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Tibby Brooks (organizer, NY Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition; Palestine solidarity activist)

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Tibby Brooks
Tibby Brooks

1.  Why do you wish to serve on the Local Station Board?

            WBAI and the activist community it serves is a very important part of my life, and serving on the Local Station Board makes me more directly involved with the station I love.  WBAI is the mouthpiece of the fight-back against the juggernaut of privatization and displacement in New York City.  I want to ensure that the Board remains sensitive to issues of race by implementing anti-racism training, for which the Justice and Unity Campaign has fought on the National Board.  We are also focusing on a capital campaign to fund a building to get out from under the greedy landlords.  I urge you to vote for the entire Justice and Unity slate, which you can find (as well as much more information) at www.justiceunity.org.  You can contact me at tibby@justiceunity.org or leave a message at 212-591-2111.

2.  What skills, qualifications and experience would you bring to the board?

            As an activist for many years, I take my commitments very seriously.  In the year that I have been on the Board, I have learned that loyalty to WBAI consists in striving to build it up, not only quantitatively (via listeners and money) but qualitatively, by engendering confidence in an institution that is a reflection of the communities it serves and by fostering the enthusiasm to focus on what we can do better.  My particular set of skills consists of an unusual combination of talents: I am attentive to detail while keeping the bigger picture in view.  Thus, I am both Secretary of the Board, continuously listening and writing, and an active participant in fundraising and outreach.  My life and Movement experiences have sensitized me to assess a situation by how it will impact both my class and people of color, who are in the forefront of my class.  Because of my activism, I am able to appeal to folks in many Movements to actually join WBAI.

3.  What can be done to improve the dynamics and effectiveness of the Local Station Board?

            Just as we see in New York City politics how a landlord-mayor protects his class interests, so we must analyze the composition of the Local Station Board.  It’s important that listeners look at the political involvement and opinions expressed by those who are to keep this station alive and well.  WBAI is a peace-and-justice organization, and the Board should be a reflection of that sensibility.  Anti-racism training empowering members to examine long-held assumptions could be a useful mechanism for improving the dynamics of the Board.  We conduct our Board and its meetings in accordance with the Pacifica Bylaws, which really doesn’t allow much wiggle room outside of Robert’s Rules of Order, stifling probing discussion and brainstorming and encouraging filibustering and endless motions and votes on parliamentary questions. 

4.  What LSB committees would you like to join? What Pacifica National Board committees?

            I am currently a member of the Membership, Outreach and Fundraising Committee, which has successfully held events that raised thousands of dollars for the station.  I am also on the Pacifica National Archives Task Force which has stewardship over decades of on-air programming reflecting the best in our progressive history. I would like to continue working with both groups.

5.  Would you be interested in serving on the Pacifica National Board, and why?

            I would be willing to serve on the Pacifica National Board, but I feel myself best suited to working on the local WBAI level.  However, I am interested in and keep myself informed of national Pacifica developments.

6.  How do you view the dynamics between the Pacifica network and local station autonomy?

            I love feeling connected to a nationwide network of progressive voices, but I feel most connected when hearing reports from across the Hudson River from local Pacifica stations, such as the West Coast and Texas.  But I and so many others tune in to 99.5 to find out where the local action of the day will be.  The autonomy of the local stations is vital for the lifeblood of the interconnectedness of the network.  Justice and Unity acknowledges the importance of the national office, while also realizing that local stations must serve their communities, which are too often not served by any other radio station.

7.  How should the Pacifica Foundation find a wider audience?

            We have a wide audience, but we need to let more people know we exist!  Pacifica programming satisfies diverse needs—political, literary, musical, national and international—but we can’t assume that everyone we know actually listens to or is a member of WBAI.  Yes, folks listen for information and enlightenment, but they also listen for pleasure and entertainment.  When we outreach at events, as the Justice and Unity members of the LSB’s Outreach Committee successfully and often do, we realize that we must improve our targeted outreach to the specific topic being covered.  This is even easier to do over Internet blogs and sites.  The whole world is not yet wired; therefore, we need to re-start our printed Folio, which the LSB has budgeted for the past year but management has chosen not to implement.  This is work, but the payoff is audience.

8.  What can be done to preserve and share the treasures of the Pacifica Archives?

            The Pacifica Archives is an astounding jewel of the progressive Movement, both here and abroad.              As with cinema, tape deteriorates over time, and a major project is to digitize our unique tapes; this is a huge undertaking, and much work is still to be done.  Fundraisers have been held to finance this project.  The financial upside to the Archives is that so many of these programs make for irresistible premiums.

