An Open Letter To The Black Community
It May Be Time To Turn Off The Radio

Currently, New York air waves that target the Black community, are filled with music and comments that express only negative, violent and denigrating ideas, creating a destructive emotional climate in the Black community. To understand our concern, it is absolutely necessary to understand the history and significance of music in Black culture. Our music has always been the most dominant manifestation of what we are and feel. The music has always been at the core of our experience in the world.

From Selma to Sowetto, the music has lifted us, inspired, informed, healed and encouraged us. In his essay, Blue Print For Negro Writing, the legendary Black writer, Richard Wright, pointed out that Black writers of his era had turned to writing in an effort to prove to whites that there were Blacks who were civilized. And to this day the literature has all too often been the voice of talented, educated Blacks, lobbying whites for the acceptance of our race.

In that sense, the literature has been primarily directed to whites, in an effort to humanize Blacks. Our music, however, came from a different place, from Mahaliah Jackson to Marvin Gaye, from John Coltrane to James Brown. It has always been a music profoundly directed to the psychic of Black people. Without apology, the music spoke directly to the hearts and minds of the people whose culture and experiences created it. It was our intellectual property The music urged us to “Fight The Power,” it reminded us “That There Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” it taught us to “Try A Little Tenderness.” The music represented our collective consciousness, affirming our highest sense of possibilities pushing us beyond our contradictions to a more perfect self.

The music explained how we “Could Have Sunshine On A Cloudy Day,” and proclaimed before the world “That I’m Black And I’m Proud.” The music would not accept defeat. Curtis said “Keep On Pushing,” & Stevie said “Keep Reaching For Higher Ground,” and along the way we learned to celebrate our strengths and our unique genius, saying to those who would attempt to break our spirit, “I Will Survive” The key to where Black people must go has always been in the music.

Perhaps that is why the programming policy of radio and TV stations aimed at the Black community, refuse to play the more nourishing music of KRS1, Nas, Common, The Manhattans, Ray Goodman & Brown, Roberta Flack, Jon Lucien, Chuck D, Heather Headly, Blue Magic, Ollie Woodson and the many more, choosing instead to fill the air with ideas that are anti-woman, anti-life, and in a real sense, anti-Black. We are not asking them to stop playing anything. We will not engage in the censorship that they practice. We are urging Power 105, Hot 97,WBLS, KISS, BET & MTV, to simply include in their formats the new music from the many artists that continue to operate in the cultural tradition of Black art, producing music that reflects a fuller sense of Black contemporary reality, not just the thug reality constructed for us by people who hold Blacks in contempt.

The group Dead Prez helps us understand this when they point out that there is a body of music coming from hip hop and R&B artist “Fully dedicated and so real that radio wont play it.” They further explain that “What’s on the radio is propaganda and mind control,” and they caution us that “Turning it on is like putting on a blindfold. Because when you’re bringing it real, you don’t get rotation, unless you take over the radio station.” Dead Prez makes the point that we know how they use music to teach, and they warn us “Not to sleep because you could become a radio freak.”

We fully support the Dead Prez contention that there comes a time when we should TURN OFF THE RADIO !

We are at a point where the community will literally have to demand respect. We are asking you to join us on selected days and TURN OFF OFFENSIVE RADIO as well as Music TV. We cannot allow only the worst ideas to freely infect our community and destroy our young. It is necessary to confront this assault on our spirit in the sharpest terms possible. TURN OFF THE RADIO ! Let the advertisers know that there will be days when they are wasting their money. TURN OFF THE RADIO! Let radio owners know that ours is a community that they will respect. We insist!

The Turn Off the Radio Rally is

Tuesday, February 18, 2003 @ 7PM
Abyssinian Baptist Church 138th Street, (Bet Adam Clayton Powell & Malcolm X Blvd.)
Info call (718) 398-1766

The First Radio Off Day Is
Thursday February 27, 2003

Bob Law, Chuck D, Viola Plumber, Rev. Calvin Butts, Minister Kevin Muhammad, Brenda Watts, Rev Willard Ashley, City Council member Charles Baron, Elombe Brath, Professor Leonard Jeffries, Ayo Harrington, Eddie Ellis,

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