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Playlist: Black History Month: Series

Compiled By: PRX Editors

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/wallyg/">Wally Gobetz</a>
Image by: Wally Gobetz 
Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT
Curated Playlist

Feb. is Black History Month.

For more options, see pieces under 49 minutes and one-hour specials.

You can also find other options for Black History Month by using our search.

How we pick our Editors' Picks.

Hour (49:00-1:00:00)

"Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was" 25th Anniversary Edition (Six-Hour Series) (Series)

Produced by PRX

Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was is the story of radio’s role in the 20th century transformation of the African American community. First aired in 1996, the specials have been reformatted into six hours for 2021. Original host Lou Rawls guides us, with new narration from original producer Jacquie Gales Webb.

Through interviews, historical airchecks, comedy, drama, and music, the series reveals the remarkable correlation between milestones of Black radio programming and African American culture. Among other topics the series explores the role of radio during the great migration of Blacks from the South, trail-blazing Black DJs and stations, and Black radio during the Civil Rights movement.

Most recent piece in this series:

Bonus Minis

From PRX | Part of the "Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was" 25th Anniversary Edition (Six-Hour Series) series | 15:37

Playing
Bonus Minis
From
PRX

Blackradio_25thann_logo-03_small These are three shorter segments of different lengths that focus on early innovation in Black public media. These segments can be aired separately; they can also standalone to promote the series.

Black History Month Specials (Series)

Produced by Joyride Media

One-hour radio shows featuring Buddy Guy, Miles Davis, Nina Simone and more.

Most recent piece in this series:

Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue

From Joyride Media | Part of the Black History Month Specials series | 59:00

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On two days in the spring of 1959, after a string of critically acclaimed and succesful albums, Miles Davis recorded what would become Kind Of Blue.  Nothing would ever be the same – for Jazz or for Miles Davis.


There’s no real way to tell why a record captures the imagination and attention of the world.  Some do, some don’t.  Miles Davis constantly recorded music, and almost all of it added to his popularity and critical acclaim.  But over the years, Kind Of Blue found a larger and larger audience.  Soon enough, it became the best selling Jazz album of all time.


Through the host Josh Jackson and interviews with musicians Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Cobb, Jackie McLean, David Amram and others, you will hear the story of the making of Kind Of Blue, as well as the lasting impact of this classic Jazz staple.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr- a Rewind series (Series)

Produced by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

A six-part comprehensive series that explores the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's from the CBC Radio archives program, "Rewind."

Most recent piece in this series:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.- The Christmas Message of Hope

From Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | Part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr- a Rewind series series | 54:58

Masssey-king-book_small Today, the fifth of six programs honouring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's the final lecture of Dr. King's Massey lectures- a series that aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in late 1967. This one is more a sermon than a lecture- it aired on Christmas Eve 1967.  Dr. King used the opportunity to spread his message of non- violence and reconciliation to a wider audience.

Then I'll Be Free To Travel Home-the Legacy of the New York African Burial Ground (Series)

Produced by ERIC V. TAIT, JR.

Account of the long African-American battle against northern slavery and for full, first-class citizenship.

Most recent piece in this series:

Episode 1. "Then I'll Be Free To Travel Home"

From ERIC V. TAIT, JR. | Part of the Then I'll Be Free To Travel Home-the Legacy of the New York African Burial Ground series | 59:00

Family_small Traces the historical arc of the long African-American battle against northern slavery and for full, first-class citizenship. It chronicles the contributions the original Africans who founded the New York African Burial ground - and their descendants - made to the survival and development of New York and the nation from the 1600s to the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. It is also a history of larger-than-life "freedom fighters" on many levels and of many races, who challenged slavery to change the course of this nation from it's earliest Colonial days. This is that story as it unfolded primarily on the eastern part of what would eventually become the United States of America.


Half-Hour (24:00-30:00)

Martin Luther King Jr. Massey Lectures (Series)

Produced by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

In November 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the Massey lectures on CBC Radio. The Masseys are a prestigious annual broadcast in which a noted Canadian or international scholar gives a weeklong series of lectures on a political, cultural or philisophical topic. King's title was "Conscience for Change." In the lectures, he talked about race relations, the war in Vietnam, youth and social action and non-violence as a tactic for social change.

