May 10, 2015
by Les Lane
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From the Backstage: Power is Invisible

To use current lingo, Baton Rouge Community Radio 96.9 FM WHYR identifies as progressive. It is the broadcast voice, in fact, of the Baton Rouge Progressive Network (BRPN). But what exactly does “progressive” mean? A while back active volunteers and board members, guided brilliantly by Rebecca, BRPN’s board chair, developed a short document entitled “Core Values.” The whole thing is a work of art, but one of the most striking sections is “Thoughtfulness,” and it contains (among other things) the following bullets:

  • We are committed to objectivity, reason, and critical thinking. We seek to push past ideology, false dichotomies, and surface-level discourse to foster a shared understanding grounded in reality and multiple perspectives.
  • We strive to empathize with others, even those with whom we disagree, recognizing the extent to which we are all products of our environment.
  • We refrain from thinking our personal and cultural norms and beliefs are superior to others’ norms and beliefs. In critiquing others, we first turn that same critical lens on ourselves.
  • We acknowledge that just because we do not understand something does not mean it is wrong; it only means we do not understand it. We assume responsibility for educating ourselves about that of which we are ignorant.

That block of text is a thing of beauty…beauty and power. Not the visible letters, those are just black squiggly things. The beauty lies in the combinations of certain words, and the cadence of the language. The power lies in the invisible ideals the words and cadence express that resonate with the mental, emotional and spiritual energy of progressive readers. What this text demonstrates so well is that REAL POWER IS INVISIBLE.

Think about it: That which we call a “road” is really just petroleum and gravel poured onto dirt. One could just as easily take a nap or build a clubhouse on it as drive on it. And the yellow and white streaks of paint on it…please! They couldn’t stop a two-year-old! Yet people use “roads” routinely to move two -ton machines at breakneck speeds in opposite directions without incident.

What’s more, these people get those two-ton machines by giving somebody in a tie a piece of plastic to play with for a few minutes. They get life sustaining food or 32” plasma TVs by handing out small pieces of pretty cotton paper. This is crazy! Further down the rabbit hole, something called “bitcoins” twinkle alluringly.

What makes all of this possible isn’t the visible asphalt or plastic or currency or…computer screen pictures. What makes this possible is the invisible power of trusting agreement that drivers, shoppers, merchants, and nerds enter into without thought on a daily basis. Real power is invisible.

Just in case this horse isn’t completely dead*, here’s one more. A military tank is very visible and very powerful, right? Nope, not on its own. Okay, so the tank is just an inert mass of death-dealing munitions and such. What about the operators? They are visible and have the power to…Nope. It isn’t the operators per se, it’s the invisible motivations of the operators that make possible the rearrangement of real estate a tank is capable of. Real power is invisible.

So what does all of this have to do with WHYR and its listeners? Progressives in Baton Rouge may often feel invisible and powerless. They shouldn’t, because they aren’t. First of all, BRPN’s website lists 74 local progressive organizations, not counting labor unions. Not people, organizations! Second, BRPN runs a progressive radio station not beholden to anyone, that can broadcast music, news and programming no commercial station (shackled by the bottom line as they are) dares to. But most importantly, progressives understand intuitively that real power comes not from flash and bling, not from loudness or rudeness, and certainly not from large numbers of non-thinkers mindlessly parroting absurd social and economic talking points, but from things like realistically inclusive ideals, trusting agreements and cooperation, and focused psychological motivation. Perhaps a note about the tank is relevant here too. No matter how big and ugly a sign of power is, it is no more powerful than the invisible force that animates it. A bigger, uglier, power sign isn’t the best defense, knowledge of the invisible force is. One wonders what might happen if the tank operators’ loving grandmothers suddenly showed up in front of it holding apple pies. Now that’s real power.

