WKMS Presents Special Programming in Honor of Black History Month

Jan 25, 2021

From the pervasiveness of racial profiling to Black radio history, WKMS celebrates Black History Month with special programming that highlights the Black American experience, expression, and legacy of the last two hundred years. Special programming from PRX will air every Monday in February from 11 am to 1 pm. 

See WKMS' Black History Month programming below:

Monday, February 1st at 11 am 
Driving While Black from PRX 

One evening in 2015, Montrealer Kenrick McRae was pulled over by police. The officer told him his license 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 color 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. 

Monday, February 1st at 12 pm 
Amazing Grace from PRX

Author Steve Turner's book Amazing Grace: the story of an America's Favourite Song unearths the fascinating background of a piece of music that's had an extraordinary impact. It's been a hymn of redemption. A song of comfort. A gospel favorite, a bagpipe standard, a folksong, a civil rights anthem, the most popular song for funerals. 

It's the song people turned to after 9/11, Columbine, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Challenger tragedy. There are at least 450 recorded versions of it -- everyone from Elvis to Mahalia Jackon. The English man who created the lyrics, John Newton, the "wretch" of the first verse, had an unbelievable life. And yet its roots are more American than anything else. 

Monday, February 8th at 11 am 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 1 from PRX
"In the Beginning" and "Pride & Enlightenment"

The series opens by traveling to the 1920s to hear how Black Americans fought for space on radio airwaves. Then, we hear about programs in the 1940s that dramatized issues and concerns in the Black community. 

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. 

Monday, February 8th at 12 pm 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 2 
"Jack Cooper & Al Benson" and "WDIA, The Goodwill Station"

Jack Cooper's popular program in Chicago debuted in 1929; he helped pioneer the DJ format and was the first to air news and sports coverage for Black audiences. Al Benson came to Chicago from Mississippi in the '30s and gave voice to the culture of the street. 

In the second part of the hour, we head to Memphis, Tennessee, where WDIA's earliest announcers included B.B. King. WDIA was the first station to have all-Black on-air talent. 

Monday, February 15th at 11 am 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 3 
"Rappers & Rhymers" and "Sounding Black"

From the 1940s onward, legendary Black deejays created unique, ear-catching styles. 

Monday, February 15th at 12 pm 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 4 
"A Woman's Touch" and "In Control"

Women -- both on and off the air -- have had substantial roles in the development and power of Black radio, including African American station ownership. 

Monday, February 22nd at 11 am 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 5 

More information to follow. 

Monday, February 22nd at 12 pm 
Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Edition, pt. 6

More information to follow. 

You can hear WKMS' special programming on-air or online at WKMS.org.