Don’t lose the Black History Month momentum. Tune in to community radio and celebrate every day.
Commercial media outlets are often criticized for distilling Black History Month to simply Martin Luther King clips and brief splashes of good, while delivering negative images the rest of the year. Community radio stations, inspired by volunteer energy in programming, bring something exciting to the table when it comes to Black History Month: media that is not about advertisers, horrors or sponsor logos, but is instead focused on the community, diversity and inclusion.
Community radio stations around the United States feature African-American themed talk shows, music programming that spotlights Black performers and podcasts and shows that highlight conversations about race and the American Dream. Here are some of the best to check out this Black History Month:
- Grand Rapids Soul Club Radio Hour | WYCE: Don’t let the name fool you. Along with old-school R&B legends like Aretha Franklin, the Impressions and Bobby Womack are a mix of contemporary cutting-edge performers like Solange, FKA Twigs and Gary Clark Jr. It is from Grand Rapids, Mich. though, and you’re sure to find so much to love.
- The Hustle | KCSN: I’ve long argued that stations are missing an opportunity to do new programming when they pass on trying HD Radio. California’s KCSN is using the alternate channel to explore fresh programming like The Hustle. Hosted by longtime television producer and writer Eunetta T. Boone, the new program examines the problems of diversity in the entertainment industry. It offers lots of thoughtful and practical commentary on relevant matters, without the 140-character bombast we’re so used to when it comes to inclusion on TV, film and radio.
- Old Skool Sessions | WJFF: Commercial radio stations were entranced by the old-school hip-hop format for about 20 minutes a year or two ago. Short term, it was big ratings. Now, commercial stations are finding decreased audiences for it, and are thus changing formats. The music remains special though, and Old Skool Sessions imparts not only classic hip-hop but the music that influenced or is sampled in many of the most legendary cuts. The program is a trip down memory lane if you’re of a certain age, and an education if you’re younger.
- Songs for My Father | WEVL: With 30-plus years in the chair, Joyce Cobb delivers your way a mix of classic jazz, Big Band and a dash of vocal tracks that made a part of jazz history and were also the progenitors of bebop, soul and scat. If you find jazz not your thing, you’ll find this program makes it incredibly accessible. Best of all, Cobb never fails to warm the mic with her memorable voice on this great Memphis community institution.
- The Melting Pot | WERA-LP: We all go out to restaurants of many cuisines without giving it much thought, until we take a moment to consider how food unites people of many backgrounds. The Melting Pot explores American diversity through the foods we eat, their history and how our cultural stories more often than not have common threads. It’s a program about race and inclusion in a completely different light, and quite a gem.
- Tio Jim’s Basement Party | KQNY: My own tio (Spanish for “uncle”) had a record collection of mariachi, Tejano, funk, disco and R&B, and this aural ride down the bouleward is a great reminder of how Black music has truly influenced so many cultures. Billed as “a zig-zaggedy rhythmical cocktail that heartbeats through Havana, Kingston, New Orleans, Memphis, and beyond,” Tio Jim’s Basement Party is in fact hosted by his nephew. The music, however, probably does his tio proud. Fun and sure to open you up.
- We All Got Issues | WCOM: Dr. Glenda Clare is a mental health expert who uses her time on the North Carolina community radio station to explore these matters. From behavioral conversations and families to relationships and how to develop community-oriented solutions, Clare leads a discussion with fellow professionals and others on subjects many of us may hesitate to examine, but impact all of us.
- The Groove | KPFT: Tons of community radio stations have local hip-hop shows. Of the dozens I’ve heard, it is very rare to find one that can strike a balance of music, hip-hop culture and smartly engaging artists in conversations about politics. I’m as weary as the next person when artists try to talk issues, but host Bobby Phats keeps it down to Earth and witty, not asking someone to get in over their heads, or the audience to grow bored. Fantastic music and mixes too.
Community radio has so much to offer this Black History Month. Your local stations need your time, energy and support. Tune in and celebrate African-American history today.