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WERD Atlanta – Americas First Black Owned Radio Station

Radio doesn’t mean much to the millennial generation in that the Internet has stolen younger listeners with tailorable music – but in the 40’s through the 90’s radio was King. But it wasn’t until 1949 that black folks owned their own station, and prior to the mid 60’s black radio was confined to only daytime, operating from sunup to sunset on AM bands at low power. Black Music radio was largely missing post sunset in most of the country, as the local white owned station only played music by white musicians. The low power limitation meant that black station reach was decidedly limited, typically no more than 20-30 miles of an urban center. AM Radio bounced off the stratosphere, and at night you could hear radio from cities sometimes over a thousand miles away, So called “Bandit” stations (not operating with FCC licenses) were popular at night as they played exciting new music that never made the top 40 stations.  The development of FM Radio, and the Civil Rights Movement eradicated this form of discrimination as black stations rushed to go FM and get free of he “Daytime” limitation.

My father and I looked at buying a low power AM Station in the early 60’s which had been owned by whites. I was still a youngster, but my various grass cutting and handyman jobs had netted me a decent chunk of money to make the down payment, and a local black owned bank was amenable (with my father’s signature as I was only 13) to loan the $5,000 necessary. The price of Daytime AM Stations went though the floor due to the anticipated emergence of FM.And like the Internet where the value of a property is based on the number of eyes who visit a site, the value of a radio station is based on the coverage market in “ears” listening. So Urban stations are vastly more valuable. The issue was the “Community Service” clause in the FCC regulations. Black folks were fairly thin on the ground in my suburban area – so the FCC rejected our application because they felt a black owned station wouldn’t be serving the predominately white community. Took another shot in the early 70’s at buying an FM Station – but by that time they had become expensive properties (@ $3 m) beyond my means to raise enough money to do.

America’s first black-owned radio station let the words of MLK and others ring

Two blocks away from the famous King Center in downtown Atlanta is a small brick building that tourists typically overlook.

But in the 1950s, that little brick building reverberated with the messages of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.

The building was home to the first black-owned radio station in the United States — WERD — and it was the medium that King used to broadcast his Sunday sermons then, later, announcements of his civil rights marches. The station was a fixture of Atlanta’s African-American community. It offered a rare public venue for black jazz and blues performers during the Jim Crow era, and amplified the voices of King and other African-American leaders as they encouraged black citizens to vote.

In the decades that followed the tumultuous 1950s and ’60, the building that had been WERD went through the incarnations of any professional building in a changing city, finally serving its community as a hair salon during the 1980s and ’90s. That — a hair salon — was what hairdresser Ricci de Forest thought he was getting when he signed a lease in 2004.

What he knew, though, was that it was not just any hair salon; it was one of only two “Madam C.J. Walker” hair salons left in the country. Named for an African-American beauty pioneer who made a fortune from licensing her salon chain and selling beauty products in the early 20th century, the salon and the building housing it had the appeal of that historical niche.

“I wanted to attach her legacy to my business,” says history buff de Forest.

It wasn’t until about two years later that he discovered his new salon had a much broader and deeper place in African-American history, as the birthplace of WERD and as the amplifier of King’s words to a community and to a nation.

The discovery was met with a sense of jubilation mixed with disappointment. De Forest didn’t understand why the space hadn’t been preserved in the years before he came to Atlanta from Cleveland.

“The burden of the responsibility hit me like a sucker punch. This is a heavy responsibility,” he says.

In 1949, Atlanta University Professor Jesse B. Blayton Sr. bought WERD for $50,000. Although it was only allowed to operate from sunrise to sunset and was allocated limited frequency power, it quickly became a staple to Atlanta’s black community.

King’s office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is on the other side of the wall. It was said that King would tap the ceiling of his office with a broomstick to get the attention of the WERD DJ upstairs when he needed to make an announcement.

Today, you can still hear broadcasts from WERD online, where de Forest plays his record collection under the motto “All vintage. All vinyl. All the time” on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET.

De Forest wanted to preserve the legacy of both Madam C.J. Walker and WERD by gradually turning his salon into a makeshift museum. Thousands of donated vinyl records — including albums by Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Count Basie — decorate the walls, along with segregation-era signs de Forest has collected over the years. His desk displays a rusty “we serve colored carry out only” sign.

The hair salon portion of the building looks like an early 20th century time capsule and still operates as a functional hair salon. While Some of de Forest’s regular customers get their hair done, visitors stop by to look at the old curling irons and hair straighteners on display. One visitor named Selena says she’s lived in Atlanta for 18 years but didn’t know about the legacy of this place.

“It’s embarrassing — I’ve never stopped but there’s so much history in this one little space that I never knew about.”

It’s not just this building that doesn’t get much foot traffic along Auburn Avenue. In fact, many of the historic buildings in this district are not frequented by many visitors.

A once bustling district built by black entrepreneurs in the early 20th century, Auburn Avenue later suffered from a lack of investment after the city integrated. The National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the area “endangered” twice.

De Forest says he sees his efforts to preserve the Madam C.J. Walker Museum and WERD radio station as part of a larger mission to preserve the district’s history and contributions to the civil rights movement.

