American elections have always been contentious. I have been reading the book 1800 about the election that swirled around Adams and Jefferson and others. If you just look at that election along with the elections of 1860, 1912, 1928 and 1960, you can see that the venal and the vicious has always been at the forefront. It is bare knuckled. Part of the bare knuckles of 1800 and 1860 and 1912, besides the vicious personal attacks, was actual deep policy differences. Candidates were unafraid of speaking to their visions of America, and they had them.
So, I could put up with all viscera, silliness, nastiness and meanness if candidates would just declare their visions honestly and with the passion of conviction.
I believe what Obama said about what motivates people’s distrust is true, and what McCain said to Michigan workers about their jobs not returning was real and true. They were both eviscerated and trashed for being straight.
Instead of backpedaling, candidates, tell us the reality as you see it and what you think we as a nation need to do.
That would be refreshing.
I gotta go, my 10 (almost 11 year old) only has a few more days till she is gone and back to school, so we got some Daddy/Daughter time that is calling.
Have a wonderful weekend.
This has been an interesting week. First, the Peabody Award comes for our work on the series we produced called Just Words. It was funded by the Open Society Institute and aired on WYPR for a little over a year. We submitted the work for the prestigious Peabody but had no expectations of winning one.
Photo Credit: Wall Street JournalToday, I was a guest on Doni Glover’s show on WOLB. When we finished our conversation on the air, I stumbled into their lunchroom. Everyone was glued to CNN listening to Obama’s speech on race. I sat down. I became glued to the TV, to the words Obama was speaking to us all.
I don’t know how many of you heard it, but you can watch and read it here. I have never heard a politician running for office talk about race in that manner. He tackled it head on.We live in a nation where race has always been at the root of our social and political discussion. Race is at the root of our national persona. It is complex, very complex. Our generation, our race, our region, our gender, and our exposure other races define our feelings and sense of race as a nation. Barak Obama clearly understands the complexity of race in America. My own sense of him is that growing up as a Black child raised by a socially and politically open white mother, with conservative white grandparents in a white world, with an African father whom he did know, defined his own search for racial identity in America. He lived in other cultures and saw race not just through the lens of Black and White but through Asian worlds that most non-Asian-Americans ever touch. This is a life journey that took him, and continues to take him, wrestling with race through all its American complexities. America needs to have this conversation with itself. Maybe Barak Obama is the only one, at the moment, who is able to create this conversation among ourselves. I really understood what he was saying about his minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. White America easily dismisses Reverend Wright because they identify his words with the words of Farrakhan. Most of us in the white world have to be willing to admit that this visceral reaction is what motivates us to become angry at the words of Reverend Wright. Obama said he could no more turn against Reverend Wright than he could his white grandmother. He said Reverend Wright came out of a generation that grew up in segregation and in the face of outright racial hatred in America. He is still a distrustful and angry man. He also said how much he learned about his faith and life from Rev. Wright. Obama went on to say how much his white Kansas rural-raised grandmother loved him. How much she loved this Black child in her life but how he cringed at her racist remarks. This is life in America. This is an America where love and family cross all those lines. This is an America that must have a conversation with itself. When Obama turned his conversation to the white working class of America and its frustrations, it was clear that he understands the anger of white working class Americans who feels like Black folks are getting a free ride, while they worked for everything they have. He understands how that is all wrapped around the economic conditions they face with factories closing, mortgage foreclosures, and crumbling public schools that intensify the anger around race. He understands the responsibility Black America must take for itself. He called on Black fathers to come home to their children while understanding the devastation and desperation of life in the Black inner city streets of America. He also understands that to get beyond race we need to have more than just a conversation with ourselves as Americans. We need to rebuild our economy so that it supports stability and equality. A nation rebuilding its infrastructure, breeding and teaching creative minds, a nation at work with decent paying jobs, a system that provides health care for all its citizens, and public schools where we feel safe and confident sending our children, just might allow us to go beyond race. A movement fighting for this America has the