On Saturday, June 2, there was a wonderful tribute held for the late pioneering broadcaster of Jamaican descent, Gil Noble. The event held at the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, New York was well attended.
There were several vendors whose wares were Afro-centric in nature from books to DVDs to arts and craft. There was a buzz in the auditorium as folks expressed their concern on the future of Black media. “We’ve lost Gil and Hal Jackson back to back,” says one vendor, “who will now help to ensure that our story is being told? Who will provide analysis for what is happening on the political front? Look at the banks and what they are doing to the regular hard working folks?” she asked.
“There is much work to be done,” says Imhotep Gary Byrd, one of the last of a line of stellar broadcasters who cover the African perspective. The highlight of the event was when Gil’s daughter, Lisa Noble addressed the audience and spoke of her father’s legacy. Lisa shared that before her father died he made sure that he owned the copyright for his material and that material has now been passed on to the family.
“We are now in the process of digitising all of that material,” says Lisa, “it’s a very expensive and time consuming undertaking but it must be done in an effort to get this information out to the community.” She also shared that they were working with Dr. James McIntosh and Betty Dobson of CEMOTAP (Coalition to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People) to get the over forty years of archival footage converted.
There are also plans to establish a teaching center for the community to be able to access the material free of cost. Lisa said her father was insistent on this point. Dr. McIntosh took the stage to encourage those present to dig deep into their pockets and “make a financial sacrifice” in support. He presented Lisa with a cheque of $500 from CEMOTAP and $100 of his own to set the tone for those who stood in line to make donations to the Gil Noble project.
The community did not disappoint and Lisa was able to report that they collected $3250.00. audience Present in the audience was Councilman Charles Barron who is currently running for a seat in Congress; City Councilman Al Van; State Senator Kevin Parker; Dr. Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective; Bernard White, former Program Director of WBAI; Dr. Leonard Jeffries (CUNY); Michael Hooper of Roots Revisited, Jean Brown of International Youth Leadership Initiative among others.
The event was hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd who earlier in the week eulogized another pioneer broadcaster, Hal Jackson who was laid to rest on Wednesday, May 30 at the Riverside Baptist Church. Hal Jackson was the host of the Hal Jackson Sunday Classics for more that 30 years and had been a broadcaster for more than 60 years.
When he passed away he was 96 years old. Hal Jackson and Percy Sutton were co-owners of the New York’s first black owned radio stations, WLIB 1190 AM and WBLS 107.5 FM.
It is a sad foot note that only a week or two before his passing, his station, WBLS was on the brink of bankruptcy when ESPN took it over in a deal that saw a consolidation of the black community’s two main New York radio outlets, WRKS 98.7 KISS FM and WBLS 107.5 FM. Kiss FM has become a sports station while WBLS remains adult contemporary with a handful of on air personalities from KISS FM finding a home there. concerns Many have expressed their concern for the shrinking footprint that is Black Media across the country.
As a result of the FCC’s deregulation of the industry, entities like Clear Channel have been able to buy up smaller stations across the nation especially those that were struggling to stay afloat.
As such the landscape has changed dramatically and radio is certainly not what it used to be. A more scripted approach is quickly becoming the norm and gone are the unique voices and opinions of radio personalities who represented their particular region and had an organic relationship with the community to whom they broadcast.
Imhotep cautioned that a “change must come.” This was a sentiment which was echoed throughout the room as many in attendance spoke about the disconnect and apathy that currently exist within the community, extending from world affairs to regional affairs, national affairs and local affairs.
In light of the crucial need to mount a campaign to ensure the re-election of President Obama in November, there just seems to be less and less platforms that are sensitive to issues that affect or are of concern to Black people.
The inept coverage of the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Florida as well that of the Ramarley Graham case in New York smacks of this void of the African perspective...with George Zimmerman’s bail being revoked, this media void presents itself once more in the lack of fair and balanced coverage of the issue.
The Black perspective is quickly being erased and in its place is a “dumbing down” of the facts and the conversation becomes a series of sound bytes that folks pick up from radio and television - talking heads that don’t represent the Black perspective in the least.
Elections - Again, as the nation prepares itself for the 2012 presidential elections as well the Congressional and Senatorial elections that take place in September and with the concerted effort by many to disenfranchise millions of Americans of their vote by creating roadblocks, there is a need now more than ever to have access to progressive programming.
Even in terms of traditional newspapers there is the same trend. The dismal state for public access television and radio is a cause for concern among those who understand the power of media and how media can be utilised to direct and control a people’s perspective.
With the rapid increase of a certain section of the society accessing their news and information via handheld devices, there are those who say that the days of terrestrial radio and traditional print media and television are behind us.
However, several industry leaders are quick to point out that there is a significant number of people who still consume their news via terrestrial radio, traditional newspapers and network television. With the void created in the loss of a Gil Noble, a Hal Jackson, a WRKS and others, people of African descent are fast losing their voice in the media war.
How will the community know what issues are important? Who will bring the insightful analysis that is desperately needed to help the community make informed decisions about leaders including politicians and others? This is indeed a time of high alert and all hands must be on deck if Black media is to be saved. A new paradigm must emerge if people of African descent are to be kept informed. Traditional media is leaving us by the wayside.