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What Racism? / What Truth?

by Maria Gilardin Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2002 at 12:31 PM

* * * a commentary by Maria Gilardin regarding the ongoing power/passion play at Pacifica Radio's kpfK * * *

Subject: What racims/What "truth"
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 13:11:07 -0800
From: tuc


Dear All,

The wide distribution of Dave Fertig and Rafael Renteria's letters and
the bizarre emergence of a L.A. variation of the South African "truth
and reconciliation commission" inspired this post. It occurs to me that
there are too many definitions of racism and a veritable inflation of
what was once commonly known as "truth". The Los Angeles passion/power
play over who is to play what role in and above our sister station KPFK
and its staff, paid and unpaid, needs to get reviewed. I'm sure the
current perplexed audience, both real and virtual would appreciate an
honest assessment. That task needs to be done by a drama critic from
L.A. From where I sit I can only look at part of the cast of characters
and look up in the play bill what roles they are supposed to play.

Whoever the casting agency is that put some of these performers in place
we see by now a number of mismatches that raise serious concerns:

We have a manger at KPFK who gets bad reviews for her managing but gets
praised for her programming decisions. I'm getting angry phone calls
from people who want me to sign a petition in her support because she
turned programming around. Programming Director is decidedly NOT a role
she or any manager is hired to play.

We see the process to hire a Program Director subverted, abandoned.
Whatever the reason for that failure, the fact that there is no process
and no Program Director at KPFK is a serious matter in itself. How can
the performance go on with this crucial role unfilled? Eva Georgia
promised, when she was hired, to implement plans that were already in
place to create a program council. How come that some of the performers
who play roles not their own have played a role in the demise of that
process?

We see the role of the Station manger played by the LAB Chair. Now that
is also NOT the role of the LAB chair, not now and not in the future. In
the drafts for the current bylaws is is not even clear if the LABs will
have the unchallenged power to *hire* let alone *be* the GM.

And this play has now had a better run than most Hollywood productions.
Is it really already almost 7 months?

The intrigue surrounding this production focuses on the station manger,
Eva Georgia. Since she is not doing what she was hired to do, all the
other mismatches fall into place. Local and National Board members
appear on the scene and even walk on stage. The ever ready politicos
behind the scenes make hay out of the aspects of this matter, mostly
the race issue.

People know that I am a critic of Eva Georgia. But I finally understand
what Zane Ibrahim expressed early on. He was reluctant to go forward
with his first hand information about Eva Georgia because he knew, after
having known Apartheid for almost 50 years of his life, that Eva
Georgia, regardless of her qualifications or lack of - maybe even
because the lack - would be used as well. Poor Eva. Used by those who
want to do her job for her, used by those who find her a welcome
addition to identity politics. Used by those who can make gains for
themselves or their agendas. And made immune from criticism by her
defenders simply based on race.

Ten years of resistance to the Pacifica Coup and what I thought was our
common past fly by in a flash: Pat Scott, immune from criticism because
she is black, Mary Frances Berry, immune, Bessie Wash who was
unassailable when she worked in the finance department of Greenpeace and
called everybody a racist who disputed her accounting methods,
unassailable again in Pacifica when she spent us into near bankruptcy.
You all know the list is much longer. Poor Eva?

What Zane Ibrahim also feared or even knew was that he himself would
come under attack and that is really what I want to focus on in this
post. I have seen with dismay and a sense of desperation how so many
were not content with claiming that the information coming from South
Africa and Bush Radio was wrong. They had to take the extra step to
attack Zane, Zenzile, and even Danny Olifant who had initially given a
good recommendation about Eva Georgia to Lydia Brazon when she checked
Eva's references.

But when Danny Olifant, member of the ANC and representative of Atlantis
City to the South African Parliament, was asked whether he knew, when he
had praised Eva Georgia as the first manger of Radio Atlantis, how her
tenure at Atlantis Radio had ended said he did not. He then did
extensive research and sent a second letter, saying

"When I left the ADF [the NGO that set up Atlantis Radio] for Parliament
I have learned some year after that Eva was asked to resign. When I
asked why I was told the gross mismanagement took place as well as funds
that got missing. Because there was no disciplinary code for the Radio
Station, she was asked to resign. The station decided against having her
arrested"

He also said that Eva did indeed visit South Africa:

"Eva is talking nonsense if she says need political asylum and she was
in the country around 2000/2001. Because I saw her at Parliament and I
have spoken to her and she told me that she lived in America.
I hope this will assist you
Thank you

Danny Olifant
Member of Parliament for Atlantis
Cape Town
South Africa"

When the supporters of Eva received this letter their former praise of
Danny Olifant turned into disdain. Danny Olifant's initial support of
Eva had been used to discredit all other information coming out of South
Africa and from Zane Ibrahim and Zenzile Khoisan. Suddenly it all turned
around. When it was convenient his judgment, credibility and
trustworthiness were praised. When Danny Olifant had the courage to
check up on his previous judgment and admitted that he had been misled -
something I wish others in his drama would have the guts to do too - he
was maligned.

