Clevelanders protest firing of radio personality

Joey Pompignano

Uhuru Magazine

Clevelanders protest firing of radio personality

By Joey Pompignano

Pouring rain and temporary police interference did not stop more than 50 protesters outside the Radio-One station Tuesday November 16 in response to the firing of radio host Basheer Jones.

“People still kill when it rains, mail still comes when it rains, bills still come when it rains,” community activist Donna Brown said. “Why wouldn’t we protest in the rain?”

One week prior to the protest loyal listeners of Basheer Jones and Company awoke to an unfamiliar voice different from commentary about serious city issues that they grew accustomed to over the past three years.

“I turned on AM 1490 and heard giggling and funny stuff,” Brown said. “I said, ‘This isn’t Basheer. This is Tom Joyner.’ I thought I was on the wrong station. I called up people that I know who are regular listeners and they like, ‘he gone.’”

The station did not have an immediate replacement after firing Jones, so it synced broadcasts from 93.1 WZAK. General Manager Jeff Wilson addressed the media stating that he could not discuss decisions involving radio station personnel.

Many Clevelanders, like Brown, described Jones’ show as “empowering” and “uplifting.” They said his show gave the black community an outlet where their voices could be heard, tackling controversial topics such as the public schools’ “Transformation Plan” and racial profiling in the Warehouse District.

Fans wrote letters and sent emails to managers at the station, pleading for the rehiring of Jones. When no one responded to their requests, messages surfaced on Facebook to boycott all Radio-One programming.

Local residents and students from area high schools held picket signs that read “Save Community Radio” as they chanted their location as “Radio-Zero.” Speaking into a megaphone protest organizer Jahaad Abdul criticized the radio station for catering to rappers when they come to town while ignoring their own people. Moments later three police cruisers pulled up alongside St. Clair Avenue. Officers ordered Abdul to stay off private property and not to block the driveway. Abdul complied and the protest continued.

“All we wanted to do was talk to the operations manager,” Abdul said. “We all know in the business foundation of an organization you plan your budget a year ahead of time so you don’t have these problems. So if anybody should have been let go it should have been the accountant.”

Later that evening, the community learned that Jones would not be rehired at Radio-One. He signed a contract with TV20 Cleveland and his first show airs November 27 at John Hay High School.