Most recent piece in this series:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Massey Lectures #5

From Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | Part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Massey Lectures series | 29:26

Mlk_small In November 1967 Martin Luther King delivered the Massey lectures on CBC Radio. The Masseys are a prestigious annual broadcast in which a noted Canadian or international scholar gives a weeklong series of lectures on a political, cultural or philisophical topic. King's title was "Conscience for Change." In the lectures, he talked about race relations, the war in Vietnam, youth and social action and non-violence as a tactic for social change.


Segments (9:00-23:59)

Mandela: An Audio History (Series)

Produced by Radio Diaries

The story of South Africa's struggle against apartheid.

Most recent piece in this series:

From Prison to President

From Radio Diaries | Part of the Mandela: An Audio History series | 17:44

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It’s 1995, in South Africa. After four decades of apartheid, Nelson Mandela is now president of the country. And one of the things he decides to do as president is to contact all the wives of the former apartheid leaders. These are the leaders he had fought against. Who had put him in prison and killed so many of his people. So, Mandela invites their wives…to lunch.

Nelson Mandela is remembered today as an icon of reconciliation. He brought peace to a country where peace had seemed unlikely. And he did it partly through symbolic staged media events, like this lunch.

Another thing about Mandela’s legacy – he is remembered today as the personification of non-violence. Like Ghandi. One youth leader in South Africa told me Mandela’s example inspired the current student movement in the country to protest using non-violence.

Which… is interesting.

Because Mandela was the guy who started the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. It was called Umkonto Wi-Sizwe, which meant Spear of the Nation. They even bombed government buildings. By the time Mandela went to prison in 1964, he was considered a terrorist. Not just in South Africa but in many countries around the world. Including the United States.

Mandela served 27 years in prison. And over that time, he came to be seen not as terrorist but as an international symbol for the struggle against apartheid.

For those 27 years, the public never saw a photograph or heard his voice. He was invisible.  Preserved in amber. So when was released in 1990, nobody really knew what they were going to get. The apartheid regime thought that once people saw this old frail and fallible man – he was 72 years old when he was freed – Mandela would be as they said: ‘demythologized.’

So…yeah…they got that part wrong.

Four years after Mandela was released from prison, he was president. And yet, those four years were also among the bloodiest and most painful for all South Africans – black and white – as they struggled toward the transition to majority rule.

"Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio" Companion Pieces (Series)

Produced by Mighty Writers

These short segments are stand-alone companion pieces to the documentary special, "Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio" (http://www.prx.org/series/33464-going-black-the-legacy-of-philly-soul-radio). Starting in the 1950s, Black radio stations around the country became the pulse of African-American communities around the country, and their megaphone during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. These sound-rich, non-narrated pieces profile some of the documentary's main characters and explore the legacy of African-Americans on the radio in Philadelphia.

Most recent piece in this series:

Jerry Blavat

From Mighty Writers | Part of the "Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio" Companion Pieces series | 04:29

Jerry_blavat_small This is one of the short non-narrated pieces that are standalone companion pieces to the documentary special, "Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio ." Starting in the 1950s, Black radio stations around the country became the pulse of African-American communities, and served as their megaphone during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. A generation of Black disc jockeys across the nation rapped and rhymed on the radio and played the hippest records that you couldn't hear on mainstream radio. In Philadelphia, there were two Black radio stations at the far right end of the dial that had a sound you couldn't hear anywhere else: WDAS and WHAT.

Like with the documentary special, these sound-rich companion pieces explore the legacy of Black radio in Philadelphia — which is actually the story of Civil Rights, the story of Black music, and the story of how media has changed in the last century.

This installment in the series features Jerry Blavat, the Geator with the Heator. Early in his career, Blavat was a disc jockey at WHAT, one of the two Philadelphia Black AM radio stations at the far right end of the dial. Here, the Geator with the Heator, still rockin’ the big tick-tock today, talks about how he ended up in radio and the influence pioneering disc jockeys like Jocko and Georgie Woods had on his radio style.

Driving While Black

From Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | 54:00

One evening in 2015, Montrealer Kenrick McRae was pulled over by police. The officer told him his licence plate lights weren’t bright enough. So after having the dealership verify his lights were in fact working fine, Kenrick got another light and mounted it himself to make sure he would never be given the same reason again. But he still was. In fact, no matter how scrupulous he is, Kenrick, who is Black, says he has been stopped by Montreal police multiple times. After Kenrick's girlfriend filmed him being handcuffed and detained during a traffic stop one night in 2017, he lodged a formal complaint with Quebec's police ethics committee, determined to prove that what's happening to him is because of the colour of his skin. This is the story of one person's ongoing experience of racial profiling by police, and how it has undermined every facet of his life.

