In February of this year I moved half way across the country from the Minne-Apple (Minneapolis) to the Big Apple (New York City). The move brought with it my current job, National Organizer with the Center for Media Justice, and 24/7 access to all the arts, music and culture my heart desired. For music, all roads lead to New York and in my short time here I’ve managed to see live performances by some of my musical favs including Calle 13, Los Master Plus, the Foreign Exchange Collective, Mala Rodriguez and even Sick Jacken. I caught the Black and White Picasso exhibit at the Guggenheim and the Diego Rivera exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. I’ve tasted some of the best Peruvian, Dominican, Chinese and Contemporary American cuisine (though my search for the best chicken wings and tacos in New York City continues). Suffice it to say New York is not lacking in the creative inspiration department.
With so much culture around me it’s ironic that in my time in New York I have not been as creative artistically as I’m accustomed to. For me that expression has traditionally been through music and more specifically as a DJ. I helped to co-found Radio Pocho a radio show at a community radio station in Minneapolis (KFAI) with my long time friend Miguel Vargas and our mission for the show was to reclaim our roots through musica. For us as Latinos who grew up listening to music in both English and Spanish, it meant owning that musical history. The first show we ever did on the air was titled Ni de Aqui, Ni de Alla (Neither From Here Nor From There) which aptly articulates our musical identity where our playlist would jump from the Jackson 5 to Los Tigres Del Norte to Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam and so on.
The show touched a chord with an audience who could identify with the experience of crossing musical borders. It was a creative outlet that I cherished and miss from my time in Minneapolis. (I also miss the people so no hater mail, please.) It was an outlet afforded to me by a community radio station, KFAI 90.3FM Minneapolis, that was established in the late 1970s by a group of people passionate about music and radio and who saw the value of being able to control their own voice over the airwaves. At the time, the radio dial wasn’t as saturated as it is today and KFAI exists to this day blasting the airwaves with its unique blend of programming, including Radio Pocho.
Fast forward to present day. This Friday the Federal Communications Commission is set to finalize its criteria to determine how to award Low Power FM radio licenses next year. These licenses will be the last and single greatest expansion of radio. Starting next year, community-based organizations will have a chance to apply for and build one of 1,000 community radio stations. Let me repeat that, 1,000 NEW RADIO STATIONS, with the power to control their own stories, voices and playlists. These licenses will be available in both urban and rural areas but sadly will likely not be available in major cities like my current home, New York, and my hometown, Los Angeles.
Groups across the country are already getting ready to apply, like some of our MAG-Net members in Minnesota. Our partners at Prometheus Radio Project (also members of MAG-Net) are leading the charge to support groups interested in applying. A love of music and a love of radio is all it takes to get started.
As for myself, I’ll continue searching for my creative outlets but for today I’ve got that covered. Tune in tonight Wednesday November 28th 8pm-10pm CST, I’ll be a special guest on my former show, Radio Pocho in Minneapolis.
Stream Online: www.kfai.org
Over the Airwaves: 90.3FM Minneapolis, MN and 106.7FM St. Paul, MN