We Act Radio: Community-based progressive media

Ron Pinchman, Alan Rosenblatt, and David Shuster

Is the future of progressive media located next door?

Part of it may be. On a hot-for-April Saturday afternoon, people dropped in for the open house at their neighborhood radio station–We Act Radio. Just a stroll down Anacostia’s Martin Luther King Avenue–which also hosted art festival Lumen8 that day–the station’s small office brimmed over with people sipping drinks and animated by the on-air discussion blaring from speakers. Scenes and slogans from civil rights and labor history projected onto the only wall free from revolutionary banners and station-related promos.

We Act Radio went live early this year online and on 1480AM. Local vision and talent–Cliff Schecter, Kymone Freeman and Alex Lawson–started it up and attracted some high-powered friends to help it along, including former MSNBC anchor David Shuster, who hosts a 3-hour show every Saturday. Co-founder and program director Kymone Freeman calls it “the little station who could.”

It may rely heavily on syndicated programming, but the emphasis is still on engaging the community.  “We get a lot of foot traffic,” Kymone says [to Mediaite]. “We welcome it. Being on Martin Luther King Avenue is symbolic of our mission to give people a voice, to continue the work that Dr. King started.”

Kymone Freeman says Shuster has “put his credibility on the line” by supporting and hosting a show on an outspoken and upstart outlet, but Shuster disagrees, saying he doesn’t buy into the “unbiased” point of view for journalists. “Our role should be to report the facts and let the chips fall where they may. We have to follow the facts wherever they may take us,” he said.

His current boss Current TV is extremely supportive, and if anything his colleagues are envious that he gets to be so involved with the community.

The name of the station sums up the mission. “The role of the station is to say, here’s what the facts are, what can we do about it?” Shuster says. “In traditional news, we talk about the budget, politics,  but the difference here is, we say, here’s the news, and here’s what you can do about it.”

As an example, he cited the recent death of a baby left outside in the cold in DC. Instead of just reporting the incident as a tragedy, his show also discussed safe haven laws.

The Little Station That Could seems to be only one piece of the emerging network of progressive media shown on this chart created by In These Times. You know what they forgot? All the individuals efforts out there–the blogs (like yours truly), Tumblrs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Livestream feeds, and news aggregators.

Why are these important? Because we’re no longer content-swallowers. We’re content-producers: dreamers, creators, observers and analyzers–and we have a voice.

(Image by coolrevolution.net)

From In These Times (inthesetimes.com)

The urgency to topple al-Assad: “He’s killing the best of us!”

Nagia Kurabi

AJ and Nagia Kurabi want to set you straight on the Syrian revolution: “Everything you hear in the media is wrong.”

In an interview on Washington, DC’s We Act Radio on April 10, the Kurabis advocated for Syrian revolutionaries, those who have defied the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011.

They denounced attempts to discredit the opposition and undermine their support. “They are not terrorists, insurgents, Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda,” they insisted. Instead, they described them as either civilians and organized activists or soldiers defected from the Syrian Armed Forces–and who now make up the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“We are united. We are a mosaic. We are not only Sunnis, Shiites, Jews and Christians,” Nagia said.

Syrian Americans and immigrants to the US more than 25 years ago, the Kurabis form a complementary team of advocates for the Syrian opposition. Nagia is verbose and passionate as she describes the atrocities committed by the al-Assad regime. AJ in contrast offers nuanced analysis delivered in precise language with a mastery of detail.

They have been organizers of a rally scheduled for April 13 in front of the Saudi Embassy on behalf of Syrian women and children. They intend to deliver messages to the Prince of Saudi Arabia from the FSA asking for support–food, medicine and support for a buffer zone so that civilians can find safe haven.

The Saudis have said “it was ‘a good idea’ to arm the Syrian rebels and create a safe haven on the Turkish border,” while the US has encouraged them to pursue other diplomatic solutions. The Saudis have also unsuccessfully pressed Jordan to allow arms to pass through their borders to reach the FSA.

The Kurabis believe Syria will become a democratic country if al-Assad is deposed. “Syria is different” from other Mideast countries, they said, citing its “rich history” with cultural contributions by the Persians, Romans and Greeks. There will be long-term benefits if Syria becomes a democratic country, they say, and another advantage is that Iran will be isolated. “If the Syrian revolution wins, Iran is next,” Nagia said.

In addition to a safe haven, the opposition wants a no-fly zone and more support for the FSA and the Syrian National Council. They define support for the FSA not only in terms of food and medicine but arms as well: “If we arm the Syrian [opposition], it won’t take much to topple the regime.” And in any case, they assert that al-Assad’s grip on power will not last forever, but the question is, for how long he will maintain it.

Eleven to twelve thousand Syrians have been killed in the conflict so far, but the Kurabis believe this is a low estimate. Al-Assad escalated the killing in the last six months because, they say, he has felt more secure that Western nations will not act to stop him. “Our women are getting raped, our children are getting slaughtered, our men are getting imprisoned,” AJ said.

Nagia summed up the urgency she feels, saying, “He’s killing the best of us!”

(Image by coolrevolution.net)