Following pressure generated after an article in the Chicago Sun Times by columnist Mary Mitchell, concerning the on-going demonstrations at the nation’s first Black-Owned McDonalds, which is one of the major commercial sponsors of Crawford Broadcastings’ Power 92.3 and Clear Channel’s WGCI, Clear Channel agreed to meet with representatives of the Clear The Airwaves Project to discuss our grievances. On December 4, 2013 this meeting took place at the Chicago office of Clear Channel Media. The subject of the meeting was the lyrical content of the overwhelming majority of the music being played on Chicago Hiphop radio station WGCI and the effects it has on our children. Vice-President of Programming Tommy Austin was in attendance along with (according to radioinc.com) two of the 35 most important Afrikan Americans in radio; VP of Communication, Angela Ingram and the Chicago Clear Channel Market President, Earl Jones.
Jones started off the meeting by stating that he hoped that the meeting would be light, which came off a little odd considering we were talking about the lives of our children and the detrimental effects of the music on our youth. The meeting began with the usual pleasantries as we were optimistic that after hearing our issues and viewing some of the vile lyrics of the music they play, there would be some immediate changes.
The meeting quickly turned antagonistic after Austin reported to the Jones that we were recording the proceedings to which Jones took offense and went into a brief tirade threatening to dismiss us and adjourn the meeting. (At a meeting several years earlier with executives from fellow Chicago Hiphop radio station Power 92.3 (Crawford Broadcasting), a recording device was being utilized that did not belong to our party. So we felt it would be appropriate for this meeting as well). The president asked if we would be ok with someone coming into “our house” recording us to which we responded that we would not have a problem with it considering we were holding a meeting in which minutes would generally be recorded or some sort of record kept of what was said during the meeting. After a brief back and forth, we apologized for upsetting him for the sake of the meeting proceeding. We then went back to our main assertion, that the music is being targeted to our youth and that it is having negative effects on them mentally and spiritually. We provided a packet of several songs from their playlist and the accompanying lyrics. As educators, we cited the conversations we overheard working with children for the past 15 years and also cited the mentalities and disrespect that our children mirror from what they are presented with as entertainment in the way of music and other mediums. We also cited the murder rates in Chicago and around the country of our youth. We shared historical perspective regarding the abundance of inspiring music that we grew up with. We discussed the co-option of the Hiphop and R&B genres and how the landscape began to change and how gradually the disrespectful and debasing sorts of music began to seep into radio programming. We cited that at present, the overwhelming majority of music being targeted to our children is negative and toxic. It is debasing, disrespectful, and misogynistic and being played on WGCI 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The president asked what we wanted them to do. We stated simply for him to stop playing music that provides the soundtrack for the murders and misogyny in our communities. At the very least, provide some BALANCE. We received no solid substantive reply to our request for a change in the tone of the music they play. Instead, they pretended to not know that such music was being played and they also proceeded to show us a chart that supposedly provided a visual for the demographics that they surveyed, who they actually target, and who listens. Jones claimed the music was being marketed to older adults and we responded that whoever they claim to be targeting, our children are listening and being affected. We also questioned the validity of the chart considering what we see and hear every day from our children.
Jones kept insisting that we were against Clear Channel and that we had a problem with him personally to which we replied that we do not, but our position is and will continue to be PRO-children and their right to live unaffected by toxic propaganda. We went over the lyrics again and the president claimed that they do a good job of editing out the abundance of disrespectful and derogatory lyrics. We stated that this is not the case for two reasons: (1) The Youth are smart enough to ‘fill in the blanks’ of the actual edited songs. (2) The Youth know how to download the unedited versions of the “edited” songs they hear on the radio.
The president suggested we go to the production studio to meet his DJs and to see what exactly is being aired on the radio. We presented a couple of the songs from their playlist (Jeremiah’s “F*ck You All The Time” featuring Lil’ Wayne & Natasha and YG’s “My N*gga, My Hitta” featuring Young Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan) with lyrics to the DJs. They uploaded the songs and sure enough, they contained the negative lyrics and imagery we spoke about. One of the DJs claimed that they surveyed older females and that the women they surveyed were ok with misogynistic music. We asked them if they inquired whether the women were ok with consistently being referred to as b*tches and nothing more than sex objects. To this question, no reply was offered.
Mr. Jones and the others did appear to be somewhat disturbed by some of the lyrical content that we shared from their playlist and claimed that they would review and make some changes. He also offered one of us a volunteer position on an advisory committee. We asked if we could get something in writing to serve as a statement of their intent to address the issues we were meeting about in order to provide a foundation for moving forward towards something positive. The president reacted negatively, went into a tirade, and basically stated that he was above providing anything in writing for us to have to hold him to his word that the issues discussed would be addressed. We informed him that generally when meetings occur at this level, there is always evidence that the meeting transpired and some sort of recorded summary of what transpired including what was tentatively/loosely agreed upon. He said he would provide nothing of the sort and became very rude and dismissive. After a brief back and forth, the president rescinded his offer for one of us to be a member on an advisory board and then he proceeded to abruptly end the meeting. To this date, even after follow-up phone calls and emails, there have been no significant changes by the station stop the toxic music being targeted at our children. As a matter of fact, the song “My Ni**a, My Hitta,” which is full of misogyny and laced with the use of the “n-word” at least 120 times was recently the #8 song on the national charts and “(I Can F*ck You) All the Time,” was recently the #4 song on WGCI’s Top 4 nightly countdown.
Though we were disappointed at the overall outcome of this meeting, we’re still open to continuing the conversation with representatives of Clear Channel and Crawford Broadcasting to address the issue of our children being exposed to toxic, inappropriate, propagandizing song lyrics. It is very unfortunate that we have to attempt to “convince” anyone that to target it’s young listeners with poisonous music is wrong. In the meantime, Clear The Airwaves Project will meet on Saturday mornings to demonstrate at the McDonalds on the corner of 66th (Marquette) and Stony Island in Chicago. The protests will continue as long as McDonald’s continues to advertise on these radio stations that force-feed our children a steady diet of strip-club, murderous, and misogynistic music.