Are Baton Rouge progressives invisible and powerless? HEL HECK NO! Not with a networking hub (BRPN), 74 organizations, our own radio station, and the knowledge of what really makes the world go round. Things be jammin’ for Baton Rouge progressives! So get out and get with it. Donate, volunteer, attend meetings and events, get involved. FEEL YOUR POWER!! MUAH-HA-HA-HA-HAAAA!!!

*(No actual horses were harmed in the making of this blog.)

April 9, 2015
by rebecca.marchiafava
Comments Off on From the Backstage: Radiopalooza Update

From the Backstage: Radiopalooza Update

For the past four years, WHYR and its parent organization, the Baton Rouge Progressive Network, have put on Radiopalooza, a local music festival that’s doubled as our summer fundraiser. We started out in 2011, charging admission at Beauvoir Park behind Chelsea’s Cafe, and two years ago we moved the festivities to North Boulevard Town Square to make use of our city’s public spaces, creating a visible and accessible festival that was also free for attendees.

We love Radiopalooza, as we hope you do, but it takes a tremendous amount of volunteer time and resources to make happen. For the past number of years, planning for the festival consumed us and diverted our attention and efforts away from indispensable organizational development, strategic planning, and basic operations and programming. You know, the stuff that makes us who we are and worth supporting.

This year, we’ve chosen to take a hiatus from festival planning and focus on more long term sustainability efforts than the festival can provide at this time. We do plan to bring Radiopalooza back in the future, and in the meantime, please stay tuned for our RadioActive concert series featuring great local artists.

This summer, our station will turn four years old; it’s time for us to stop toddling and gain our footing. That’s where we’re focusing our efforts, and it’s also where you come in!

As a community radio station, we rely on community support. You can help put WHYR on a more sustainable path and allow us to do bigger and better things by becoming an official Sustaining Member at www.whyr.org/support.

In addition to becoming a sustaining member, you can contact us if you’re interested in getting involved with efforts in fundraising, programming, and promoting local progressive causes. Visit whyr.org/volunteer to learn more.

Become a sustaining member to help us survive; become a volunteer to help us thrive.

March 5, 2015
by rebecca.marchiafava
Comments Off on From the Backstage: Connect for Visibility

From the Backstage: Connect for Visibility

To those passing through or residing here superficially, Baton Rouge may not look like much, but for those of us who know her, there’s a lot to love and appreciate. Yet whereas in other more celebrated cities, the gems are viewed as par for the course, in our town they’re often seen as hidden and unexpected, if they’re seen at all.

I’ve been involved with WHYR since its inception, and I’ll confess: in the beginning, I didn’t know or care about community radio. I was a BRPN Board member when we received the license and started building the station, so I hopped along for the ride and put in tons of time and effort for a cause I intuitively supported but didn’t quite understand yet. The longer WHYR is on the air, though, the more I recognize how it augments what I already knew I loved about Baton Rouge while simultaneously expanding and deepening my understanding of this city and its inhabitants.

Being introduced to Irma Thomas’ “It’s Raining” on “Down the Road,” played as an intentional homage to the day’s weather on a rainy Sunday. Tuning into blues, jazz, and Cajun/zydeco specialty shows that consistently enrich my sense of place in the world. Hearing an hour of New Orleans brass band songs on a Sunday afternoon while chopping celery and enjoying 70-plus degree breezes through the back screen door. Hearing a Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist for the first time on “The Low Down” while on my way to dance practice. Being inspired by Noel Jackson’s infectious excitement for the music he plays for his listeners. Shazamming songs from local bands. Being granted access to the origin stories, knowledge and creations of everyone from spoken word poets to activists to urban planners who work and reside in BR. Hearing PSAs for local progressive organizations and the voices of my friends, family, and fellow community members on the air. Learning about topics like racial justice, rape culture, and economic justice, and how to get involved in local efforts for positive change in these areas.

When I’m in the thick of meetings and to-do lists, I can lose my spark for the volunteer work that it takes to make WHYR possible. Then I tune in and something inspiring or illuminating will jump out from the airwaves to make me think: I like this, it is important, and I’m glad to be a part of it. The product of our hard work and the genuine connections that come from it have made it all worthwhile.

