Survival Radio

Tiny - Posted on 01 February 2011

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia/PNN

“Mama, will I ever see you again? Whispered by a child in the hills of San Marcos, Guatemala


“Without child care we won’t be able to keep our jobs,” spoken by a mama of three struggling to support her children in Oakland


“We don’t work with Indians,” yelled at an indigenous elder in San Francisco by San Francisco Housing Authority worker

These are the voices of survival radio-keep our media access or we will die radio – keep us on the air or we won’t stay alive radio- Up from the streets, shelters, jails, borders, hip hop beats, youth and elders teach, indigenous-people-led thrival radio. These are the voices of PoorNewsNetwork/PNN radio & PNN- TV – a revolution of media access by any means necessary. Radio, video and stories written, produced and edited by migrante workers in poverty, indigenous elders struggling to keep their land and homes, young folks of color being criminalized for the sole act of being young and of color, African peoples resisting profiling and po’lice murder,  mamas and daddy’s struggling with the myths of the budget cuts and the edges of false borders. Radio, video and written journalism launched by a houseless/landless indigenous disabled single mama of color and her daughter, me.


Taking Back Our Voices


“You and your mother are trash,” Without looking at us, our West Oakland landlord of two years mumbled his opinion of me and my mama, while throwing an eviction notice in our face.. After he dropped the papers he walked down the narrow pathway from our ex-home  to the street. At least he didn’t throw me up against the wall like the two previous landlords had done.


After living through three illegal Oakland evictions in a row, I had written a story about our struggle to get and stay housed in dot-com era Oakland, I sent the story to two east bay media outlets and two “independent radio broadcasts”. All of them said different variations on, “This isn’t news, this happens everyday in the US”


“How long have you and your mother lived in your vehicle,?” A strange amplified voice  seeped into the tape covered rear view window of our car, it was followed by a threatening, glass shattering knock on the remaining glass of our window. It was a knock that always meant police. And yet the voice didn’t fit the knock. I looked up from my crouched frozen position on the frayed vinyl seats of our old Ford Fairmont, only to find a small framed white woman with a large padded microphone in front of her. She was standing next to a tall po’lice officer who glared down at me, while she maintained a seemingly harmless smile. After multiple gentrification and poverty inspired evictions my mama and I ended up living in and out of our broke-down hooptie for the duration of my childhood and teenage years in the Bay Area facing criminalization and profiling and eventual incarceration for the act of being homeless in Amerikkka.


“ Tell them to get the F** out of here,” my mother slapped the back of my head to get me to move, it was barely light on a cold Saturday morning in Oakland. I quickly brushed myself off and came out of the car, still wearing two blankets on top of my clothes.


When I got outside the car  I found out the seemingly nice lady was a reporter doing a story on families  living in their cars. To do this report she felt it necessary to travel with the Oakland Police department. The first thing I  told her was that my mother and I were not ok with being recorded or having our pictures used for a story. After I spoke to her the police officer reminded me that it was illegal to park overnite in the city Of Oakland, but that he was letting me off “this time”.


The following week we were one of five families pictured in an “expose” on  people sleeping in their cars, billed as Crimes of the Underground. 


Since the inception of media production and academic research, people with race, class or economic privilege have received thousands of dollars from places like The Ford Foundation, a philanthropic organization one of many that exist in the US, with roots in the genocide and slavery and stolen wealth of poor and indigenous peoples as well as pure race science like eugenics, to create elaborate filters through which the voices of poor people of color can be “heard”.


From research fellow-ships and ethnographic documentaries to anthropological surveys and studies, our voices are fetishized, deconstructed, studied and discussed; we are spoken to and talked about- and we only “have a voice” if our documentors deem them important to the goals and outcomes of their projects or our voices inclusion is required by the grant guidelines.