power to transcend race. I hope and pray that Big Media in America will do this speech and this conversation justice. I am not optimistic but will jump for joy if proven wrong. Let’s see what sound bites they use from this magnificent speech. Let’s see if the rabid hosts of hot talk television and radio and the knee-jerk response columnists can keep their powder dry. Let’s see if they can stop to think for a moment and help us have this conversation. I was sitting with a dear friend at lunch (yeah, I can have lunch these days – what a novel idea) who said his liberal Jewish mother and her friends could not vote for Obama if he defended Rev Wright’s words. The first thing that came to my mind was, how short our memories are. His Mom is obviously part of my Dad’s generation. I remember growing up in a world where we Jews lived in our neighborhoods apart from the rest. It was because of discrimination against us and by our own choice to live among one another. Non Jews were not trusted not to be anti-Semitic until we were satisfied they were not. Goyim jokes (jokes about those who were not Jews) abounded in the community. I grew up with cousins with numbers on their arms tattooed on by their Nazi torturers in concentration camps. I knew that at any moment they .. the proverbial they .. could turn on us before sunset. There is a distrust born of being a discriminated against minority. You overcome it, you go beyond it, you fight against it, both in society and within your own being. It is a complex thing. I, too, understand the anger in Rev. Wright and in other dear friends of mine. I don’t agree with it. Race is both deep and superficial. It means nothing in the reality of existence but it defines our every move in America. President Clinton’s conversation on race when he was in the White House was superficial, elitist and detached. Maybe now we can have a conversation based in the material reality of our everyday lives. Obama’s words were eloquent but eloquence is not enough. If he wins, he must build the America he preaches about. If he loses, he has to build the movement he talks about. Words of beauty will only take us so far. I hope the substance is as powerful as the speech. We will see. -marc
I really want to get past this and build a new and creative world for us and for you. We will and we are. We’re going to post a new interview in just a few minutes.
I wanted to write a few words about last night, as well.
The gathering last night was amazing. It was a cold snowy night. A night that saw many events across the community cancelled. But in Charles Village, an auditorium was filled with 300 people or so.
The people there represented our community. It was Black, White, Asian, Latino, elders, youth and middle aged, gay and straight. There were truck drivers from Baltimore, school bus drivers from Bel Air, steel workers from Dundalk, university professors from every discipline, lawyers, nurses, doctors, social works, inner city activists, students, school teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists and artisans. Some were activists who came as an organized group but most were just folks there to speak there mind.
It was inspiring to hear what my listeners and station members had to say. Sure, on one one level it was about me and about the fact that I have been part of people’s lives in this community for the past fifteen years. But all this was and is much larger and more important than any one man or any show on public radio.
This is about community, about building community and a radio show that drew diverse communities together. It is about the future of public radio and what the public means in public radio.
Speakers stood to tell Tony Brandon, Barbara Bozzuto, Andy Bienstock, the management and board of WYPR that the program gave voice to the voiceless in this community. People testified that they had been introduced to voices, people and ideas from our community that they would never run across in their daily lives. One inner city activist, Dante Wilson, said that all the media shows is negative images of Black communities. He said that our program showed the world that there is a different side to the streets of Baltimore and people who were working to make a difference.
School teachers stood up to say that nowhere else did teachers and regular working people have a forum to speak to the public. Jewish-American and Arab-American leaders were there because our show was a place where ideas were non-threateningly shared.
It became clear that the people in that audience felt that the Marc Steiner Show was a place that built community, built bridges between the diversity we live in, and created communication. One thing was very clear; people understand that and want public media to be a place to build community.
The concept of public ownership of the airwaves was foremost in the minds of those who attended last night. The “your” in Your Public Radio is more than just words. When I came up with those call letters, it meant that it was to be a community owned and run station. I believed it, the people who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the station believed it, and in the ensuing years those who became members of WYPR believed it. I told them to believe it, and the station during its fund drives told them to believe. We were telling them a lie.