9.  Do you have any ideas for new approaches to fundraising for Pacifica?

            Through my various Movement organizations, I am aware of a progressive sector (often attached to the non-profit community) with sufficient disposable income to patronize high-ticket Left cultural events, such as award dinners, art auctions, and benefit concerts.  Justice and Unity emphasizes the need for a full-time Development Director right here at WBAI, whose job will be to seek out novel fundraising approaches and tap our collective talents to make it happen.  On the grass-roots level, I believe it is the fiduciary duty of every Board member to either give or get money for the station: I do both, and am especially glad that I have convinced many in my organizations that it really is fun to person the phones during the pledge drive.  And after the drive is over, it’s time for Board members to go and help the Premiums Department mail out those premiums and phone those listeners who have not fulfilled their pledges.

10.  How do you view Pacifica’s potential in providing internet content?

            How often we hear an interviewer say, “If only the audience could see this!”  Well, we’ve got the talent and the contacts, both here and abroad, to integrate sound and video (as with a YouTube format).  Since we have activist-reporters, we wouldn’t be limited to talking heads—we’d get to see the action as it happens.  It’s not only youth who are getting their information online, it’s also older people who are turning away from newspapers to the immediacy of the Internet.

11.  What technologies should the Pacifica Foundation consider for the future?

            Within the limitations of cost-effectiveness, we can consider any multi-media technology out there: internet, high-definition and satellite radio, etc.  The Foundation has on tap very technology-savvy people at the various stations, and that is the reason for having a National Technology Committee.

12.  What can be done to improve our signal strength?
            Not being an electronics engineer, I can only bewail the cost of transmitting our signal from atop the Empire State Building.  We spend five times what the other Pacifica stations pay in their locations, so part of our general financial problem is our location.  Obviously, someone better versed in these issues than I should address the technical aspects of this question.

13.  Should the station consider relocating the studio to other facilities?  Where and Why?

            We definitely need to get out of Wall Street to a home of our own in a welcoming community, meaning a working class neighborhood, released from the outrageous building security regulations which are so alienating to our staff and volunteers.  This might enable us to expand into a multi-media center.  As soon as a permanent station manager is appointed, Justice and Unity will work with that person to begin the capital campaign for our own warm home.

14.  How can our station better serve under-represented communities?

            I would like to be part of more Local Station Board and town hall meetings in neighborhoods of underrepresented communities, and publicize these meetings in their local newspapers (in which we should advertise our programs, as well).  Bok-keem Nyerere, who is running with me as a Justice and Unity Campaign candidate, did just this type of outreach as the WBAI Outreach Coordinator until he was unfortunately laid off.  I look forward to working on outreach with Bok-keem.

15.  How can our station better serve the many linguistic communities of the signal area?

            New York is a bilingual Spanish-English city.  A Justice and Unity initiative has been the superbly anti-imperialist “Informativo Pacifica,” which is aired four nights a week on WBAI, and is also played on other community stations in the U.S. and Latin America.  This features reporters from over 30 countries.  We need to do outreach to different linguistic communities with bilingual flyers and hold meetings with simultaneous translations to find out how WBAI can better serve these groups.  It should be noted that WBAI has over half a dozen other Latino programs, either in Spanish or bilingual; also, our station gives great coverage throughout its programs to the people’s movements in Latin and Central America, as well as to the immigrant community’s fight-back on our soil and to North American solidarity movements.

16.  What do you see as our station’s strong and weak points?

            We can indeed celebrate 47 years of existence, in an epoch that has witnessed the demise of many, many movements.  Aside from breathing, WBAI’s strength lies in being the first to break the most controversial stories—“You heard it first on WBAI!”—and in followingup on news that other resources tend to neglect.  Most of us can honestly say that we learn something new daily by listening to WBAI, and I continue to meet people who have been brought into activism through WBAI. A major weakness is that WBAI has been unable to do the type of outreach and marketing necessary to publicize its diverse programming.  And our location is also a great weakness, in that Wall Street’s rental is astronomical, as is the cost of transmitting our signal from atop the Empire State Building.

17.  Have you ever been party to, or provided support for, a lawsuit involving Pacifica or its employees?  When and Why?


18.  How do you think the election process for Local Station Board can be improved?

            Fortunately, this is the last election that will coincide with the Fall pledge drive, because Justice and Unity helped craft and win passage of a bylaws amendment setting a new calendar that moves the elections up by about six weeks.  This will enable Board members to focus on the fund drive, as well as give more airtime for debates.  We need to consider ways of leveling the playing field so that gobs of private monies don’t end up financing gorgeous full-color electioneering mailings à la Bloomberg.  Members have complained that the ballots are so complicated that voting is discouraged, and most listeners (and candidates) don’t comprehend the system.

19.  What are your hobbies, interests, and other organizational affiliations?

            I make some time to read and study history (modern European Left) and Marxist theory (courses at the Brecht Forum), attend concerts of Baroque music and German lieder, and hit the museums and galleries.  I’m an activist/organizer with the New York Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a member of the New York Chapter of the National Writers Union, a Founding Member of Activists—Forever: Family and Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and a member of the bodacious Ossining Branch of the NAACP. 

20.  What question(s) would you pose to your fellow candidates?

            None that I can think of at present. I look forward to more interaction with them in future debates.