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Whenever Kenrick McRae uses his car, he does a thorough spot check first. Before he gets in, he walks around the car, even testing the brake lights by putting a brick on the pedal to verify that the lights are on.

"I always want to be on the right side of the law," he told CBC's The Doc Project radio program.

But no matter how scrupulous he is, McRae, who is Black, can't seem to avoid being stopped by Montreal police. He's been pulled over dozens of times, he says, some months, as many as 15.

"They might say some kind of light is not working, [or] they thought I didn't have my seatbelt on, but when they come up, they see the seatbelt is on," he said.

Montreal police declined The Doc Project's request for comment on McRae's experiences. A representative wrote that the force does not discuss specific cases, particularly those that have been brought before Quebec's police ethics commissioner, as McRae's complaints have. 

McRae, 48, has filed five racial profiling complaints against Montreal police with the help of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a Montreal-based civil rights advocacy group.

Two were settled through conciliation; one was dismissed by the police ethics commissioner; and in a fourth case, the province's police ethics committee ruled in McRae's favour and ordered the suspension of the officers involved. The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission recommended that the city and officers pay damages to McRae, but the deadline for that passed, and the case is now likely to go before the provincial Human Rights Tribunal.

One complaint, over a ticket for being a driver under the influence of alcohol that McRae received in August 2019 while clearing out empty containers from his car, is still in progress.

2019 report examined racial profiling by Montreal police

McRae's experience is far from unique, says Alain Babineau, a retired RCMP officer who spent more than three decades in policing and helped McRae file one of his complaints. 

Babineau said he has encountered others who say they've been stopped as frequently as McRae. 

"Those are the folks that come forward. Not everybody that gets racially profiled comes forward," said Babineau, a McGill University law graduate who now works as a civil rights advocate. 

Civil rights advocates in Montreal have been trying to shine a light on cases of alleged racial profiling by police for over a decade.

In 2019, a report commissioned by the City of Montreal that looked into street checks, found Indigenous people and Black people were four to five times more likely than white people to be stopped by police.

"It's horrific because they've accepted this as being their plight in life, and at some point, you have to develop some type of anger and animus towards law enforcement," said Babineau.

Following the release of the 2019 report, Montreal Police Chief Sylvain Caron said he was "very surprised" by the findings but vowed to take quick, concrete and transparent action to reduce racial disparities.

In July 2020, after a series of consultations, the police service introduced a policy on street checks with guidelines outlining when and how officers could stop people. 

Ticketed while taking out recycling

McRae, who was a police officer in his native Guyana, moved to Montreal in 2006.

He'd initially hoped to continue his career in policing, but he doesn't speak French, which ruled out that possibility. 

Eventually, he found a job as a brake rider at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport, towing planes around the tarmac before and after takeoff. 

It was a well-paying job, McRae said, enabling him to buy a used 2002 Mercedes SUV. 

But soon, he said, he found himself being regularly pulled over while driving to work. 

In one instance last August, McRae was stopped by a police officer while throwing out some cups and cans from his car with his recycling just outside his apartment building.

He was issued a $486 ticket for "being the driver of a road vehicle, having consumed alcoholic beverages" after an officer pulled an empty beer bottle from his recycling. McRae said he was neither drinking nor driving his car at the time.

He said he initially refused to show the officer his ID but gave it to her after three more police cruisers arrived on scene. 

"So, I count to 10, and I said, 'You know, today is not my day to die,'" he recounted.

McRae said this and other experiences with Montreal police have given him a clear impression. 

"I'm not worth it, you know, living in this society."

He said he'd move away from Montreal but that he can't leave the city because he co-parents a teenage daughter.  

'We don't have systemic racism'

Filing individual complaints against police as McRae has done has hardly made a dent in the wider problem of racial profiling, says Babineau. He says there seems to be an unwillingness on the part of politicians and police administrators to tackle systemic racism.

"We don't have systemic racism," RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told the Globe and Mail in June when asked whether the problem exists on the force in the wake of widespread protests over racism in policing following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

She told several media outlets that she was struggling to precisely define the term.