We don’t need to be “given a voice”


To be perfectly clear, we don’t need to be “given”, a voice, we have a voice, millions of multi-lingual, multi-generational, beautiful, complex, loud, expressive, angry, intelligent, powerful, amazing, voices, speaking in thousands of unrecognized dialects, unheard poems, un-recorded songs and street-based beats. What we don’t; have is our own radio transmitters, television and radio broadcasts, TV stations, dominant languages, libraries, publishing companies, digital access, and servers. Or like my sister in revolutionary media partnership at the Bay View, Mary Ratcliff so eloquently put it, “ People know of some censored stories through the powerful Project Censored out of Sonoma State university, but PNN is the voices of people that are Never Heard,” Her comment spurred me on to create a new ironic re-mix for the voices of us poor folks: Project Silenced



Media equity sharing


So how are the voices of poor mamas, migrante workers, youth of color in poverty, incarcerated peoples, disabled peoples truly heard, with our own stories, our own author-ship, within a dominant society that actively works to silence us. This is the revolution that is PoorNewsNetwork, The Bay View Newspaper,  the Block Report and other truly revolutionary, community located, poor people-run media and art projects.


It is accomplished at POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE/PNN through a complex web of poor people-led education, organizing, consciousness growing,  and decolonizing about the myths of linguistic dominance (deconstructing literacy, etc)  in  media, education and art. As well it includes the sharing of media and resource access which are quantifiable forms of equity, by people  with institutional access, such as the web designers who volunteered to help POOR Magazine lost in digital apartheid for 13 years into our new 2.0 digital home at, with skills and tools that are inherent in the lives of people not worrying about when and where their next meal is coming from.


PNN Revolutionary Radio


Since 1999 when my mother and I walked tentatively into the KPFA radio building to begin a broadcast that was originally slated for once a week, forged from the KPFA protests of 1999, with the goal of being inserted into the very clean, very NPR-ish Morning Show at KPFA


From that first day in the station we began pushing the limits of media inclusion and resisting media exclusion with stories written, produced and reported by folks living in shelters, working in low-wage or no-wage day labor, incarcerated and profiled African peoples, peoples with disabilities, poor mothers and fathers on welfare, youth of color in poverty and resistance and on and on. We honored our removed and displaced ancestors and elders, our houseless and poverty scholars and consistenty re-ported and sup-ported on our comrades in struggle. We were constantly told we were including. “too much Spanish” from our Voces de inmigrantes en resistencia reporters. “Your reporters don’t speak right, or were too inexperienced.” Because they struggled with “literacy problems”,  learning disabilities or differently-abled speech patterns.


Me and my Mama Dee, Joseph Bolden, Ingrid Deleon, Ken M, Leroy Moore & the Krip Hop Nation, Silencio Muteado, Queenandi, Bruce Allison, Ruyata Akio McGlothlin, Vivian Hain, Jewnbug, Tony Robles and many more poverty, disability, race and indigenous scholars continued walking into that building remembering it wasn’t about how bad they made us feel, but rather that this one channel of media access must remain open, by any means necessary.


“With the widening gap of the haves and have-nots- digital apartheid is an everyday reality that PNN is struggling against- it is media at its purest- and the closest representation of what media is supposed to be, “ said Tony Robles, Revolutuionary Worker Scholar and co-editor of POOR Magazine


For Mama Radio

In 2006, my African-Boricua indigenous, ghetto fabulous mama passed on her spirit journey. Two hours before she left this plain, she was writing a short commentary about a small homeless puppy who had happily been living with a houseless guy in his shopping cart in Oakland until he was adopted (read: taken) by a “kind” yuppie who took pity on the homeless dog, but then eventually became annoyed by the puppy and gave him up to the SPCA “I know they are going to try to edit this part out,” My mama chuckled with her hilarious sense of irony that got us through all of the bad times we lived through together, was certain that the  revelation of the myths  of the well-intentioned is sometimes to hard to hear by well-intentioned academic researchers and middle-class producers of radio and media, “so let’s get ready for a fight…” she concluded.


In 2011, our voices are in more struggle than ever, for housing, hellthcare, non-existent jobs, against racism, profiling po’lice terror and criminalization in Amerikkka., for unseen art, unheard music, constant resistance and a poor people revolution created by the poor people who experience it first-hand Tune in to PoorNewsNetwork radio & PNN-TV for the truth voices, the peoples voices- published weekly , experienced daily to stay alive voices-


The Fight continues mama….


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