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Is it A Wrap for Black Radio?



Black Radio Stations Matter

*Are you a music listener without a radio in your car?  Are you checking out Pandora and Spotify for all your jams?  If the answer is yes, then you might be one of the reasons some folks are saying radio – especially Black Radio – should be writing its eulogy and if you want a career on the air fuggedaboutit  (as they say in Brooklyn).  But not so fast.

Surprise.  Black radio has actually increased.  By the 1970s, over 250 stations aired primarily black artists, up dramatically from 100 just a decade earlier led by New York’s WBLS, the most-listened-to FM station in the country, with a mix of soul by artists like Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye and the jazz sounds of Herbie Hancock and Freddy Hubbard.  Today that number stands at 335 out of 15,508 radio stations nationwide.  While only 68 of those are owned by African Americans – down from 146 in 1995 – ‘urban radio’ as black-oriented radio is often called still reaches 93 percent of all African Americans.

Skip Dillard, the legendary operations manager of ratings powerhouse WBLS (FM), has programmed a wide variety of stations from hip hop to heritage. He recalls WBLK in Buffalo which was the first African American FM in the country. In 1964 they had to give out transistor radios because nobody had any and ‘race music’ was widely banned. We’ve come a long way since then.  WBLS is particularly historic

“WBLS was owned by the same African American family, the Sutton family, from 1972 to 2012 and so it had a certain sense of community from the start. It was a champion where it started in Harlem,” says Dillard. “The station survived bankruptcy, a holding company and was finally sold to Emmis in 2014.  Thankfully we’ve been blessed to have owners who see the value and allow us to continue to serve the African American diaspora. They’ve allowed us room to breathe and I think the community demands it.”


Skio Dillard

Skip Dillard

Despite the fact that New York is only about 25% black (roughly 30% in Brooklyn) WBLS consistently comes in at the top of the ratings and boasts the number one drive time show in the market.  It’s been nominated for the sought-after Marconi award, the Oscars of radio. It’s secret?

“What makes radio truly unique is its local vibe, its local position,” Dillard shared “Every city that you go into has different needs and different problems. There’s no such thing as the same black folk just like there’s no such thing as the same Jewish folk or white folk.  So, you find out what those needs are and tap into the pulse of the community.  Every market I program I’ve tried to make the station just a bit different even if the hits are the same, I want the presentation to be unique and a mirror of what we see out here on the streets. “

Trust me it’s true!! Unlike many stations that rely on consultants where you get the same sound in almost every market, WBLS sounds like New York. You’ll hear some house and Caribbean music, and courageous talk about issues impacting the black community.  But that’s not all.  Unlike most radio stations that eliminated overnight jocks, Dillard says his overnight personalities keep WBLS winning.

“New York is a shift city.  There are people that work from midnight to 5:00 a.m. You have people that are getting off when you’re coming on or going in when you’re getting off.  In fact, our listenership overnights beats the listenership in the afternoons in many cities across America and having an ability to touch people, to reach people all the time is still something for us that is extremely important.”

And as for digital taking radio down – “Nah,” says Dillard.

“Radio is an excellent partner for digital.  Our sister station Hot 97 had Tidal sponsor Summer Jam and do a live stream of the concerts by artists that agreed to it,” Dillard added.  “Apple Music has been a sponsor.  And even though people listen to the streaming services, what’s very interesting is that they still love local.  For instance, we had a blackout in New York City and people turned to radio to see what was going on, when their power was going to come back. And not just in times of crisis but when you want to figure out what you’re doing this weekend.  They get a lot from our commercials too. Businesses looking to reach the African American woman in New York City would be crazy to go around us because we have made ourselves an informative vehicle that touches those audiences strategically. Our people want to hear your message. They want to know about your concert.  They want to know about your sales.  They want to know about the cars or health plan you’re offering.  And when you talk about maintaining radio in a world of streaming, one of the most important factors is helping someone’s life for the better.  Every day I ask my jocks how did you make someone’s life a little better today?”

Dillard says on-air careers will continue to pop:

“Personalities are critical. We’ll see more doing podcasts in the future so people can have you on-demand but personalities mean everything and developing the talents of tomorrow means the world to me.”