Curtis Zablocki, the RCMP's commanding officer in Alberta, shared his boss's view. 

"I do see us different than the United States," he said at the time. "I don't believe that racism is systemic through Canadian policing. I don't believe it's systemic through policing in Alberta."  

Their comments sparked an outcry. Lucki and Zablocki quickly walked them back, acknowledging they had more to learn on the subject. 

Babineau said it's frustrating that police leaders are still trying to catch up to the problem when people of colour in Canada have been highlighting it for decades.

"It's a very simple question with very complex answers," said Massimiliano Mulone, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Montreal.

Mulone was one of the co-authors of the 2019 Montreal street check report and is currently studying the impact of the police's new street check policy. In cities across the country, he said, the data suggests that Black and Indigenous people are stopped at higher rates than white people.

The reasons why aren't just the fault of police, he said; the disparity reflects bias and prejudice that exist more widely. 

Mulone saw similar levels of racial discrimination when street checks were prompted by a call from a citizen, for example.

"You cannot put all the fault on the police, but at the same time, you cannot say the police doesn't have any responsibility in this systemic discrimination," he said. "It's not just a police problem; it's a society problem."

The nature of police work, in turn, makes existing biases even stronger, Mulone said.

"Police officers work a lot on the premise of suspicion ... [In] their experience, they think that race is an important determinant of suspicion."  

Babineau said he witnessed and participated in systemic racism during his 28 years in the RCMP, mostly stationed in Ontario. 

"Even if you're a racialized police officer, you become part of the culture in which you operate," he said. 

"I was part of the drug squad for 10 years. So, we're targeting so-called high crime areas. And you end up targeting a particular community and developing these particular stereotypes in your mind as to who's involved in [criminal activity]."

Babineau said that sometimes led to communities being over-policed by officers who were intent on making arrests.

To date, there's been some progress in certain Canadian jurisdictions, but overall, improvements have been limited, Babineau said.

For example, the new street check policy introduced in Montreal last summer prohibits "any police checks that are unfounded, random or based on a discriminatory criterion." But, in Babineau's view, it will do little to curb racial profiling because it doesn't lay out sanctions for officers who break the rules.

He suspects the policy was an effort to make it look like the city was taking action in a summer of protests over police brutality.

The Doc Project reached out the Montreal police service about the street check policy, but they declined to comment.

Furthermore, Babineau said, traffic stops such as those McRae encountered aren't included in the policy, which focuses on pedestrian stops.

Mulone said he would like to see racial discrimination become a criteria when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of police programs. He also wants to see police services shift their primary purpose from fighting crime to creating a sense of security in the communities they serve. 

"The main mission [should be] to contribute to the security of the people, and the security of the people is due to the fact that you're not targeted in a way that is discriminatory. "

A toll on mental health

CRARR's executive director, Fo Niemi, is hopeful McRae's most recent complaint, filed with Quebec's police ethics commissioner, will be successful.

Niemi has helped McRae file this and other complaints against Montreal police and says while cases can drag on for years, "McRae is someone who will not back down."

McRae said he's prepared to fight but that his experience with Montreal police has deeply affected his psyche. 

"I'm scared every day, especially when I go outside."

Babineau said the recurring nature of McRae's negative experiences are likely taking a toll on his mental health. 

"You can argue that he's suffering from some form of PTSD, right? Because this happened to him repeatedly," Babineau said. "And that's very serious in my opinion — and here's a guy who was a cop." 

The Sound of 13 (Series)

Produced by KVNO

Host Garrett McQueen opens an historical and contemporary conversation of race in a 13-week classical music series with the 13th amendment as the guide.

Most recent piece in this series:

Sound of 13 20-13

From KVNO | Part of the The Sound of 13 series | 56:58

Playing
Sound of 13 20-13
From
KVNO

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Episode Thirteen

 

Alysia Lee – Say Her Name

University of Michigan Virtual Choir

(self produced/used with permission from composer)

3’50’’

 

“Blind Tom” Wiggins – Battle of Manassas/Cyclone Galop

John Davis, piano

Halley’s Comet: Around the Piano with Mark Twain and John Davis/CD Baby 2019

14’04’’

 

William Grant Still – Symphony No. 2 “Song of a New Race”

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi

William Grant Still, William Levi Dawson, Duke Ellington/Chandos 1993

29’20’’