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What Racism? / What Truth?

by Maria Gilardin Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2002 at 8:31 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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