Has anybody stopped to consider how Zenzile might have felt to be so
maligned, or Danny Olifant, or Zane? Zenzile was even known to many
Pacifica people. During his time in exile he was a producer at WBAI. A
friend, someone who was known. Has anybody wondered why *they* thought
this happened? Has anybody ever considered that *race* might have played
a role in this as well?

If we were to really want to define the aspects of racism how do we
explain to ourselves or anybody else that a member of Parliament is fair
game, that people can say about Zane Ibrahim that his claims are
"backhanded, hollow, unsubstantiated". That Zenzile, who really has
worked for the real Commission of Inquiry in South Africa as
investigator, who was trained do do these interviews in a certain way,
i.e. sit down with the witness, record every word, "extraneous" or not
transcribe the conversation and show it to the witness and have the
person sign off. That procedure that he learned at the Commission of
Inquiry was not good enough for some of the supporters of Eva. It was
found to be "rambling" and equally unsubstantiated etc.

The center piece of misinformation is embedded in a paragraph from a
letter from Rafael Renteria. He writes in support of Eva Georgia and
calls, for a "Commission of Inquiry" for her to clear her of the charges
against her.

By way of explaining how she has been maligned and by whom he says:

"I could do like they did it at Radio Atlantis. I could bring in a
neoliberal sell out with ties to McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken,
and, of all people George Sorros, to head a commission to investigate
my enemies. I'm referring here to this guy Dollie, who headed up
the 'investigation' at Radio Atlantis." Rafael Renteria

If that degree of misinformation is going around in L.A. no wonder that
people are signing Rafael's petition: Omar Dollie did not lead up the
investigation. The Open Forum Society, funded by George Soros, were and
still are supporters of Eva Georgia. They had initially paid for the
equipment for Radio Atlantis. After the station became bankrupt under
Eva's leadership the Open Forum Society threatened to take the equipment
back. The community from Atlantis and Omar Dollie came forward to rescue
"their" station. Dollie, as business man had the money to rescue Radio
Atlantis. I don't know Omar Dollie but I challenge you to put the donors
to *our* stations who just rescued Pacifica under the same scrutiny.
Owning a Kentucky Fried chicken franchise might not turn out to be the
worst source of money that finds its way into our donation boxes. (Also
all station in all poor neighborhoods have a terrible time getting
funded. People are simply too poor to give.)

The investigation of the demise of Radio Atlantis was done by a
commission of inquiry. The members were chosen by the Atlantis BOD.
Their names are: Ata Mkhwanazi, Lizelle Bosman, and Zane Ibrahim.

And here is where the story ties into Zane Ibrahim.

I can only imagine that the disdain heaped upon Zane Ibrahim came from
people not knowing who he is. For most on these lists his initial,
guarded, letter to Dan regarding Eva Georgia's hire is their first
contact. Zane thought that Bush Radio should have been contacted by the
hiring committee.

Imagine someone applying for a job. Training at Pacifica appears as part
of the resume. Would you NOT call Pacifica to check? Eva said she
trained at Bush Radio. Bush Radio is the best known, most respected
station in South Africa. It's past in the anti Apartheid struggle, it's
courageous attempts to get and stay on the air have made headlines -
even in the US. Take a look at their web site.
http://www.bushradio.co.za/

Don't you wish you could be there? Those on the waiting list for interns
wait for over a year. Bush Radio is now receiving applications for 2005.
Noam Chomsky has spent a week at Bush Radio, has he spent a week at any
of ours? (He can't even get on the air at many Pacifica stations unless
it is fundraising time.)

However nobody called Bush Radio - I'm still totally puzzled by that. Is
it because it is a black ghetto station? Is that another version of
racism? I referred to Dave Fertig's letter where he brushed aside
information from Bush Radio by treating them and the station's' manager
Zane Ibrahim with contempt: Who is Dave putting down in order to make
Eva look good?

I know I only know of a small part of his life - but all is checked. So
here, friends, meet Zane Ibrahim:

Zane Ibrahim, the ghetto kid who grew up in District 6, who was first
arrested for handing our flyers on his paper route at age 9, who was
first jailed and tortured at age 11. Who had to go into exile in Canada
in 1967. He learned radio there, started a family. Zane and his wife
worked with Noam Chomsky on East Timor. Zane worked with the First
Nation peoples in Canada on land claims.

