PROTEST AGAINST WMNF'S CANCELLATION OF STRAIGHT TALK-Andrew Stelzer

01/31/05

This morning, about 30 people gathered in front of WMNFs new building on Martin Luther king boulevard, to protest the removal of Connie Burton and her Sunday morning program, Straight Talk, from WMNFs airwaves. Andrew Stelzer reports.

SOUND

ACT-outside ‘Straight talk is a community program, there’s no justifiable reason that straight talk is not on the air..�

ACT-outside Straight Talk was cancelled a week ago today; the WMNF press release said the reasons were because it violated the stations mission statement in relation to advocating peace, social and economic justice, and because it violated a station policy that a group cannot control a program. Burton is a member of the UHURU movement, and members of the UHURUs were frequently guests and topics on the program.

“This is a slap in the face, if they wanted to get rid of her,…she’s entitled to her own opinion..their hiding something, she have fundraising, I even donated money, and for them to let her go..WHY DID IT HAPPEN..Because she straight up..this is supposed to be about people voicing different opinions..�

At the request of straight talk engineer sandy Thompson, today WMNF station manager Vicki Santa made public the text of the latter sent to Burton in writing in January 24th, to inform her in writing that her show was being cancelled and why,

VICKIS LETTER

Connie Burton says she has been the victim of harassment by the stations management for many years, which has been at least in part motivated by race.

ACT-Connie “What they have done is created a decision for straight talk…but they can’t terminate the voice of the African community..if the station management said come back—but if you hold up free speech speak freely…tell me what your problem is, if you don’t want African people to fight for social justice, I’m gonna come right on back to straight talk..no gloating..were able to come back Sunday, if they make a decision, the reasons, if it takes up 9 days, months, years, were willing to go the long road..��

Sunday morning on WMNF, during the Sunday forum, the show which usually follows straight Talk, the phones were inundated with calls related to the cancellation of the show, which has been on the air for 9 years, with Connie Burton as host for the past 5. Sunday Forum Host Otis Anthony explained to callers that WMNFs djs do not discuss station business on air, but he allowed the callers to express their opinions. About ¾ of the calls to the Sunday forum were people upset about the decision and asking for Straight talk to be returned to the airwaves—some people called in to support WMNF decision to remove it. And others said they had problems with aspects of Burton’s behavior as host of the show, but thought that on balance, the process of canceling her show, without warning, right after it was renewed for 2 years, was not just.

ACT-caller ‘I love Connie, I first found WMNF, I relocated over here from palm beach county, it was almost like a call, and wonderful programs for the people…after 9 years you pass this resolution, I don’t know has this happened or not…if this happened, what makes them different from other mass media, giving a watered down version of the truth?�

ACT-caller “I like Connie burtons show, the only question I have is why do people always have to call others bad names. I’ve been living in..if I’ve done something wrong, you don’t have to call me out my name..Thats the only thing I don’t like about that show, and she’s talking about are black..and if you cant treat black people with dignity, you treat people like trash..white people are supporting her, I don’t know, don’t tell me that you’re my friend..�

ACT-caller ‘I’ve never heard her say anything that is not true. She’s never lied and we should commend her for that…�

Many of those gathered called for the resignation of WMNF news and public affairs director, station manager, and music director—they claim that having 3 white people in the most powerful positions at the station, located in the middle of a black neighborhood in a racially diverse city such as Tampa is not representative of the community.

ACT-outside “I’m protesting the injustice of my community radio station..the people of this area have known straight talk to be one of the premier programs that has brought many listeners to mnf, and this racist move to knock straight talk off the air, and suddenly the community is not good enough to participate in the labor…c’mon be real its not gonna be this is ours—do a lot of people listen to straight talk. I know a lot of people listen, we have turned a lot of people on to community radio, the strength of our dedication is because of the community aspect is for justice and peace and free speech damn it free speech!!!

ACT-outside “You think this campaign is gonna work. It should, why 2 year agreement, it makes no sense, nobody will do that, have her sign it, when your getting ready to move into your new building..�

ACT-outside ‘I really want straight talk to be on the air…it reps my comm., even if its unpopular…WILL IT WORK..yes the station is part of this type of process, they have to change heir policy..�

Sunday morning at 9am—the hour at which straight talk was on—a protest is scheduled in front of the house of the WMNF news and public affairs director, Rob Lorei. There are then plans to protest at the houses of all of the members of the WMNF board of directors.

ACT “They invade our community, we invade their community, then we got to go to their house, ..� SOUND

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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