Celebrating 30 Years On-the-Air with KABF 88.3 FM

IMG_1782-1Little Rock       There’s nothing easy about keeping a 100,000 watt community radio station on-the-air and true to its mission any day of the week but to have it happen for 30 years in Little Rock since August 29, 1984, well, as the song says, “that’s something to be proud of!”  And, proud and happy we were at Oxford American’s restaurant and our down-the-street neighbor, the South on Main Restaurant, celebrating and singing along with a couple of dozen Neil Young covers.  As I often tell people, acting as station manager of KABF the last 18 months is actually fun, especially since we’re making progress, and it was great to see people, old and new, come out and kick it with us on a warm Saturday night.

            I pulled some oldies on a last minute pitch and there was Lia Lent, a veteran of AM/FM, and Joe Fox of another South Main neighbor, the Community Bakery, who built some of our early radio stations, including KABF, almost by hand.  Scott Holladay was there, a veteran ACORN organizer in his day, but also the first station manager of KABF when we first pushed the buttons down on Crystal Mountain and went on the air.  Last night one of the DJs asked me what the first song played on KABF was?  I asked Scott, he said bet it was rock, but, “Ask John.”  I found John Cain, program director at KABF from day one and the glue holding much of the history of the station in his own head, and asked him?  He bet it was country and western, which I didn’t see coming.  We’re just going to say it was Hendrix and the song was “Are You Experienced?”  And, it’s been an experience.

            The board was out in full force headed by Toney Orr along with Paul Kelly, Zach Polett, and Norman Williamson.  The DJs were everywhere from picking and singing on stage once the music began to working the merch table, signing the posters with most of their pictures on them, to just smiling and tapping their feet.  Bryan Frazer, our assistant manager, was MCing, and Carly Garner, our development coordinator, was working the crowd.  Landers-Fiat had stepped up, thanks to Bryan’s good work, to sponsor the event in a big way, and their representatives were front and center from the first bell until god knows when, since they outlasted me.

            We had listeners showing up with their vintage t-shirts from pledge drives gone by.  A listener for the last dozen years from Russellville, 60 miles away, came up to me and said that we had helped him get through a lot of years on his way to work.  One listener after another came up to just shake hands and say thanks.  People were standing in line to get in still at 9pm because we were at crowd capacity, and South on Main, said we may have set the record for attendance last night.

            Organizations give people voice.  We always knew that and prove it in the streets daily as our members struggle to build power.  There are a lot of tools, powerful, powerful tools that can help amplify the voices of our people, and radio is one of the biggest.  I’m always amazed more people don’t make the climb, but if they did, as KABF has for 30 years, they could hear the cries for freedom and the songs of Job from many of our mountain tops.

            We could all hear as we celebrated 30 now and many more to come.

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Heed Wenonah Hauter’s Warnings about Food Monopolies

New Orleans   The other day  I interviewed Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, on KABF at 88.3 FM  about her work and her new book, Foodopoly.  We have worked with Wenonah over the years all over the world.  Her organization was crucial in getting us help in our winning fight more than a dozen years ago to stop the privatization of water and sewer services in New Orleans.  She was always there with help and advice when ACORN International and ACORN Peru were working to stop privatization of water services there over the last decade.  When the Organizers’ Forum went to Bolivia she connected us to the organizers in Cochabamba during the great water wars there.  So I know Wenonah and her work, but she still had some surprises for me and all of us in her passionate arguments about the adverse impacts of corporate concentration in our food industry.

            Increasingly many of us are hoping that the trend towards organic and healthy food augurs well for future citizen health.  Talking to Wenonah it becomes clear that the smaller organic operations are being gulped down by the big food production and grocery operations.  Asking her about the impact of Whole Foods with its elite pricing structure and market presentations was a little like hearing about Darth Vadar and the Empire striking back.  Without going into chapter and verse on-the-air, Wenonah and her large team of researchers and staff, stretched over 18 offices in the United States now, seem skeptical of whether or not some of the organic claims of these companies are even true.

            And, if we might have hoped that the alternative was to increasingly go local as we are doing at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, Wenonah had a cold splash of water in our faces for us to experience there as well.  Personally, she lives on some acreage that her father originally bought some years ago 45 minutes out of Washington DC and that her husband now farms organically and sells in DC and along the beltway, so she has already been there and is doing that.  She salutes the loca-vore movement with one hand while waving the other in caution at the same time.  She didn’t say that it was all simply “precious,” but she was crystal clear that there was no way that any of these efforts were going to get to scale so that they could be realistic consumer alternatives.   Stepping back from our dreams, there is no doubt that she is correct.

            The solution?  Wenonah argues that we have to have a mass movement of consumers ready to demand change and to do so politically from City Hall to the halls of Congress, and that is the real message behind her book and her relentless travel around the country to spread this message.  Whether we want to hear this or not, we need to heed her call.  Food is too important for it to be simply a profit center for corporations and conglomerates.

Food Monopolies Audio Blog

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