Zane returned the moment when anti government groups were un-banned in
South Africa. There is a photo of Nelson Mandela coming out of prison.
Zane is in that photo. It took him years to have the charges dropped
from his anti Apartheid work. He began to work for Bush Radio. But to
this day he also travels across the country to keep community radio
alive and set up new stations. He is a legend in South Africa and
beyond.

What he says and writes about the hopes and fears for community radio
are movingly and frighteningly our own. In a tiny village 6 hours drive
away from everybody where the station he visits is in hovel behind the
post office, he teaches kids to speak. He tells them that even a monkey
can spin disks and that they need to learn to talk. Zane sits in at the
phone office saying he won't leave until they install a phone line at
one of the other tiny community stations. he tells the phone company
that he is an elder with a weak heart and that he might die any moment.
The phone company installs the phone.

Zane also talks about the co-optation of radio and stations like Cape
Talk, the station where Eva worked, capitalizing on the success of
community radio and blasting them away with huge wattage's. He talks
about the right-wing Christian taking over community radio - exactly
like here. Yes, Pat Robertson is at work in South Africa as well,
spreading the gospel via radio stations.

Bush Radio had a direct connection to Pacifica as well that goes back
many years. Zenzile Khoisan, who later became an investigator for the
South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and did much of the
research on Eva Georgia had been a producer at WBAI while he was in
exile. Zenzile and Zane were completely aware of the coup at Pacifica
and participated in the Pacifica campaign by sending faxes and e-mails
to the renegade board members. Over that period WBAI staff and people
from Berkeley visited Bush Radio and enjoyed their stay there.

Can you imagine the shocked surprise when suddenly a press release from
Dan Coughlin lands in their e-mail announcing Eva Georgia as the new GM
of KPFK. Eva Georgia who they knew so well over years was to head one of
the Pacifica stations that they just extended their solidarity to, that
they rooted for to save?

Zane remembered the journeys to Atlantis, every day for a week, two
hours each way. He went there after Radio Atlantis had gone bankrupt. He
headed a three person Commission of Enquiry that was to find out why the
station, led by Eva Georgia as manager, had collapsed. I assume that
most people on these lists have seen that report. They found a high
degree of infighting and financial records in disarray.

The accountant, Andrew R. Mally, who was hired to do an audit was unable
to complete it because the financial records were incomplete or could
not be found:
The receipt books for community money donations had pages torn from them

Authorization for capital expenses could not be found or explained
Bank statements for the period of 01/09/96 to 31/03/97 could not be
found
Deposit books for the period 01/09/96 to 31/03/97 were also gone

(Eva Georgia's supporters later claimed that the accounting was not done
by the manager but by a law firm. That assertion appears to be a
fabrication. There is no record of such a firm in the report of the
Commission of Inquiry - on the contrary the commission recommended that
Eva be removed - and she was)

I will stop here. I fear that this too will create another round of
attacks and innuendoes. For the sake of the people who I respect and who
had the courage to speak out: Zane, Zenzile, and people here in Pacifica
Land: Myla Reson, Diana Barahona, Donna Warren, who unsigned the
petition, (to only name those, except for Donna, who have been maligned
already) as well as other people of integrity in South Africa and here,
I'm throwing myself to the wolves as well!

Maria Gilardin

=========


Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Author: Dave Fertig
Subject: KPFK turmoil

During the interim post-Schubb period the staff was
left intact, it would not be purged. A few left, such
as Cooper, Kauffman & Arcos, but the rest remained,
including p/t board op Eben Ray, Cooper's producer Dan
Pavlish, Esther Manilla and others.

Meanwhile, we searched for a GM. Went through about 50
resumes. Did background checks. Eva's background check
was quite thorough. We knew she had conflicts at
Atlantis, and people there were spoken to extensively,
as at Cape Talk, the S.A. Gov't., ANC, etc. We knew
Eva was a co-plaintiff in an employment lawsuit in
Long Beach, and as a plaintiff's employment law
attorney I can tell you that is not an inherently bad
thing, her claims appeared sound and we certainly were
(and remain) not in a position to adjudicate them
ourselves.

Eva's asylum status was challenged (yes, we've looked
at the file extensively). The early charges against
Eva were posted to the "Goodlight board" and given to
Myla Reson, who followed up on them quite eagerly.
None of this info was at first given to Pacifica,
except for Zane Ibrahim's (from South Africa) first
ambiguous and backhanded letter. After my repeated
urging and pleading to Zane for the data, Myla finally
gave me the vaunted materials and eventually Zane sent
me hard copies of what I had already seen. They
consisted of a document negatively characterizing the
finances of Radio Atlantis (but failing to note that
the finances were run by a law firm, not Eva), and
some rambling statements from individuals who made
factual assertions that were looked into, but ring
hollow.

