In an effort to pay tribute to the powerful effect Black radio had on the Civil Rights Movement, Tim Whitaker, executive director at Mighty Writers in South Philadelphia, has decided to implement a project that would bring the essence of that programming to the younger generation.
Whitaker has always admired radio stations such as WDAS, for their exciting radio personalities and hip music. As he became an adult he realized WDAS was more than a station that had interesting personalities and hip music.
According to Whitaker, the station’s programming was a pipeline to the African-American community and it covered stories that were often neglected in mainstream media.
“When the riots during the Civil Rights Movement started they would stop playing music and report,” Whitaker said. “The mainstream press wasn’t covering the inner-city, and it was kind of lost.”
Impressed by the station’s history, Whitaker and the Mighty Writers team are developing a Black radio project with kids that will allow them to have their voice heard in the city. Mighty Writers, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and holds after-school programs to teach kids in the city to write and think with clarity. Whitaker believes this project will resemble the impact WDAS has on Philadelphians.
“Radio personalities were so much fun to listen to,” he said. “Every radio station sounds the same in every city you go, so we want to bring back that history.”
Mighty Writers plans to give its kids of all age groups a chance to talk about issues they find important. The teenagers in the program will have the biggest role, but all of the young participants will essentially be running their own radio station.
The kids are already aware of the project and are excited to get started. First the Mighty Writers team will hold public forums around the city to discuss the influence of stations like WDAS Philadelphia. The next project will be to make an audio documentary that will chronicle the history of Black radio in light of the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia.
The idea is to also educate the kids on the influence WDAS had in Philadelphia and show how radio and their voice can make an impact on the community. Whitaker believes the kids will enjoy hearing audio of radio personalities like Jocko Henderson, who is often referred to as the first rapper.
“With all of our programs, the key is to make them big fun,” Whitaker said. “With Black radio, the kids are going to really love hearing those radio personalities.”
The project received $25,000 funding from the Knight Foundation and the team is now working on reaching out to other foundations to match that figure.
Whitaker believes radio brought people together and thinks this project will bring that back to the younger generation.
“Radio back then was unpredictable and fun,” he said. “It is something that can unite people.”