WBGO jazz radio being petitioned

Ron Scott | 1/30/2020, 1:38 p.m.
Since the explosive op-ed by Ronald S. Glover “Is there a Blackout at WBGO?” was printed in the Star Ledger ...
WBGO 88.3 FM Cyril Josh Barker photo

Since the explosive op-ed by Ronald S. Glover “Is there a Blackout at WBGO?” was printed in the Star Ledger on Nov. 19, the executive staff at the all jazz radio station has yet to respond. “The petition is a good way to go,” said Glover. “The folks at WBGO are voiceless now but we are looking for a change and new leadership at the station.”

Deborah Smith Gregory, president of the NAACP, Newark branch, wrote a letter dated Dec.13 to the WBGO Board of Trustees, Community Advisory Board and the CEO. The letter, which was shared with this writer, expressed concern over management and the governing body of WBGO’s lack of public response to the op-ed allegations which were published nearly a month ago. The letter also emphasized four points of concern they would like to see addressed. As of my last conversation with attorney and friend of WBGO Alice Griffin there still hasn’t been any response from station executives.

When a reporter from the New York Times recently reached out to the WBGO chairman of the Board for an interview, it was declined until after an upcoming board meeting, as Griffin informed this writer.

A WBGO Board meeting on Jan. 27 was postponed until the internal investigation of all allegations are completed by attorney Shontae Gray. A friend of WBGO taking an educated guess says the investigation should be in its final stages.

“What has amazed me is there hasn’t been a public response since November 19,” said former WBGO announcer Bill Daughtry (retired in 2019). “Everything is all true. When I retired most of it was whispers; it was the non-invitations that broke the camel’s back. It is the on-air staff holding that station together.”

Two excepts from Glover’s piece in the Star Ledger (Nov. 19, 1920), the proverbial straw, “I am a contributing member to the station and was recently caught unaware of WBGO’s 40th Anniversary Gala, on Nov. 6. Apparently, however, I was not the only one who was slighted. Alexandra Hill, WBGO news anchor, reporter, and producer of ‘Newark Today,’ was also intentionally ‘uninvited’ or excluded from the $1,200/ticket event. Other on-air hosts and selected staff were invited to participate in this historical moment, but not Ms. Hill and several other Black staffers.

“Currently, only five of the 15 members of WBGO’s Board of Trustees are people of color or women. The rest of the board is comprised of white men who, quite notably, have no cultural heritage or links to the city of Newark. Equally alarming, the senior management of the station is composed of white men and women, and their signature program, ‘Jazz Night in America’ is run and operated by an all-white staff.” (These excepts have been edited down due to space; for the complete piece please visit https://www.nj.com/opinion/2019/11/is-there-a-blackout-at-wbgo-opinion.html).

The current petition that is being circulated online is in solidarity with Glover’s piece and reflects The Friends of WBGO’s dissatisfaction with the current situation.

The Friends of WBGO are jazz musicians, music educators, aficionados and appreciators, a worldwide family of dedicated supporters of jazz and WBGO, in particular; some have supported WBGO since its inception in 1979.