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Latino Community Speaks Out on the Crisis at WBAI 4-27-01

Date: Fri Apr 27, 2001 6:44 pm
Subject: Latino Community Speaks Out on the Crisis at WBAI, APRIL 27, 2001

Members of New York's Latino community gathered on the steps of City Hall at noon today to announce their support for the Saturday, April 28 march and rally sponsored by Concerned Friends of WBAI, the Community for Progressive Radio, and the Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover of Pacifica. The rally has been organized to defend free speech radio and labor rights at WBAI, 99.5 FM, as well as to address the nationwide crisis at Pacifica Radio, WBAI's parent foundation. It will begin at noon in Borough Hall, Brooklyn, and continue with a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to a rally at WBAI on 120 Wall Street.

The press conference speakers included City Council member Joel Rivera, Rev. Julio Torrez (St. Mark's Church), Idanis Rodriguez (City Council Candidate for Democratic Party, District 10), WBAI Local Advisory Board chair Miguel Maldonado, fellow LAB board member and labor activist Vicente Panama Alba, and Marina Ortiz (former Folio Editor and former Latino Journal producer).

Other Latino supporters of the press conference and April 28th rally include U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velazquez, State Assembly member Jose Rivera, Radhames Rivera, Vice President of Local 1199 SEIU, WBAI producer Mario Murillo, Rafael Renteria, former Program and News Director at Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, and Howard Jordan (lawyer, journalist and former WBAI producer), among others.

Among the Latino organizations represented and/or supporting the rally are the Vieques Support Campaign, the Latino Workers Center, Pro Libertad, Charas Community Center, the Immigrant Workers Association, Unimex, the Parents Association of Albizu Campus Public School, and the Colombia Multimedia Project.

Those assembled expressed their solidarity with the struggle to reclaim the community-oriented and free speech tradition of listener- supported WBAI and the Pacifica Radio Network in the face of an ongoing effort by the illegally seated, corporate-driven Pacifica National Board to de-politicize and "mainstream" programming at all five stations in the network, which has resulted in the purging of hundreds of progressive and dissident voices from the airwaves.

The New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, recently passed a resolution calling on WBAI to rescind the firings and bannings and support the democratization of the station and the Pacifica Network. A similar resolution is currently working its way through the City Council, with a hearing to be held May 7th. Latino activists are adding their voice to that chorus. They are concerned that WBAI which has long been in the vanguard in reporting on such issues as Vieques, police brutality, racial profiling, and the prison- industrial complex may go the way of Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, which eliminated its Latino-issues and Spanish-language programming and is now essentially a country/Western music station.

The crisis hit home at WBAI last December when, in what has become known as the "Christmas coup," Pacifica management fired the longtime station manager along with the program director and a prominent producer, changed the locks, and installed Utrice Leid as interim station manager. There have since been further firings, bannings, and program cancellations that have cast a chill over what had been New York's voice of the voiceless, WBAI.

For more information, contact Miguel Maldonado, WBAI Local Advisory Board, at 212-633-6646 or Rosalie Hoffman, Concerned Friends of WBAI, at (212) 799-3207.


U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velazquez Statement in Support of WBAI Radio April 27, 2001

I would like to lend my voice to that of those gathered here today in support of WBAI and Pacifica Radio. WBAI and Pacifica represent a tradition that is threatened in our country as public and listener- supported media disappear to be replaced by corporate-driven entities. We cannot deny the impact of the information disseminated by these two very different kinds of media. We must have the alternative of a medium free of commercially-driven goals. Listener- supported radio provides an outlet for alternative communities such as the Latino and Black communities, all progressive communities, and communities with unpopular positions that must be heard. Alternative radio stations such as WBAI provide another view into controversial issues of our day. Think of it, today is such an example as events unfold in Vieques. We will hear not only the Administration's version of events, but we will be allowed to hear the other side of the story. We will be allowed to come to our own conclusions. To think for ourselves. I applaud the New York City Council for calling for a hearing on the firings and forced lock-outs at Pacifica. I salute all of you for your efforts here this afternoon. Thank you for being here today.

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