In most instances individuals who were alleged to have
made the statements were contacted and either denied
having made the statements or noted that the questions
posed to them were loaded and misleading. If one looks
at the string of letters from Zane Ibrahim, one will
see essentially hollow and unsubstantiated claims
directly aimed to remove her from Pacifica. His last
missive said words to the effect of, if you get rid
her of, we will stop. Quite ironic when compared to
the first letter which said, well, sorry you didn't
ask us, but good luck anyway to Pacifica and Sister
Eva, and which letter was followed by the incessant
stream of half-baked accusations.

Then I learned that Zane Ibrahim had said (orally, not
in writing) that Eva had embezzled money fom Atlantis
Radio Yet among the scads of paper he has produced
there is no written indication of this. With all the
hyperbole, unfounded claims and conclusionary
reasoning it seems that some folks are eager to get
rid of Eva, and will use whatever conjecture and
invective to do so. But the info never came directly
to Pacifica, rather it was routed (ask Mark Schubb how
that happened) to people who could be relied upon to
spread rumors without careful analysis. Sorry, Myla.

Thus as soon as Eva came into the station she met
resistance. Former PD asst. Esther Manilla (part of
the management team after Starr) told me that she
refused to give Eva, the newly hired KPFK GM, keys to
the station. I asked her why, she said the info she
had gotten (from S. Africa, via Myla and others)
indicated that Eva was not to be trusted, and until
she was assured otherwise she would not trust Eva
either. Thus distrust was firmly planted. I have asked
Esther literally more than 20 times to speak with me
about this and subsequent events, she refuses; it's
her right.

And other staffers claim they were not influenced by
Esther's (and Roy Hurst's) patent mistrust of Eva. Yet
the mistrust was palpable and plain. Meanwhile, Eva
Georgia has sought to find order in utter chaos. She
sought to bring the community in, she undertook to
help guide the talent (old and new, Sonali being one)
and she instituted programming meetings so all could
be on the same page as to what was being produced at
K, so ideas could be surface and explored. She sought
to work with collectives to cultivate programming
resources, she worked to encourage outreach, to
complete the transmitter project, to find out from the
staff what they felt was needed; she managed. Or she
tried.

The KPFK union contract has languished unsigned for
years (shop steward Marc Cooper and his successors,
including his fmr producer Dan Pavlish who's still at
K, never got the AFTRA contact inked years after
wresting it away from UE). Eva honorably sought to
implement its terms (this later turns up as one of the
demands listed in a staff petition). This meant no
part timers more than 20 hours a week, no temp staff
more than 4 months. But the station was already in
violation of this proviso by many staffmembers. And
the budget could not bear the current staff load, even
with inflated income projections.

Eva sought to implement the terms of the union
contract and bring the station within budget. This
involves cutting temps and bringing part-timers back
to 20 hours. Eva has made some decisions about how to
do this, and whatever she does will be controversial
and imperfect, perhaps even influenced by her human
nature. Does the staff have legitimate grievances? No
doubt. Has Eva made mistakes? Indeed. And vice-versa.
How should we address these issues? I say via
communication, by sitting down at a table and putting
everything on it, sorting it out openly and honestly,
as painful and unpleasant as it may be for all
concerned.

This is Pacifica. I recently said in a staff meeting
(about engaging facilitators and coming to the table
at a two-day retreat to work on the problems) that
unless we are all willing to come to the table and put
our hearts on it honestly, we might as well give up,
leave the room. Sonali Kolhatkar stood up and bravely
announced she would leave, who's with her. No doubt
some of the staff wanted to leave, but they all stayed
for various reasons. Sonali sat back down. The retreat
is scheduled and not soon enough.

Is Pacifica to manage its personnel crises through
petition, magazine articles and speeches at LAB
meetings? Indeed, if that is the only avenue by which
they can be heard, then so it is. But Lydia Brazon and
I have repeatedly (like dozens of times) asked staff
to contact us, to meet with us, to speak with us, to
no avail. We (LAB Chair Lydia Brazon, Eva and I) have
repeatedly sought to implement a facilitated
conversation around this, and met with resistance at
every step. Scoffing and rolling of the eyes, instead
of heartfelt communication. What is more important in
Pacifica than how we communicate and resolve
differences among one another? I do not accept that we
cannot work this out without political powerplays; if
I'm wrong, we have already lost Pacifica. And I will
readily (if reluctantly) accept being wrong in many
things, including my whole analysis above, but I will
not accept that Pacifica cannot work out such problems
in a principled way.

-Dave Fertig

PS: Are some people gleefully wringing their hands in
delight? Indeed. And are some of these folks
contributing to the problem? What would you think? I
find that likelihood quite galling.

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