WPFW at 30, Pacifica Radio, Washington Style

Imagine, if you will, the hep Village Voice, Washington, DC, “Chocolate City” version. Then open your eyes and notice WPFW 89.3FM.

I first noticed WPFW in September 1977. The station had just been on the air six months. I produced a 14 minute radio show: “I Remember Elijah Muhammad” to be aired around October 7, the 100th birthday anniversary of the leader of the Nation of Islam. WPFW accommodated my effort. I worked and produced the program, and became a volunteer, as well as a contributor to the companion Pacifica National News Bureau.

The marriage of the left-radical Pacifica Foundation, to the Jazz, Blues, Oldies, Caribbean, African, and Latin rhythm-loving indigenous DC community–Chocolate City, if you will–is, without question, a marriage made in Heaven–the Village Voice on the Potomac. WPFW, the offspring of that marriage turned 30 in 2007, and celebrates with an Anniversary Gala on Dec. 15 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

WPFW honors House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Dr. Dorothy Height, Harry Belafonte, Sonny Rollins, and Amy Goodman Dec. 15, with the Pacifica Network’s first Peace and Justice Awards. Not your, buy-a-table, get-an-award type of Dinner. These are really deserving, “Peace and Justice” awardees.

For 30 years WPFW has unashamedly broadcast Jazz, Real Jazz, with well informed, musically astute program hosts, along with provocative news and analysis programs. And out of that proud DC tradition, WPFW comes by its deep hometown roots. The deep hometown roots produced some icons: Jerry “The Bama” Washington; Elmore “Fish” Middleton; Nap “Don’t Forget The Blues” Turner; all of whom developed into invaluable community resources, as a result of hosting Jazz programs at WPFW.

Because Pacifica is a non-commercial radio foundation which prohibits outside financial support for its programming (strictly listener-sponsored), WPFW developed a base of financially active community supporters from deep in DC’s hometown roots. The Village Voice on the Potomac.

So, WPFW was able to develop a little bit of an attitude, about itself, even in the world of other non-commercial broadcasters. As WHUR-FM came of age and defined itself as “The Adult Mix,” and Majic 102 and ‘KYS-FM, and “The Power” on X-M Radio, WPFW stuck to its roots: Jazz and alternative news and information from Pacifica. New definition: Jazz and Justice Radio. Good marriage.

The entertainment for the Dec. 15th event at the Convention Center, which is intended to benefit the station’s building fund, is “vintage WPFW,” Old School. The sultry vocal stylings of Miss Gloria Lynne; the socially conscious a-cappella vocal ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock; the Bobby Felder Big Band.

It’s important that the entire Washington cultural, activist, and art communities come together to salute WPFW on its 30th anniversary, and to stand by at the ready to help the station chart a prosperous, but more importantly a PROGRESSIVE future in Washington. WPFW may very well be the “hep-est” radio station in the country, the Village Voice on the Potomac, in one of the best places for Black people to live in the entire country.

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