Everyone Black Ain’t Always Your Brother
When I was a kid, I wasn’t a tattle-tale. That was highly frowned upon in my neighborhood—and in my family. With my family, I think it was because my parents didn’t have time for refereeing disputes and policing misconduct. In my ‘hood, it was because the only people who had ultimate authority to do anything about it was the police, and they were enemies. So we in the hood did the “policing.” So “telling” had to stay “in house.” Well, I’ve got some in-house telling to do.
Many of you know that I am the executive director of a social change non-profit known as Sincere Seven. We educate and advocate for workers and working-class Americans, particularly Black and disadvantaged peoples. We have a history of pissing off authority and netting social results in the societal ills that we elect to confront. With this society, there will always be a place for us.
Well, our latest venture is creating our own media. We’ve done it before; in 2000, S7 created and produced a cable access television program called “Knoxville’s Workplace Talk.” We later created a spin-off, “S7 Live!” and produced “Cop Watch” for another neighboring non-profit. Though we accomplished the task of giving voice to those who were previously voiceless, we also accomplished the task of waking up the giant who was our enemy: damned near everyone in power.
So, here we are, some 15 years later, and we find ourselves creating our own media again. This time, Sincere Seven accomplished the task of securing an FCC license to broadcast over the FM airwaves. The new WOOK will be broadcasting LPFM (low wattage) to give voice to the “non-monied” communities of Washington, DC. You’d think most people would be pleased as punch to have us on the FM dial—especially Black people.
You see, Washington was America’s first city to have a Black majority. It came as a shock to many in 2011 when DC’s black population dropped below 50 percent for the first time in more than 50 years. In the past decade, the district lost nearly 40,000 black residents, many driven out by skyrocketing rents fueled by an influx of mostly white professionals flocking to increasingly gentrified neighborhoods. Even our city’s legislative council has 7 whites of the 13 members on the council (I tried to change that by running for the DC Council, At-Large in 2013).
Back to my “telling”: as we sought the permission from the FCC to broadcast true, non-commercial community radio for DC, no one opposed our effort…no one except my brother, or should I say, my sister, Cathy Hughes. Most of us know that Ms. Hughes founded the media company Radio One and later expanded into TV One. Once the company went public in 1998, it made Hughes the first and only Black woman to head a publicly traded corporation at the time.
You would think with her success, she would prescribe to the adage ingrained in many of us from our elders: “once you make it up the ladder, reach down and lift your brother (or sister) up the ladder.” The more of us on the top, the more of us who can challenge the power structure that keeps us from realizing “The American Dream.” Surely, your brother—or sister—would adhere to that notion, right?
Wrong! Dead wrong…as matter of fact and record, Radio One, not only challenged our effort to exercise a First Amendment right to speech—over the airwaves—but once they lost that battle and the FCC granted S7 the license, Radio One filed a second “petition to deny” us our license (and yes, I claimed it). This time, attacking me…yes, me!
Many of you know, I am a previously convicted American. I also justly add, I was unjustly convicted as I documented in my new book, Perry NoName: A Journal from a Federal Prison-Book One. Well Radio One made sure that the FCC “considered all of the factors” that would make us unworthy of broadcasting beside her conglomerate stations.
Let me say this, I do take this personally. I am a man seeking redemption for my past conduct and relief from the American societal—and justice—system’s conduct toward me. I am keenly aware of who I am and what my capabilities are. I am not bound by my past, and I dare allow anyone else to bind me by my past.
For the record, I had to put on my lawyer’s hat and write a defense to Radio One’s assault on our community-based effort. I am proud to say that, so far, we have fought off Goliath; I am not proud that Goliath is my brother—or sister. If their fear is that we would be “direct competition” to their product or brand, I would respond by saying, “so be it.” That is American capitalism at work. Personally, I don’t subscribe to American capitalism. I’m of the “communitive” ilk. If there’s room on the dial, I say, fill it up! There is never enough opportunity for poor people to be heard.
I have no aims to get rich. I always have said that I will die a poor man, but a happy man. In contrast, my sister Cathy Hughes is earned $1.29 million in personal income in 2013 (according to Forbes) with $6.67 million in stock. Like we say in the ‘hood, “I ain’t mad at ‘cha.” I am mad that she’s standing in the way of other Blacks striving to obtain a piece of the media pie. When it’s all over said and done though, I shall be happy that I accomplished all that I could to uplift my people, even to my detriment. I don’t begrudge that.
I thought I’d share this bit of fact with you since you allow me to share with you every week right here on this platform. Suffice it to say, my brother, Peter Gamble has reached down the ladder and lifted me up…to where I might “tell” on the brother (or sister) who really ain’t. Just remember, everyone Black ain’t always your brother.