Once, in a conversation with one of our show hosts, I referred to him as an expert of his preferred genre of music. He humbly corrected me: “I’m an enthusiast.” It occurs to me, then, that my favorite thing about WHYR is that it’s becoming exactly what we set out for it to be: our progressive network’s node for enthusiasts—of art, poetry, music, culture, concepts, activism, connection, and social change. Put it all together and it’s a beautiful thing, and maybe we had to actually make it happen to realize what we’d been missing all along, and what we’d be missing if we lost it.

Our work is just beginning, so for the month of March we are making it our goal to sign up 100 sustaining members who are willing to support our work on an ongoing basis through monthly recurring donations. It is a critical goal as our operating reserves are low. If 100 people gave $25 per month, we would be able to focus more of our efforts on developing our programming and services rather than worrying as much about our minimal operating budget. Can you give $25 a month towards sustaining WHYR and keeping us on the airwaves of Baton Rouge?

There’s something exciting and intoxicating about unexpected gems. Yet to truly power up, reach new levels, and make change, we have to make it our responsibility to turn Baton Rouge’s unexpected gems into visible, audible, integral, and undeniable components of the rhythm of our city. Your sustaining membership is an important part of helping us get there.

With our very existence, we are helping to turn the unexpected into the expected, challenging tired and stale notions of Baton Rouge and its residents with renewed energy and purpose. It is by banding together that we’ve begun to connect and amplify our progressive community, and as long as we have your support, we will continue to do the work to not only give the feeling that our voices matter and have a place here, but to make that an undeniable reality in which the alternative would be unimaginable.

Will you help us achieve this goal? Visit whyr.org/support/recurring to become a sustaining member today. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re in it for the long haul as long as you’re with us.

___

Strengthening the network of progressives in BR is our cause. Our mission is to educate and unite our communities to advocate and establish progressive policy and social action.

Have questions for us? Visit our WHYR website, BRPN website, or email info@whyr.org.

Interested in joining our development and fundraising team? Learn more on our website and email us at volunteer@whyr.org.

January 4, 2015
by rebecca.marchiafava
Comments Off on From the Backstage: Connect for Positive Action

From the Backstage: Connect for Positive Action

Another revolution around the sun is completed as yet another begins. Time marches on, but certain things stay the same. Violence, oppression, and corruption seemingly abound in the world, including right here at home. Such a reality can leave many people feeling like they have nothing to contribute to solving the world’s problems.

Yet amidst all of the negative consistencies, there are positive ones, too. One of these is people’s commitment to working for positive social change, and in the past year certain movements for justice have been reignited by those who are standing and speaking up to agitate and make change in the face of continued oppression and injustice.

We at BRPN believe in the necessity of both realism and positivity in this work. After all, where there is violence, there is the opportunity for prevention and healing. Where there is oppression, there is the opportunity for working toward liberation, humanization, and equality. This is why we selected “positive mindset” as one of our core values.

Positive Mindset

  • We are visionary and forward-thinking, and believe that positive change is possible. To this end, we are committed to amplifying and developing our community’s assets rather than focusing on its deficits. 
  • We believe that problems, deficiencies, and challenges are opportunities for creative remedies, therefore we identify problems only as a prerequisite for identifying solutions. 
  • We accept that barriers are realistically inherent in all social change work, therefore we work within the world as it is to seek progress, not perfection. 
  • We uphold this value not as feel-good optimists, but as individuals who understand that a positive mindset is integral to effective social change work.

Alice Walker famously stated, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Everyone has the power to advance social change. In what ways have you resolved to recognize and use your power this year? Whatever your answers to that question, finding it likely starts with the resolution to hold a positive mindset and to seek out and get involved in those local organizations that are working for justice and positive social change on the issues that you care most about.