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A Letter to Oakland Teachers About Pacifica, Race & Democracy

by Sheila Hamanaka
Why a Japanese American children's book author/illustrator is going to Vote NO in the Pacifica bylaws referendum -- it's simple. New Day supporters illegally shut down WBAI NYC in 2019--using the same excuse: finances. Is New Day's "business plan" really institutionalized racism?
Dear Oakland Teachers,

Greetings. I hope you are enjoying a safe, well deserved summer vacation!

My name is Sheila Hamanaka. I am the author & illustrator of All the Colors of the Earth, a picture book that celebrates the diversity of our multiracial, multicultural families. I'm a third generation Japanese American, a sansei. My grandfather died in Poston, a US concentration camp during World War 2, and I am very sensitive to issues of racism and injustice. I value freedom of speech and democracy. I live in New York City.

Some of you, hopefully, are members of Pacifica's station, KPFA. I'm a member of Pacifica, too, of WBAI in New York City. There's a very bitter struggle going on right now within Pacifica. It's over bylaws, and members have until July 7 to vote. I'm going to vote NO. And this is why: (it's a long story--but it's about the deeper issues behind these bylaws: race and power in media).

If you're in a hurry and you'd rather listen to Mumia Abu Jamal, here's his latest comment on Pacifica's bylaws"

About 20 months ago, on October 7, 2019, I turned on WBAI. But instead of hearing producers asking for donations (we were in the middle of a fund drive), something called "Pacifica Across America" was playing. Someone was asking me to donate money to KPFA! I soon found out that there had been a raid on WBAI. A bunch of people had shown up with armed guards and ripped out the mics and computers and kicked everyone out of the building. They padlocked the door and told the landlady, "Cancel the lease. WBAI isn't coming back."

Was it an FBI raid? The NYPD? No. It turns out it was a temporary Executive Director of Pacifica named John Vernile, along with an engineer from our "sister" station WPFW in DC and a board member named Bill Crosier from our "sister" station KPFT in Houston and a couple of other people. Two days before, Vernile had asked our General Manager Berthold Reimers for the password to the WBAI computer. On October 7, Vernile changed the password and seized WBAI's money and its bank accounts. He broke the union contract that protected WBAI's few paid staffers, and fired everyone, including hundreds of unpaid producers--diverse community voices. People who had worked for decades, paying their own expenses. Disappeared.

It was a coup. A no-knock raid. And it was completely illegal.

Vernile had gotten the green light from a small group on the Pacifica National Board (PNB). Under current bylaws, every democratically-elected Local Station Board sends 4 directors to sit on the PNB, which VOTES on its decisions. This small group (which now calls itself "New Day Pacifica") didn't have the votes to take over WBAI. So they did a simple thing. They cheated. They wouldn't let WBAI directors, or any of their supporters on the PNB, vote. Um, isn't that undemocratic. Yes. But they said WBAI could not vote on something that would affect WBAI because it was a "conflict of interest."

Any twelve year old could tell you that this is (excuse me) bullshit. When listeners and staff formed WBAI Fight Back and took them to court, they LOST. Of course. But the losses from the fund drive, plus legal fees on both sides plus the cost of two referenda probably amounts to a million dollars. (The coupster's fancy Wall Street firm billed them $380,000. Quincy McCoy, your KPFA General Manager, reportedly sent them $80,000 of your donations to KPFA to help pay this bill.)

I'm voting NO because 3 of the 4 people in the "New Day Transition Team" SUPPORTED THE WBAI COUP.

Aside from costing Pacifica a fortune and being illegal, the raid was arrogant, and WRONG. It's wrong to rip local shows representing diverse, marginalized communities and radical ideas off the air because they are not bringing in big bucks. It's wrong to pipe in canned programming from other cities. Isn't that what mainstream mass media does?


What to do if you want to seize other stations and can't get the votes you want on the national board? It's simple. You appoint (without election) a bloc of four people ahead of time who will hold uncontested power for three years--the Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer--and then you SHRINK the rest of the national board! You cut the directors from the local stations from 20 down to 5.

Yes. That is "New Day's" solution to being a minority faction. If they can just get members like you to change the rules aka the bylaws, THEY will be the majority!

But New Day will not tell you this, of course. After they DISSOLVE all five current Local Station Boards (LSB) and CANCEL the upcoming LSB elections, they will allow your current board to pick one person to serve on the New Day national board. You can tell from New Day's emails that they have a lot of support at KPFA. They add your station's one vote to their bloc of 4 and that makes 5. 4 + 1 = 5

Remember Bill Crosier? The board member from KPFT Houston who helped Vernile raid WBAI? Well Crosier's majority white faction on the KPFT LSB will guarantee New Day 1 more seat. 5 + 1 = 6.

