Burning Spear News
Black Power Radio in the era of “Fake News”
St. Pete’s 96.3 FM July Member Drive calls for support
ST. PETERSBURG, FL—Black working class truth in the media is nearly impossible to find. In news reports, Africans are portrayed as criminal thugs or permanently poor and incapable of self-reliance.
Tracks played on the corporate-owned “urban” radio stations serve to divide and slander the African community, promoting horizontal (“black-on-black”) violence, degrading African women and glorifying the illegal drug economy that has been imposed on the community.
The Uhuru Movement is fighting to give voice to the African community’s interests by growing the reach and capacity of its independent black community FM radio station, WBPU 96.3, based in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The old adage that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses” has never been more true and today extends beyond newsprint to radio, TV and the web.
While the presses were always owned by members of the white ruling class, the monopolization and centralized control of the media and its message has been vastly increased since then-U.S. president Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The Act, among other things, lifted the cap on radio station ownership. Clear Channel, now rebranded as iHeartRadio, has gone from owning 40 radio stations to owning over 1200 across the U.S.
Today 90 percent of broadcast and cable TV, radio, newspapers and social media access is owned by six conglomerates and controlled by a handful of billionaires.
With this massive propaganda apparatus they create a narrative to exert influence over public opinion and government policy in order to defend and advance their own political and economic power.
Know thy enemy
The biggest conglomerate is Comcast. In addition to its cable and phone business, Comcast owns NBC, Universal Pictures, Bravo and Telemundo and is the primary or only internet service provider in dozens of regions in the U.S.
The Disney conglomerate owns ABC, A&E, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilms, Lifetime and the History Channel.
Disney is notorious for exploiting child labor in sweatshops in Haiti, China and more to produce their merchandise.
Billionaires use their media holdings to create public opinion favorable to their business interests. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has acquired the Washington Post.
Michael Bloomberg built a media empire and leveraged his wealth and fame to become Mayor of New York City where he enacted policies favorable to the avaricious interests of the white ruling class.
The imperialist exploiter Warren Buffett owns more than 70 daily newspapers.
All of these media outlets are designed to serve the interests of colonialist capitalism at the expense of the African working class and other oppressed peoples.
Everyone knows the media lies. According to Gallup, only 20 percent of those polled across the U.S. in 2016 had confidence in television news.
Internet’s promise shaky
For 20 years, independent journalists and activists have published news and analysis on the web, through websites and social media, to an ever-growing audience.
Popular websites have published leaked documents exposing the National Security Agency’s PRISM program that spies on U.S. citizens and U.S. military war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Witnesses and survivors of police violence and murder of African people have captured video of such incidents, broadcasting them live to the world over the web.
African liberation activists and organizers have been able to connect with each other and mobilize for justice and to build resistance to oppression.
Some years ago African People’s Socialist Party’s (APSP) Chairman Omali predicted that an “open internet” would eventually be censored to deny access to those working for the liberation of African people.
In 2017 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed “net neutrality” rules, allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to “throttle” content they disagreed with or to favor high-paying media companies with faster delivery of their content.
Since the big ISPs also own the big news and entertainment companies, it’s a no-brainer that they would favor their own content and slow down other content, making the web news and culture produced by independent African journalists and artists inaccessible with steady buffering.
Black Power censored
On June 5, 2019, YouTube announced that it will be “removing more hateful and supremacist content from YouTube.”
They said they will be “prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.”
News outlets such as the New York Times reported that YouTube is targeting “white supremacy” and “far-right” content, but that’s not how YouTube put it.
In fact, the Uhuru Movement had already seen videos and other content that promoted African liberation removed from both YouTube and Facebook, tagged as “hate speech.”
APSP Agit-prop Director Akilé Anai declares that “we will continue to utilize all social media tools, to build the library of content of our own websites like theburningspear.com and to fight this censorship.
At the same time, we must expand distribution of The Burning Spearnewspaper and grow Black Power 96.3 FM—our own media in our own hands.”
A Pew Research Center poll released in December 2018 found that nearly 50 percent of those surveyed said they often get their news from newspapers; 16 percent from a print copy and 33 percent from a news website.
About 50 percent also often get news from TV and 20 percent from social media.
Twenty-six percent said that they often get their news from radio broadcasts. That’s one in four. It’s likely that the numbers are higher in the African community where many households can’t afford cable TV or internet.
When the Uhuru Movement’s African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) launched the FM radio station WBPU, “Black Power 96”, broadcasting locally to the black community of St. Petersburg, Florida and internationally through its website and mobile app, they took another step in seizing political and economic turf on behalf of the African nation.
In its first two years, Black Power 96 has provided a critical political education service to its listeners through the broadcast of speeches by Chairman Omali, Malcolm X and other African leaders, along with public service announcements and commentary by community hosts.
The station was instrumental in pushing back the city of St. Pete’s attack on African vendors leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. day in 2019 and is actively engaged in the local struggle against gentrification, giving voice to the efforts to “make the southside black again.”
This summer, Black Power 96 is preparing to expand its programming to include a professionally-produced African Internationalist news and public affairs component.
The station plans to introduce a weekly news headlines feature and to conduct a series of interviews with the candidates in two St. Petersburg City Council elections expected to be critical to the future of the city’s black neighborhoods.
Radio trainees sought
African journalists and producers around the world are bearing the brunt of a trend where media outlets are phasing out local news reporters, writers and producers.
Black Power 96 is taking up the task to train and develop professional African journalists who can tell real black community stories to explain the truth of the African struggle for self-determination.
The station is conducting a two-month News and Public Affairs training program that began on June 23.
Receiving training provided at no charge, students have made a commitment to volunteer the skills they gain to produce news and documentary features for future broadcast on the station.
The curriculum prepares students to identify an issue of importance to their community, research it, conduct interviews, gather sound clips and produce a dynamic feature that will captivate, inspire and educate.
Members fund this station
Black Power 96’s main source of funding is its members—listeners from around the corner and around the world. The station holds two Supporting Member Fund Drives each year, in February and July.
This month, Black Power 96 aims to raise $7,000 to cover its operating expenses and keep the station on the air.
Supporting Members make a one-time contribution, while Sustaining Members sign-up for an automatic monthly contribution.
According to Station Manager Themba Tshibanda, “All members receive a membership card and thank you gift. But the main perk of membership is the knowledge that you are making it possible for the African working class to control the narrative on the FM airwaves.”
Support Black Power 96!
Not just explaining the world, but changing it!