Archive for WBAI Radio

My Life Among the Chattering Classes

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2012 by playthell
 
On WBAI FM, Live and Direct from New York City

 Why I love the Radio

On May 25, 1962, my 20th birthday, I made my debut in the wonderful world of radio.  It was a live broadcast over WDAS AM in Philadelphia.  I presented an hour long lecture on African history, analyzing the African character of Egyptian religion and Divine Kingship.  At the conclusion of my lecture the producer opened the phones and I took questions for two hours.  The response was sensational and I presented a series of history lectures twice a week for four years.  My life has never been the same.

The show was called “The Listening Post,” and was hosted by Mr. Joseph H. Rainey.  Judge Rainey, as he was known through-out the city, was a retired Magistrate in the Civil Court, a political player in the Democratic machine, which allocated power and privilege in the city, and a militant advocate for Afro-American rights.  Judge Rainey was the grandson of Congressman Joseph H. Rainey, the first Congressman seated from the defeated confederate state of South Carolina after the Civil War.

Judge Rainey had deep roots in the Afro-American elite, but the militant fighting “Talented Tenth,”who answered the call of Dr. DuBois to assume the leadership of the black community, and guide the masses to higher ground.  One of the benefits of my association with Mr. Rainey on “The Listening Post,” was that it was the show all the smart progressive Afro-Americans listened to in Philly, Southern New Jersey and Nothern Delaware.  It also had a smaller white audience composed of leftist intellectuals and civil rights activist.  The Listening Post would have been right at home on WBAI.

My involvement with the show transformed my life; it was a gift that keeps on giving.  Among the highlights of my participation on the show was the fact that Judge Rainey was good friends with Malcolm X.  And whenever Malcolm spoke in Philadelphia, Wilmington Delaware or Camden New Jersey, he came on the show the day before his speech.

Hence I got to know Malcolm quite well, and had a bird’s eye seat during the last three years of his life as he went through radical changes and ultimately assassination.  I was there for the broadcast that Dr. Manning Marable describes in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography: Malcolm X, A Life of Reinventions.

Judge Joe Rainey Interviewing the Great Jackie Robinson

 The “Listening Post” was a pioneer in Progressive Talk Radio

But it was also on The Listening Post that I met Queen Mother Moore, an indefatigable freedom fighter whose resume included a stint with Marcus Garvey and the American Communist Party.  A New Orleans Creole who had settled in Philadelphia, she was 65 when I met her and she took me under her wings just days after my birthday broadcast, and tutored me in the art and science of politics and mass struggle.

The Queen Mother aka Audley Moore was one of the great women of the 20th century, and she left an indelible mark on me.  I also met the Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan, “The Lion of Zion,” who was to become one of the most powerful men in America by the end of the turbulent 1960’s.

Queen Mother Moore

My first political Tutor

 The Lion of Zion!

 

 A visionary and servant of the people

Suffice it to say that Reverend Sullivan hired me to teach a course on black history in the basement of his church, Mount Zion Baptist.  Me and Max Stanford would organize the Revolutionary Action Movement from that class. And it was RAM cadres who went on to organize the black Panther Party of Oakland. Bobby Seales and Huey Newton were students at Merritt Junior College, where one of our Cadres’ got a job teaching sociology, and they were his first recruits.  Bobby refers to his teacher and revolutionary tutor as “Kenny Freeman,” but that was his “slave name,” we knew him as Mamadou Dia.

When the War on Poverty began Reverend Sullivan founded The Opportunities Industrialization Centers, which began in Philadelphia and spread to over 100 cities.  He hired me to each in the main center in Philadelphia, and develop a black history curriculum for the national program.  The Philadelphia Board of education hired me as a consultant to work with cirriculum specialist and conduct seminars with history teachers in the school system in the teaching of African and Afro-American history in 1966.

Other school boards around the country also began to hire me to conduct seminars or present a lecture series on the subject ranging from witchata Kansas, Minneapolis and Saint Paul Minesota, and Riverside California.  By 1969 I was a founding member of the WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at U-Mass Amherst, he first degree granting Black Studies in the World.  That’s what my first foray into radio did for me.

When I left the university and moved to New York, after a stint in the music, boxing and construction business I returned to radio at WBAI around 1986.  That’s when I began the series “Commentaries On The Times.”  This brought me to the attention of Terry Johnson, the City Desk Editor at the Village Voice, who invited me to write for the paper.  The second article I wrote was an 8000 word feature that was publshed as the cover story in 1988 titled “Jive at Five: How Big Al and the Bully Boys Bogarted the Movement.” 

It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism. ( see the nominating letter in my bio on this blog)  This article brought me to the attention of the Senior Editor of the Manchester Guardian in England who commissioned me to write a feature for the Guardian.  Thius began an association that lasted several years, in which I wrote for the front and the back of the paper – politics, the arts, and boxing.