He gained nonprofit status in fall 2015 and keeps a small donation jar at the entrance of the building. De Forest says he’s received a few donations over the years but also has to frequently dig into his own pockets to keep the doors opened.

“I’ve been keeping it open for years and it hasn’t been easy … it hasn’t been a financial gain. It’s been a financial drain.”

Despite this, he says he loves going in to work, where he is part-time hairstylist, DJ and tour guide.

“It’s like a 5-year-old going to ride his tricycle. It’s unbelievable. I feel that good.”

Nowadays, de Forest frequently thinks about retiring and moving abroad to train other hairstylists, but also worries about what this would mean for the future of the museum. He invites young local artists to use the museum for performances as a way to reach out to younger generations, with the hope that they, too, can share his enthusiasm and love for the space.

His outreach seems to be working. There are a handful of young volunteers, including a bubbly 24-year-old named Chiane Matthews, who by chance stopped by the building last spring and had been returning almost every day since.

“I fell in love with this place and so I wanted to do something to help preserve it,” says Matthews.

She started volunteering as a social media director and show producer and eventually brought her best friend, 23-year-old Amani Hassan, on board. In the short time before our interview, they had both been able to persuade another one of their friends to volunteer as “brand manager” for the museum.

On Wednesday nights, young men and women fill the makeshift museum. Matthews and Hassan take turns announcing the performers of the night, which include two R&B singers and two local rappers accompanied by a small band. During the performances, de Forest quietly sits in the corner and listens as he plays black and white video of a jazz duo on the back wall projector. “I want them to know this is where it started,” he says.

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Black History

 

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National Museum of Black History

Almost done! Can’t say I care much for the architecture as it i a starkly modern and out of place as the Native American building is geographically out of place.

The Native American Museum

African American Museum

National Museum of African American History and Culture Scheduled to Open Sept. 24

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that the African-American history museum will open in late September, with the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony led, fittingly, by President Barack Obama.

The long-awaited National Museum of African American History and Culture will open on Sept. 24 in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institution announced Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman at the Smithsonian, said that President Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, will lead the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A weeklong celebration is scheduled to follow the opening of the museum, and it will include an outdoor festival and a period in which the museum will remain open for 24 hours.

As AP notes, the museum has built a collection of some 11 exhibits that detail the history of slavery, segregation, civil rights and African Americans’ achievements in the arts, entertainment, sports, military and other aspects of the wider culture. There will also be artifacts on display that are on loan from other institutions, such as the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation, both signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Black History

 

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What a Slavery Museum Teaches…

History forgotten is history repeated. The Atlantic doesn’t quite get it right about the Whitney Museum being the first and “only”.

Why America Needs a Slavery Museum

The Whitney Plantation near Wallace, Louisiana, is the first and only U.S. museum and memorial to slavery. While other museums may include slavery in their exhibits, the Whitney Plantation is the first of its kind to focus primarily on the institution. John Cummings, a 78-year-old white southerner, has spent 16 years and more than $8 million of his own fortune to build the project, which opened in December of last year.

Cummings, a successful trial attorney, developed the museum with the help of his full-time director of research, Ibrahima Seck. The duo hope to educate people on the realities of slavery in its time and its impact in the United States today. “The history of this country is rooted in slavery,” says Seck. “If you don’t understand the source of the problem, how can you solve it?”

Slave Memorial at George Washington’s Mount Vernon marking the unmarked graves of slaves buried next to the Family Burial plot.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Black History

 

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Priceless Tubman Artifact Donation to Museum of African American History

This one is simply stunning. Who would believe such priceless artifacts still existed – much less were in private hands?

Black history museum gets special opening gift

Black History Month was marked in a very special way Wednesday. The president and the first lady attended the ground breaking for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture on the National Mall, where Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech still echoes.
CBS News correspondent Chip Reid got a first look at some of the priceless artifacts the museum will hold.

Charles Blockson, 78, has been collecting African and African-American artifacts for more than 50 years. The high point came just last year when he inherited 39 items that belonged to Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery, she escaped, but returned to the South nearly 20 times leading hundreds of others to freedom on what came to be known as the Underground Railroad.

Some of Charles Blockson’s ancestors were rescued by Tubman.

“When I first received (her artifacts), I was surprised, shocked. Nearly every item I picked up I started to cry, the tears just, my emotional armor erupted,” Blockson said.

The items include a silk shawl that was given to Tubman by Queen Victoria, and Tubman’s book of gospel hymns. Blockson, though, says it felt wrong to keep them, calling it “an awesome burden.”

So he donated the Tubman artifacts, most of them too fragile to be handled, to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Black History, Giant Negros, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Do Not F*&K With Our Museum!

Now – I don’t know where these morons come from – but they are way off base.

You want to protest the Iran and Iraq Wars, then you go after the folks who lied us into them in the first place. Attacking our National Museum only accomplishes that which the same folks have tried to do over and over in Republican attacks on Public Radio and Public educational facilities around the country. Ergo – an ignorant population is a safely Republican population following to war like blind sheep. The surest way to assure ignorance is to destroy the sources of information and knowledge. Message to the October 2011 clowns – You were violating sacred ground.