Last night the community demanded that the station management and board include them in the process. People believe that listener-members should have seats on the Board of Directors. They should be part of the process of directing our public radio. Some demanded that the board resign or that Tony Brandon and the management resign or that the board should fire the management and start over.
A theme that was constant throughout the night was people demanding that the public mean something in public radio.
Out of this meeting the CAB will write a report to WYPR’s Board of Directors. The meeting is March 12th. You may attend that meeting. You just have to register with WYPR to reserve a seat.
This is about the ownership and future of public radio.
I have a few short reflections after seeing what I wrote last night. I don’t want to fall into the trap of he said/she said quarrel of inconsequential detail. On some levels I have allowed myself to do that.
First, I realized when I spoke of the $750,000 raised that I inadvertently left out that $70 some thousand dollars of that amount was really contributed or in a sense forgiven by Johns Hopkins University. I realized after I sent it in to my blog that I left that line out.
Second, I want to be clear how grateful all of us should be to the original guarantors. Bill Clarke, Jonathan Melnick, Anne and Jane Daniels, Tony Brandon, Charlie Salisbury, Earl and Darielle Linehan, Tom and Barbara Bozzuto and Albert Williams. Without their guarantees we could not have saved the radio station for Baltimore. I just want to be absolutely clear about that.
Finally, the problems boil down to certain things that leadership of the station just doesn’t get.
This should have been a partnership between guarantors, contributors and members to create a board to oversee the fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities of WYPR
Martha Rudski, WJHU Marketing Director, came up with the name Your Public Radio because we believed we could create a truly powerful and unique institution that belonged to this community.
When we first started, the story around NPR was the amazing marriage between this conservative Republican corporate executive and a community activist talk show host known for his progressive leanings coming together to build a community radio station. My belief in the myth hurt us all.
All this is madness. There was never any concrete reason for it to happen. They keep changing their story as to what led to the end of my show because they are grasping for straws. There is no reason other than a deep personal and political dislike for me from Tony Brandon and a few others. They could not stand what I stood for, or that I was the face and voice of the station. Ray Blank, the station consultant, has said to me more than once that they see you getting all the recognition. They feel they deserve some. I always gave it to them.
So, all this is for what?
I have nothing left to say unless they come at me or at the public with more specious comments.
See you tonight.
First, thanks so much for all the support. In my next post I will respond directly to the thoughts and ideas you all have shared.
I don’t know if you all heard Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast today. They interviewed me and then they spoke with Tony Brandon, who is president of the station and who led the effort to get of me. Quickly, I want set the record straight on one thing that he said which was a bald-faced lie.
He has constantly attempted diminish what I and our listeners did six years ago in raising funds to purchase what was then WJHU. He said on the air that we raised only 5% of the $5 million to purchase the station. I have all the records, and the old bank statements. We raised close to $750,000 after I send an e-mail asking listeners to support our effort to buy the station. $400,000 of that came in huge contributions of six figure. Four people gave $25,000 and numbers more $15, $10 and $5 thousand dollar contributions. Hundreds more gave everything from$5.00 to $1000.00. None of them (those who gave $25 thousand and less) were ever acknowledged or thanked by the station.
At any rate, in many ways this is beside the point. The money is not important. It is more important to them than to me. But it is important that the efforts of the listeners and early supporters not be diminished.
What is important is the future of public radio. What is important is that this is about integrity of public radio. It is about the corporatization of WYPR and of public radio.
When I raised the money from listeners I said I would return every dime to them if we did not buy the station. You trusted me. I met some people, like Tony Brandon, who I thought would be partners to build our community station. Instead it was hijacked.
There is a history here that I will relate to all of you over the next few days. Right now I have to go off to a lunch meeting so I can continue to ensure coverage of our world in print, audio and video on our blog and the Center for Emerging Media website.
So, I will share with you all our future plans, and my perspective on the history of the past six years at WYPR very soon.
Thank you all so much. I will back at you a bit after lunch and for the next few days.
Take care.. and thanks