In an extraordinary event this summer, ordinary people will be gaining access to the airwaves, two radio stations at a time. From August 4-7th, more than 400 people will gather in Northampton, MA to launch Valley Free Radio (WXOJ-LP), a hundred watt licensed radio station. As Valley Free Radio takes flight with its first broadcast, we'll also be building the transmitter for an international sister station in Arusha, Tanzania.
Both of these exciting events are part of the Grassroots Radio Conference and Radio Barnraising.
The Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) is an annual convergence of media activists, producers, and community radio stations from the U.S. and Canada. The launch of Valley Free Radio (VFR) marks the first time the GRC will coincide with a Prometheus Radio Project Radio Barnraising. The VFR barnraising - Prometheus's eighth - will bring community radio enthusiasts together to build and launch the radio station over the course of a single weekend. Immediately after the GRC, a team of engineers, radio and video producers, and volunteers will travel to Arusha to help get the United African Alliance Community Center's (UAACC) station on the air.
Both Valley Free Radio and UAACC's radio station will be public, volunteer-run spaces for community education, discussion, and debate. They will also help support the development of local musical artists. "Community radio stations like Valley Free Radio and the UAACC are essential in paving the way to a more democratic and participatory media landscape," said Prometheus Volunteer Sarah Miller. "Radio barnraisings turn people's concerns about the state of mainstream media into something tangible: bricks-and-mortar radio stations for the people of Northampton and Arusha."
In addition to getting their hands covered with transmitter grease, GRC and Barnraising participants will take part in workshops facilitated by dozens of leaders in community radio and communications, including media scholar Sut Jhally, Free Press founders Josh Silver and John Nichols, pioneering civil rights communications attorney Nolan Bowie, public radio producer Jay Allison, pioneers in community media such as Nan Rubin, Jeremy Lansman, Carol Pierson and DeeDee Halleck, the chief community radio regulators of the United States and Great Britain, Peter Doyle and Lawrie Hallett, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and farmworker representatives from Radio Consciencia, the voice of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. There will also be concerts from Senagalese hiphop band Gokh-Bi System, parties and a grand puppet parade to celebrate the flipping of the switch when the new radio station goes on the air. To help us share this event with the world, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman will host the show from the GRC in a live remote broadcast before an auditorium audience, on August 6th. Childcare will be available, allowing the future generations of community radio activists to attend.
"It is exciting for Valley Free Radio to be launching our small community radio station while directly participating in the international movement to take back the airwaves for the interests of people instead of profit," said Valley Free Radio board co-chair Tim Scott.
The event is co-sponsored by Prometheus Radio Project, Valley Free Radio, Media Education Foundation, Free Press, and the Grassroots Radio Coalition.
For more information on the Grassroots Radio Conference and Radio Barnraisings, visit http://www.prometheusradio.org.