No Justice Or Peace At WBAI

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[On The Media]

WBAI:FM was  founded nearly 50 years ago by visionary Lou Hill, to insure that local and grassroots communities had a voice in social and political issues. 

He probably never conceived of the struggle taking place at the station today to keep it out of the hands of corporate interests.  The battle is between Justice and Unity candidates who want the station to remain in the control of the local community and Ace candidates who are the majority on the local station board and who are reportedly funded by wealthy candidates and supporters and are replacing local programming with national programs and nationally known hosts.

Candidates for the nine seats on the local station board will be seated if and when ballots are counted.  The problem is, several deadlines for the election have been set and later changed.  Due to errors as serious as failing to mail 10,000 ballots to members, the flawed election process is suspected as being way of stealing the election.

Justice and Unity candidates blame the repeated mistakes on Ethan Young, the election supervisor.  Ace candidates have indicated that  mistakes have been made and efforts are made to corrected them. What is obvious is that the consistent mishandling of the election process by Young has divided candidates, listeners and supporters into warring factions that are causing serious injury to the station as an independent progressive voice of the people.

The heated candidates’ debate at the Brecht Forum on Saturday, December 5, revealed many of the issues that Justice and Unity candidates label unconstitutional.  They charged that on air debates did not meet constitutional mandates. A so called Sister to Sister fundraising campaign by a local station board member at the Texas station KPFT is being run by Richard Uzell, who claims to be raising funds for WBAI. 

Uzell is reportedly telling people to make checks payable to him. WBAI local station board members Steve Brown and Mitchel Cohen reportedly are encouraging people to send checks to them and they will in turn send the money to Uzell.

There is no precedent for this and there is no accountability or tracking of funds received. Both Cohen and Brown claim that they have the interim director, LaVarn Williams’s approval. Brown, a millionaire who has over years maligned former program director, Bernard White, with racist propaganda, has trumpeted his intention to bring back Gary Null and others whom he approves.

During the debate, LaVarn Williams came under heavy criticism for her slash and burn tactics at the station. According to Justice and Unity candidates it was Williams who fired 30 year veteran Bernard White while he was out on sick leave. Grace Aaron, Executive Director of Pacifica, parent body of WBAI, who hired Williams, attempted to padlock the station’s transmitter located at the Empire State failed when Errol Maitland  used Wake Up Call, to alert the listeners of the coup.

She has refused to submit a station budget as required by the station’s operating policy. Williams instituted the unconstitutional gag rule, fired longtime program hosts, banned popular community activists from entering the station were among the many criticism and charges passionately hurled about at the debate. Only two Ace candidates showed for the debate. Six Justice and Unity candidates participated.

When faced with criticism, Ethan could not take the heat and bolted for the door. All was not lost as candidates and members, after criticizing  his behavior as cowardly, regrouped and continued the debate.

A Justice and Unity candidate indicated that Young had fled from other debates where his mistakes were discussed . If the station is to be saved, the community must demand that there be justice at WBAI or there will be no peace. 

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