In August, 2023, Pacifica welcomed new affiliate station WLBH.org, Listen & Be Heard Radio. Originating from Greenville, South Carolina, the station will serve as a cultural center, a community hub connecting local writers and readers. For founder and station manager Martha Cinader, the station is the culmination of a life time’s work.
In the 1990’s Cinader, a writer and spoken word artist, returned to New York City and soon organized a unique format of improvisational open-mic that was called Listen & Be Heard. Her move to the Bay Area brought first the award-winning print publication Listen & Be Heard Weekly and then the L&BH Poetry Café in the early 2000’s. After moving to South Carolina, she launched the Listen & Be Heard podcast at listenandbeheard.net. Finally, in 2023, she brought that podcast to WPVM in Asheville, North Carolina, as a weekly radio program. That program now supports the new streaming station at WLBH.org.
On January 4, in response to a variety of questions, Cinader shared the story of her work and introduced us to the new station.
These responses have been edited for sequencing and length.
What is Listen and Be Heard Radio?
The Listen & Be Heard Network encompasses a globally-reaching streaming station and a local broadcast station that would cover most of Greenville and parts of Easley and Travelers Rest in South Carolina. We are awaiting a decision from the FCC on permission to build a broadcast station. My vision is to create a cultural center around the Listen & Be Heard Radio Station that will create physical connections and support local arts and agriculture. I would like to find a balance between about fifty percent literary programming that introduces local authors of fiction, poetry, memoir and non-fiction on a wide range of subjects to a wider audience, and local readers to writers from around the world, and generally to encourage cultural literacy. The other half I hope to be determined by the community for the community. My personal hope is that Listen & Be Heard Radio will also be part of creating a regional foodway and other forms of resiliency in the face of climate change.
What inspired this project? How does this work connect to your previous work?
The expansion of Listen & Be Heard has been both literal and creative. As a young mother I was always growing something in my apartment windows. With each move there was more space. I was able to garden. And now I have farm animals! This has expanded my thinking about how we exist in the physical world and our responsibility to Mother Earth.
The arts have been a throughline in my life’s journey. I graduated high school early and took off for Amsterdam with a jazz musician in the 80’s. We traveled throughout Europe. Ultimately, I found my true loves to be writing, storytelling and poetry. I returned to New York a single mother with a 3-year-old daughter, where I joined the very active spoken word scene of the 90s. I toured with my band Po’azz Yo’azz, which included a rhythm section and DJ Jeannie Hopper, who put out a successful remix of my cut Living It!, which might be my biggest claim to fame if you Google me.
During that time I also worked for the publisher, Steve Cannon, at a Gathering of the Tribes, which is still a non-profit in the East Village. The all-inclusive community that surrounded the cultural powerhouse that was Steve was impressive and inspiring. I was an editor for several issues of the magazine while also producing and hosting a literary show on WBAI where I interviewed many amazing writers. The whole experience of the nineties in New York was like my college education. I had a couple books published and put out a CD as well. After having a new baby and facing expulsion from my apartment, I moved to the Bay Area. I’ve been in Greenville, South Carolina since 2009. I have a strong desire to make connections here. The license application has presented an exciting opportunity to do that on a meaningful level.
There is also a Listen & Be Heard website that includes poetry, short stories, columns, podcasts, interviews, videos, reading recommendations. Is this representative of the collaborations that you foresee? How do you connect to/select the work and authors that you feature?
Listen & Be Heard had an iteration as a weekly arts newspaper for the Bay Area of California and a poetry cafe in Vallejo in the early 2000s. We started out in print, then added a website, and eventually went to web only….So I have been publishing and doing community work for quite a while and it has always been rooted in poetry and storytelling. Cyndi Combs worked with me in Vallejo and is currently a columnist, along with Amanda Capps, here in Greenville. My co-host, Tony Robles, lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and I am in Greenville, South Carolina. He’s originally from the Bay Area, which is where we met, and I’m from New York, and we know a lot of writers between us.
Some people I have reached out to, and others have submitted. Submissions are always welcome. I try to keep it all going the best I can. Some people like audio, some like video and some like the written word. I am open to publishing it all. It will be interesting to operate as a 501c3. That will be new for me.
You are currently co-producing a program of the same name on WPVM. How did your work become radio-based?
As I mentioned, I had a radio show in New York on WBAI, so, while this show began as a podcast, radio is my first love. Jeannie currently produces the Laura Flanders podcast. She introduced me to Davyne Dial at WPVM. I really admire what Davyne has done in Asheville and appreciate the opportunity to be heard there. For me the show is a way to keep learning from and communicating with writers and get in a little socializing, I also see it as a flagship for the fledgling station and a way to demonstrate to other would-be producers what is possible and be able to walk them through the steps.
What is the format of Listen and Be Heard Radio as it currently exists? What are you broadcasting now?
We are streaming now at WLBH.org. Currently I am running a playlist of content from the Listen & Be Heard Radio show. I am working on learning Rivendell and will switch to a more expansive schedule that will include shows available on Audioport (Pacifica Network) that focus on the literary arts and environmental issues. After that initial stage, we’ll work on creating local content.
You mentioned that you have experience at WBAI, and you made the decision to affiliate Listen and Be Heard Radio with Pacifica right from the start. What spurred that decision?
I really believed in the whole vision when I was at WBAI. I like the idea that we are a network of community stations. I think we have more power to effect change than we really know. I want to be a part of that. I also think it is a great resource for non-commercial content while I work to make the community aware of the possibilities. I don’t expect it to be easy. I have found that people in general have a vague idea of what community radio is. If I call it that, they associate it with NPR, but it can be so much more representative of who we are where we are…
How do you envision the station and its collaborations growing as other community stations learn about Listen and Be Heard?
I’m really excited about the idea of an increased community radio presence in the south. I’m grateful to Davyne for opening the door to broadcasting again and Todd Uhlrich for getting the license application in. I think of WPVM as our sister station and will look for ways to collaborate and share some programming, as well as with other southern stations in proximity to Greenville. It’s exciting to me to think that people in Taos, New Mexico are hearing the show on KCEI. Of course, I would love for every station to carry the show and I would like to return the favor. Together, we could spawn an alternative performance circuit, not only for music, but for authors and poets as well. We should think like that together. It would be fun.
And, before we end, are there any closing thoughts you would like to add?
I just turned 61 in December. Listen & Be Heard has been the connecting theme in my life. It started out as an open mic and essentially that is what it still is. I hope to open the mic to the entire community 24/7, not just one night a week. Whether as an open mic, a cafe, a newspaper, website, radio show, podcast or radio station, it has always been about and will always be about listening and being heard, the essential ingredients of communication, cooperation and community.
Update: Martha recently applied for an LPFM frequency in her home town during the 2023 LPFM filing window with the FCC. She has been granted “singleton” status (applications that have no competition). She is now in the next stage to gain the frequency, called the 30-day public notice period. If the frequency is granted, Martha will be able to broadcast online and on-air!