Ric Chill

Ric Chill

Ric Chill, a popular on-air personality and producer of the ratings winner the Donnie Simpson show in Washington DC agrees:

“No matter what, there is something magical about the voice coming out of that box and talking to you! If the personality has talent, they can still make a connection that in some cases, has lasted a lifetime. The trick with radio has always been, you’re talking to ONE person, who is close by. Satellite and internet radio have somewhat dehumanized radio. What will keep terrestrial radio relevant is the locality of it. If programmers continue to hire true talent, those personalities will continue to impact a portion of their audience’s lives in a way that satellite and internet radio is not able to duplicate. In a sense, radio is like politics…and ALL politics are local. Successful politicians know this. Successful radio programmers know it as well,” Chill states.

Dillard concludes, “Once radio gets  to the point where you’re just introducing the next 10 songs in a row and getting ready to sit through 7 minutes of commercials, that’s the day  radio’s done but as long as we continue to make listener’s lives better,  get them great information, entertainment,  a laugh or two once in a while, at the end of the day people will always want to come back to us.”


Jasmyne Sanders Jazmyn Summers ([email protected]) is an on-air personality and entertainment reporter in San Francisco. WBLS will be featured in Spinning Gold, a new film starring Jay Pharoah as WBLS radio DJ Frankie Crocker and in a Lifetime movie about former WBLS personality and controversial  TV talk show host Wendy Williams.

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Apple News

Nona Hendryx to Host Global Virtual Event with Special Guest Appearance by Angela Davis



Nona Hendryx

Style: "Disable"

*Singer, songwriter, and activist Nona Hendryx in conjunction with Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., have partnered with the international feminist group JASS (Just Associates) to present a “Musical Meditation and Celebration of Radical Healing” on Friday, August 14, 2020. This global, multi-artist virtual online event is designed to share and affirm our connections and power in a time of uprising and crisis through music, dance, poetry, and guided meditations. Featuring female performing entities from around the world, including noted activist, academic, and author Angela Davis, this one-of-a-kind event will be live-streamed on the StreamYard platform beginning at 4:00 p.m. EST/1:00 p.m. PST/2:00 MT/7:00 p.m. UCT.

JASS was founded in 2003 by activists, organizers, popular educators, and scholars from five continents, including Lisa VeneKlasen, who recently stepped down as Executive Director, and Shereen Essof, the current Executive Director, who are connected by their commitment to grassroots feminist organizing and justice through shared political struggles from Central America to Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the Philippines.

Hendryx – a former member of Grammy Hall of Fame trio LaBelle – and VeneKlasen have long wanted to collaborate politically on an event spotlighting women’s often invisible role in the ongoing fight to address unfinished struggles of our liberation – violence, inequality, racism, discrimination, stigma, and more. Initially planning to partner to celebrate Women’s History Month in March, then Black Music Month in June, they postponed plans when the country was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as by the global outcry for racial and social justice. With numerous artists and organizations taking to online platforms for performances and fundraisers, Hendryx and VeneKlasen decided that August was a stronger opportunity for the two women-focused entities to address both the hopeful possibilities and trauma and pain of these times.

“By radical healing, we’re acknowledging the power of music to lift our spirits and connect us across all our differences,” says Hendryx. “We recognize that we can’t build and sustain strong movements for the long haul with broken people who bear the brunt of crises and violence. We need moments of shared joy and connections as much as information and strategy.” Adding that women’s role at the forefront of numerous movements has been powerful and consistent, she also notes, “some of the most amazing music ever created has been birthed from struggle.”

Shereen Essof, JASS Executive Director, adds, “In the face of crises and violence, feminist organizers believe that our collective healing is vital to building strong, agile movements for the future. Songs, music, dancing, and poetry are part of a long tradition of activism and communities organizing for justice globally. We are incredibly excited to co-create this moment of radical healing with these extraordinary artists.”

