WNUC – Detroit Community Radio

WNUC 96.7 LPFM Southfield, MI

On May 11, 2017, WNUC became Detroit’s first community radio station. The very next day offered both full programming and voices of resistance from neighborhood protesters. They were marching against the city’s new QLINE streetcar, which had launched that day.

Station manager Reverend Joan Ross learned about the opening window for low-power frequency at the 2013 Grassroots Radio Conference. Detroit had been a city without a community radio station; for an under-served population with limited internet access, she saw the medium as an opportunity to insure that her community would be heard and served.

“Our first show was for the people who were out in the street….We’ve been deliberately silenced and intentionally unheard long enough; it’s time we had our chance to speak.”

WNUC and the $180 Million Dollar Streetcar

NEWCC is a community coalition near Detroit and WNUC’s license holder.

North End/Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) is a community coalition of faith-based organizations, businesses, and residents. They started in response to the 2011 defeat of a proposal to create a Woodward Light Rail system. This proposed regional public transport system would have connected residents to job centers and services in Detroit and Pontiac.

Screenshot taken from qlinedetroit.com

The QLINE began construction in 2012 and is estimated to have cost $180 million dollars. Major funding came from Quicken Loans along with other private businesses and philanthropic organizations. The project is in partnership with the local, state, and federal government.

“People came to the studio,” Rev. Ross recalls. “The streetcar is financed by Quicken Loans—the QLINE. So the demonstration in the street was the Y line, as in, ‘Why do we have this thing in the first place?’ We stayed on the air for 3 hours because it’s our station and we can do what we want.”

Detroit has a history of segregation and inadequate public transportation. For members of NEWCC, the decision to move forward with the QLINE confirmed what they knew all along: transit issues are social justice issues.

“It only serves 3.3 miles of roadway at a speed of 11 miles per hour. It’s an economic development toy created to highlight downtown and midtown, areas that were already sucking tax dollars out of our community.”

The events of May 12th served as a commitment and a remembrance for advocates. “It was wonderful to hear the people’s stories,” said Rev. Ross. “Many had been part of the rebellion in the 60’s and…the demonstration was commemorating that rebellion, not the much publicized burning and looting, but the growing recognition of the power of people and community.”

Local Programming, Local Service

Reverend Joan Ross.

My Block, My ‘Hood, My City is a daily community affairs program hosted by Rev. Ross. “I love the title because the city can sense what we want to do. We want to be on the ground…with folks, to let their voices be heard.”

Topics on the show range from a rain garden project to the work of Solardarity, a solar energy cooperative. Solardarity worked with NEWCC in 2010 and 2013 to install solar streetlights after previous streetlights were repossessed. Solardarity is launching a project to provide both solar power and high-speed internet to 50 households.

“Detroit has faced death by a thousand cuts. We own our own lights; we will not be beholding to anyone.  We’ve had folks come in here [like] The New York Times to tell our narrative their way.  My Block, My ‘Hood, My City tells our story our way.”

Bedtime Stories airs Sundays at 8PM and features stories read in a variety of languages—English, Spanish, Arabic. The show is supported by discussion questions posted on the station’s website, allowing parents to engage with their children all week long.

“We’re not doing prince and princess stories, the white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes who lives happily ever after; we’re doing indigenous stories and stories that are real life experience—legends—that kids can draw life experience from.”

WNUC programming also provides support for struggling families. Relations Matter offers pre-marriage and marriage counseling to couples. FBI (Fathers Being Involved) is a conversation among fathers who are involved in their children’s lives.

The weekend has music programs. Saturdays and Sundays has programs devoted to Christian gospel. Memories of Motown is a program of interviews and music history collected by host Morris Porter. It airs Saturdays 12PM to 2PM.

The Heartbeat

Courtesy of the WNUC Facebook page.

WNUC is entering its third month on air and claiming a place in the world of community radio. The station is debt-free and community response has been strong, from listener support to individuals and organizations wanting to be on the air. The station, Rev. Ross says, is creating just what Detroit really needs—“a meeting place, a community hub, [and] the heartbeat at the center of a hub. This is a dream come true.”

Pacifica Radio Network provides support to stations like WNUC in Detroit, MI. Support community radio by donating your time to a station near you. You can help continue the legacy of grassroots and independent media by donating to Pacifica Radio Network today!