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by S Hamanaka Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003 at 1:54 PM


Pacifica Radio, with its potential audience of 60-70 million listeners across the country, is the most influential left media outlet in the United States. The question is: who will control it? A bitter struggle over affirmative action has split the interim Pacifica National Board (iPNB) along racial lines. Pacifica Radio has stations in five cities: KPFA/Berkeley, KPFK/Los Angeles, KPFT/Houston, WPFW/Washington DC, and WBAI/New York.

Now, in a move that has many crying foul, Leslie Cagan, (who wears two hats as chair of Pacifica and co-chair of the huge United for Peace and Justice), has unilaterally and illegally cancelled the iPNB meeting scheduled for the Big Apple August 15-17. Such cancellations require a board meeting and approval. Instead, Cagan has ordered the iPNB and reps from Pacifica's five Local Advisory Boards (LABs) to be closeted away in a Chicago hotel this weekend to try and resolve the split over Diversity in Pacifica's new bylaws. Cagan, who voted against affirmative action remedies, chose Chicago to get away from local activists. In particular, New York has a diverse, radical local board and is a stronghold of affirmative action supporters.

After a near takeover by centrist Democratic Party forces that sought to mainstream the network's five stations and possibly sell one or two, progressives launched a mass campaign coupled with a series of lawsuits that landed all parties in the courtroom of Judge Sabraw in Oakland, CA. Part of the settlement agreement called for democratic elections of the Local Station Boards.

Ironically, the progressive white leadership now finds itself in the conservative position of opposing affirmative action. They purport to be fearful of a white backlash and a conservative Supreme Court, despite the recent Michigan decisions which civil rights attorneys hailed as a victory for affirmative action.

Announcing the Chicago meeting, Cagan wrote: "It is time for everyone committed to Pacifica to help us develop a compromise that works, one that will allow us to adopt bylaws, move into elections of local boards and a new national board and to begin the next phase of re-building this network."

Cagan's seemingly reasonable announcement was met with shock and outrage. Pacifica Treasurer Jabari Zakiya wrote to Cagan: "Being the Chair of this **INTERIM** Board, per the Settlement Agreement, gives you no special powers to unilaterally void votes of the entire iPNB, as you are trying to do by canceling our vote to have an iPNB meeting in NY Aug 15-17, nor to unilaterally decide to have a meeting in a city of YOUR choice, for purposes of YOUR choosing, with people YOU are designating."

Cagan's move falls on the heels of a June motion put before Judge Sabraw's court (under the terms of the agreement that settled the Pacifica lawsuits) by other white directors. The motion, based on a technicality, discounted the votes, of several African American directors, including Zakiya, who refused to endorse Draft "B" of the bylaws, which purposely omits affirmative action. Even though Draft "B" failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority on the iPNB, Judge Sabraw ruled that it passed.

Supporters of Draft "B" contend that Pacifica is floundering without bylaws and that the African Americans dissidents on the board are banding together with the remaining "hijackers" who supported the former chair Mary Francis Berry.

Again, Jakiya to Cagan: "YOU also just PRESUME to have the authority to spend $20K-$40K? on this meeting, without the Board having any vote on the use of these Foundation monies. In effect, YOU have ordained yourself to have unilateral EXECUTIVE POWER, which was specifically prohibited by the Settlement Agreement. So what is the difference between what you are doing in attempting to exercise dictatorial power versus what you all claimed Mary Francis Barry/Bessie Wash did? "

"B" supporters claim affirmative action favors people based on skin color and not politics and will lead to the return of the "hijackers" like Mary Francis Berry, who is African American.

Affirmative action supporters, a diverse group led by radicals of color, claim Pacifica suffers from "institutional racism" after a decade of purges which saw the dismissal of radical programmers of color at several stations. They point to the lack of representation and programming for Latinos, Asians, persons with disabilities, persons in prison, undocumented and rank and file workers, and other underrepresented groups

The peace movement in the United States has long been criticized for racism by activists of color and seeks to address that problem. Cagan is a leader of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 650 groups. Like the National Organization of Women, UFPJ requires diversity on its national board. UFPJ has an affirmative action policy that resembles the affirmative action remedy proposed for Pacifica. "B" supporters maintain affirmative action remedies are "illegal" and "divisive" and that giving preference to people of color denies voters their rights.

The struggle for power within Pacifica has escalated. A Chicano affirmative action supporter in L.A. has received online threats. White-led programmers at WBAI are seeking the ouster of a pro-affirmative action LAB rep, hoping to keep the militant attorney away from the negotiating table in Chicago. Recently "B" supporters have resorted to secretly wiretapping private conference calls of affirmative action supporters and sending the tapes to Cagan. In addition the official website of the WBAI Local Advisory Board has been hacked and racially-tainted slurs posted. As well, "B" supporters posted unauthorized inflammatory headlines on the official WBAI site. Meanwhile, outside the ranks of Pacificans, racism appears to be alive and well: in Los Angeles, the Program Director and the General Manager of KPFK, both people of color, have received death threats after increasing programming for the Chicano/Latino communities.

Cagan has ordered that the Chicago talks be limited to diversity but leaders of the three LABs that voted down Draft "B" are holding out to include negotiations over democracy and transparency, which would allow listeners fo vote for all major amendments and include listener access to Pacifica financial records. Two-thirds of the directors on the iPNB and three out of the five Local Advisory Boards must ratify the bylaws before they can take effect.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 24 posted about this article.
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S Hamanaka- Propagandist provocateur watch Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 at 8:49 PM
Ms. Hamanaka is a brave soul Edwin Johnston Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 4:12 AM
Free Pacifican Eileen J. Goodman Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 8:34 AM
I'm new to this board - where's my first post? Eileen J Goodman Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 8:48 AM
Learning is Fun Wake Up! Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 12:36 PM
One-Sided Story Only Eileen J. Goodman Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 1:08 PM
I have a chant for you! go go Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 1:22 PM
When you don't have a decent counter-argument Eileen J. Goodman Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 1:29 PM
Da, mr. wilson Ivan Badanov Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 6:20 PM
poor boy Ivan Badanov Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 6:29 PM
Sometimes it takes ahile for a post to post Eileen Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 3:47 AM
KPFK and LA-IMC lynx-13 Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 12:58 PM
Pacifica. Sheepdog Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 2:42 PM
Sometimes a Weak Notion Edwin Johnston Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 3:20 PM
Pacifica Sheepdog Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 8:26 PM
To Lynx - thank you Eileen Monday, Aug. 18, 2003 at 5:11 AM
Pacifica's Racial Divide Rafael Renteria (repost) Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2003 at 4:32 AM

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