You want to accomplish something – go protest at the Value Voters Summit or any of the right wing conclaves funded by the beneficiaries of the Military Industrial Complex such as the Koch brothers…

But you stay the flock away from our museums, our libraries, and our publicly funded sources of information.

Go after the Koch suckers!

Wolves in sheep’s clothing…Indeed.

Thank You for Defending Our Museum!

Air and Space Museum closes after guards clash with protesters

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the Mall was abruptly closed Saturday afternoon after a “large group of protesters” tried to push past security guards and enter the museum, a spokeswoman said.

At least one demonstrator was pepper-sprayed by a museum guard in the confrontation, said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas. Several witnesses said that more than a dozen people were affected by the spray.

The museum was closed at about 3:15 p.m., St. Thomas said.

Some of the protesters were affiliated with the Occupy DCdemonstration that had sprung up at McPherson Square last week as an offshoot of the larger Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, said Cody Steele, 21, an American University senior who participated in the march to the museum.

Steele said the march was planned, however, by a different but like-minded group of protesters — known as the October 2011 group — who have been camped out in Freedom Plaza since Oct. 6.

“It’s a shifting movement,” said Steele, who has spent time with both protest groups this past week. “They are separate, but it’s a common set of goals.”

The two groups’ grievances span a range of issues, including corporate power, environmental destruction and American militarism. On Saturday, they were demonstrating at the museum against the U.S. military’s use of drones in overseas wars, witnesses said.

An exhibit of military unmanned aerial vehicles is currently on view at the museum.

As many as 200 people attempted to enter the museum through doors facing the National Mall, said St. Thomas, while others gathered at the museum’s Independence Avenue entrance. The demonstrators carried large signs and other items not allowed inside the museum, she said.

When a security guard told them they could not enter, demonstrators pushed the guard outside and up against a wall, St. Thomas said. Another guard approached and pepper-sprayed one protester before D.C. police and U.S. Park Police were called, she said, and one person was arrested.

No one was seriously hurt by the pepper spray, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS. Medics treated several people at the scene, Piringer said, but everyone affected by the pepper spray refused to be taken to hospitals for further evaluation.

 

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Domestic terrorism

 

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Make My Funk a P-Funk! The Mothership Lands at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Museum has added to it’s collection the iconic Parliament Funkadelic “Mothership”, to be included in the music section of the Museum of African American History.

Smithsonian acquires Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership

The funkiest UFO in the galaxy is about to land in Chocolate City.

The Mothership — the iconic stage prop made famous by legendary funk collective Parliament-Funkadelic — has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where it will help anchor a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015.
“I’m about to cry!” Parliament-Funkadelic frontman George Clinton said over the phone from his home in Tallahassee on Wednesday. “They’re taking the Mothership! They’re shipping it out! . . . But I’m glad it’s going to have a nice home there.”

It isn’t the original Mothership. This 1,200-pound aluminum spacecraft was built in the mid-’90s — an indistinguishable replica, Clinton says, of the smoke-spewing stage prop he first introduced to slack-jawed funk fans in 1976.

But by 1982, Parliament-Funkadelic’s towering debts forced the group’s Washington-based management company to trash the Mothership in a Prince George’s County scrap yard. And what happened next has become the stuff of myth. Was it stolen? Did it burn in a fire? Is it still floating around somewhere in the cosmos?

An April 2010 Washington Post story about the Mothership’s disappearance sent the Smithsonian searching for it. Kevin Strait, project historian for the museum, didn’t get very far. “All signs pointed to the fact that we weren’t going to find the original,” Strait said. “So that’s when we essentially put our attentions toward the new one.”

Strait contacted Clinton’s management, and the bandleader eventually decided to donate the piece. The ship has been picked up from Clinton’s Tallahassee recording studio and is scheduled to arrive at a Smithsonian storage facility in suburban Maryland at noon on Thursday.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Breaking – Shooting at Holocaust Museum in DC

HuffPo is reporting –

James W. Von Brunn: Holocaust Museum Shooting Suspect Is White Supremacist

In this AP Report

An elderly gunman opened fire with a rifle inside the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, fatally wounding a security guard before being shot. Authorities said they were investigating a white supremacist as the suspect.

The assailant and his victim were both hospitalized, said Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, who added that the gunman was in critical condition. The guard, identified by the museum as Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, died later in the hospital. Johns had worked at the museum for six years.

“There are no words to express our grief and shock over today’s events,” the museum said in statement.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the gunman appeared to have acted alone. He was “engaged by security guards immediately after entering the door” with a rifle, she said. “The second he stepped into the building he began firing.” One law enforcement official said James Von Brunn, 88, a white supremacist, was under investigation in the shooting, and a second official said the elderly man’s car was found near the museum and tested for explosives. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Racist Web site
Von Brunn has a racist, anti-Semitic Web site and wrote a book titled “Kill the Best Gentile.”

In 1983, he was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested two years earlier outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun. At the time, police said Von Brunn wanted to take the members hostage because of high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties.

All that haterade being pumped out there by the conservative media – does have an impact.

VVVVV

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2009 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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