Hendryx will perform with New York-based collective Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X. (Quantum, Unique, Evolving, Essence of Nubian Sistas), a musical meditation on the affirmation of healing traumas of the past and present while answering questions and exploring ways to move forward. First presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in September 2019 with special guests Divinity Roxx, Be Steadwell, Liza Jessie Peterson, the group will be joined by Sophia Ramos for the August 14th performance.  Q.U.E.E.N.X. is a multi-generational, multi-disciplinary blending of music, spoken word, hip-hop, funk, rock, and avant-garde. The group has been hailed for its unique performances that embrace a broad range of audiences, particularly the African American, Latinx, Indigenous Natives, and LGBTQI communities.

Also joining Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X. for this special presentation in radical healing will be noted women artists from around the globe, including South African actress and poet Lebo Mashile; indigenous Guatemalan singer Sara Carruchich; Zimbabwean singer and Mbira player, Hope Masike; and Filipina theater actress and singer Monique Wilson.

For more information and reservations for this event, please go to and

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Apple News

Evelyn Lozada Gets Emotional Recalling Ochocinco Abuse [VIDEO]



EVELYN LOZADA, Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson

*Evelyn Lozada has responded to the recent comments her ex-husband, former NFL star Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, made about his 2012 domestic violence case.

“I lost my temper for once in life for 3 seconds & it cost me a lifetimes worth of work,” he tweeted without mentioning the incident. “I got it all back plus some after getting a 2nd chance & NOTHING will ever get me out of that happy space again.”

As reported by, Johnson was arrested and charged with domestic battery in 2012 following an altercation with Lozada. She filed for divorce days after.

He pleaded no contest and struck a plea deal and served a year-long probation sentence.

Johnson was also dropped by the Miami Dolphins after his arrest. He and Evelyn also filmed a VH1 realty show that never aired. 

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The “Basketball Wives” star released a tearful video Thursday in response to Johnson’s tweet.

She captioned the 5 minute clip: “I’m sorry to my kids, my family & friends, my fellow cast-members, their kids & family, the viewers & anyone else I hurt or affected with my actions. I hope & pray my message is received and that this video makes sense. I’m sorry for being so upset but this is HEAVY on my heart. #ILoveAllOfYou”.

In the video Lozada makes clear that Ochocinco was abusive on more than one occasion.

Hear/watch her tell it via the YouTube clip above. 

Evelyn Lozada Cries While Alleging Ochocinco Was Abusive More Than Once [VIDEO]

Johnson’s spoke about his troubled past after social media users asked his advice on how to stay positive.

“What’s the secret? How do you stay so positive? Was it therapy? Not being funny…really asking for myself,” wrote one fan.

Evelyn and Chad were married for only 41 days before she filed for divorce after they had a violent brawl.

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Apple News

Stephen A. Smith Says NBA Players Will ‘Struggle’ with Sexual Frustration in Orlando / WATCH



Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith

*As the NBA prepares for the conclusion of the season in Orlando, Florida, Stephen A. Smith thinks the biggest challenge players will face in the city is the lack of sex due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“Do we really think that the ‘recreational activities’ that these guys are accustomed to are going to be compromised for three months?” said Smith on Tuesday’s edition of First Take, per 97 The Game.

The NBA recently shared a photo of courts for the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic being set up inside the bubble at Disney World, offering a first look at team practice rooms being set up in hotels. 

As noted by CBS News, ” as teams start traveling to Orlando next week, we should start getting more information about how everything in the bubble is going to look,” the outlet writes. Adding, “Teams will practice at staggered times in order to promote social distancing and keep everyone healthy. “

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Smith added, “Forget three months. They’re gonna’ struggle with three weeks. Why you think they wanted Vegas?” asked Smith.

Hear him tell it via the Twitter video above.

Meanwhile, Jesse Pantuosco of 97 The Game writes, “the NBA has made its Orlando accommodations as player-friendly as possible with table tennis, on-site barbers, movie-viewing areas and other entertainment options. But even with all those amenities at their disposal, Smith predicts players will leave the premises to fulfill their sexual appetites.”

“They’re gonna’ violate the bubble. That’s what I’m telling you,” Smith insisted. “Somebody’s gotta’ say it.”

Meanwhile, when asked what he would like to see when the league restarts in Florida, Lakers player representative Danny Green told ESPN.  “We got to continue to speak up, continue to figure out ways to affect change as a group,” said Green. “We’ll be competing against each other and focusing on winning, but we still need to focus on what’s the bigger picture.”

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