When the Arts Editor, Joslyn Targett, became the Editor of the prestigeous Sunday Times magazine “The Culture,” he invited me to come along for the ride.  I was given carte blanche to write as much as I wanted to.   When two of my feature stories from the Village voice were selected for study at the Columbia School of Journalism, the top of the food chain for training professional journalists, I was recruited to write by the New York Daily News. 

From there I was recruited to write commentary and features for “Emerge” magazine, a nationals Afro-American hard news publication.  I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary at the News, and I was nominated for Foriegn Correspondent of the Year several times.  And I won awards at ever othere one of the publications I wrote for.   And eventually I held an Adjunct Professorship in Journalism at Long Island University.

All of this grew out of my work at WBAI FM in New York, where I would also host two different talk shows.  Radio has been as good to me as baseball was to Chico Consuello!  That’s why I’m still droppin science on the radio 50 years after my first broadcast on the Joe Rainey show on May 25th 1962.

Double Click on the link to see Playthell Live on Air at WBAI

http://youtu.be/pnpR9p7Sl1U

*******************

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 25th, 1942

 

“Later, Mi Amigo!”

Posted in Cultural Matters, Guest Commentators with tags , , , , on March 7, 2012 by playthell

Luis Reyes Rivera: Poet, Revolutionary, Seer 

By Herb Boyd

Louis Reyes Rivera.  No, this is not a household name, but in manyurban centers, particularly in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and the Harlems of the world, it rings with all the conviction and integrity of a highly respected griot. Rivera, who must have been in his middle sixties, died last Friday evening in Brooklyn after a brief illness, it has been reported.

The idea that this progressive poet, this “little giant,” of words had joined the ancestors set off a barrage of phone calls and emails. Among the first to get the word on the airwaves was WHCR-FM, the radio station at City College of New York, where noted commentator and host Daa’iya Sanusi devoted portions of her programming to celebrating Rivera’s life and legacy.

And that was propitious since it was at City College that Rivera gained notoriety for his radical politics and visionary leadership at the helm of hundreds of students protesting the college’s reluctance to deal with minority rights and curriculum. Rivera was a budding journalist during those turbulent times and soon established himself as a writer of considerable talent and a feel for the world’s oppressed, especially in the Black and Latino communities.

Representatives from those diverse and various communities began Commiserating with one another almost immediately upon hearing of Rivera’s unexpected departure.  Poet Ted Wilson of New Jersey was stunned for a moment to silence, still unable to accept that his longstanding comrade was no longer available to exchange salvos of salvation through their poems.

Renowned artist Danny Simmons alerted his colleagues and friends that a memorial service for Rivera was planned for March 8 in Brooklyn.  Bookstore owner Monroe Brown said that Rivera was conducting a lecture series at his True South Bookstore in Brooklyn two weeks ago.  “He was on the march, teaching his class about the missing pages of world history,” Brown related.

At the National Writers Union, a steering committee in which Rivera was a key component called an emergency meeting and set in motion a number of ways to remember their tireless member.  “He was intricately involved in so many activities that it will probably take a team of us to fulfill just half of what he was doing and what was on his agenda,” said Loretta Campbell.

“Always there is need for song,” Rivera wrote in one of his most memorable essays, Inside the River of Poetry. “And every human has a poem to write, a compulsion to contemplate out loud, an urge to dig out that ore of confusion locked up inside. But with the contradictions of privilege and caste, of class and gender distinctions regulating access, of those ever present distortions in textbooks with their one-sided measure of human worth, and with the culture of white man still serving as ultimate yardstick to what is acceptable as matter, not everyone is permitted to learn to read, much less to study poetry or hone the art and take the risk of putting one’s self on paper.”

That risk was never an obstacle for Rivera and the only thing missing from the quotation above is the sound of his voice reciting them, the melodious and edgy cadence that typified his delivery, the unblinking gaze from eyes shielded in part by ageless fedora, the colorful dashiki and the cane that came with the onslaught of ailments—this image gave his words added realness and urgency. “Later,” Rivera would tell his fellow workers at the NWU at theclose of a day and at the close of these words, “Later, mi amigo!”

Luis Rivera: Revolutionary Philosopher/Poet 
Passing on the Sacred Fire
In Battle til the End
Word sorcerer and Tireless Voice of the People
( Double Click to Hear Luis Rivera)
http://youtu.be/AH5VOdz5Aqc
A commentary on the relationship of the transformative power of poetry
(Double Click to see Luis Perform)
http://youtu.be/EEm4_gDqOKc
“Bullet Cry” In Memory of Malcolm X’s Assassination.
Herb Boyd
Harlem New York
March 7, 2012
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