Currently, staff at local stations each get 1 seat on the PNB (total = 5 seats). New Day plans to SHRINK that down to 2 seats. New Day will split Pacifica staff into two classes: Paid and Unpaid. About 100 paid staff (dominated by KPFA because it has the biggest paid staff) will get 1 seat on the New Day PNB. Unpaid staff (about 1,000 people) will get 1 seat. Um, isn't that like counting each unpaid staffer as 1/10th of a person? No matter. What matters is that New Day is counting on that 1 Paid Staff vote on their New Day PNB. 6 + 1 = 7

Under current bylaws, a couple of hundred "Affiliate" stations that carry Pacifica shows have 2 seats on the PNB. New Day will force them to join a paid association that they control and reduce their seats to 1. 7 + 1 = 8

Do the math, er, arithmetic. The shrunken New Day board will have 15 Directors. As you see above, New Day will "hit the ground running," as they brag, with 8 seats under their control. Why, isn't that the MAJORITY? Well, if that isn't democracy in action, I don't know what is. (Just kidding. Vote NO!) Their New Day majority of 8 will then APPOINT 3 more Directors. And if any Director has to quit, forget elections. The New Day PNB gets to APPOINT a replacement. And guess what? Their is no provision in the New Day bylaws for EVER removing a PNB director.

Oh, but New Day says, under our "more democratic" bylaws, your entire city will get to directly elect ONE rep to the PNB. New Day will institute a form of voting that results in MAJORITY RULE in every case. So, if you have a diverse listenership with diverse interests, too bad.


As Mark Twain said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated?" Pacifica is on the road to recovery. Audits are done. Whatever you hear from New Day is pure "spin." Read the latest report from the interim Executive Director, Lydia Brazon---who is working PRO BONO. Or take a look at Pacifica Fight Back, or read the extensive FAQ put out by the Pacifica Democracy Project.


WBAI got ripped off by the Empire State Building, the only place we could put our transmitter after the Twin Towers collapse of 9/11. The loan taken out to pay off our debt to them has been renewed for another 18 months. As I said before, the $$$ cost of nonstop lawsuits and the WBAI coup and two referenda forced on by New Day & supporters could have paid off a third of the 3.2 million dollar loan. All stations--including KPFA---have fallen behind at times and WBAI is working to get on its feet. Some of us are working on developing media partnerships with other nonprofits. We do not deserve to be raided and disrespected. Note that NONE of the New Day "transition team" come from WBAI or WPFW, the stations with the largest Black audiences and staffs.


If you look at the surface, at the four "diverse" faces of the New Day transition team, you could make the common mistake of thinking, "Oh, I see a person of color. Therefore there is no racism." Sorry. Anytime you have a REDUCTION of local representation, you are going to have racism. Suppose someone looked at our cities. "Oh, look at all that fighting on the City Council!" Let's face it. What are people fighting about today? Racism. Sure, if you shrink your City Council, there will be less fighting. Should we shrink Congress, to stop the fighting? When you reduce local representation, you are supporting the continued control of people on top.

As Mumia Abu-Jamal points out, centralization is always about control. And it hurts the marginalized and the oppressed.

New Day wants to centralize control so it can hire "professionals" (like John Vernile, the corporate, mainstream media veteran who raided WBAI). To pay for the professional Executive Director, and Executive Assistants, and Development Directors, New Day is going to hit up rich donors, and get rid of shows that don't appeal to them or that don't bring in the big bucks.

Take a look at KPFT. The management there, backed by Bill Crosier (the WBAI coupster) recently fired or sent to digital hinterlands over 25 shows produced by unpaid BIPOC programmers. Now KPFT's prime time is 95% white. New Day supporter Bill Crosier, when he was temporary Ex. Dir., called the cops and had them drag out KPFT's only Black General Manager).

See: KPFT WhiteWash

New Day openly disses "shoe string, grassroots" radio. They uphold KPFA as a model, and their mantra of "professionalize, professionalize" appeals to staff who want to be aired nationally at the expense of local programmers. (New Day is backed at KPFA by a largely white paid staff.) It may be invisible to you, but according to unpaid staff who have been fired without notice, KPFA is a company town. Many programmers are afraid to openly oppose New Day.

Yes, there is argument on KPFA's Local Station Board, just like at the other stations. But these arguments, just like in the US Congress and City Councils, is often about race and privilege. And that's a good thing.

In March of this year, at a meeting of the KPFA LSB, two pro-New Day LSB members spent twenty minutes on a bizarre diatribe against Green Party Council members who also sit on the LSB. But later, when another LSB member attempted to introduce a motion to denounce anti-Asian violence, the LSB chair (also a New Day supporter) said, “We don't take positions on public issues.” This was so outrageous and racist--in the midst of vicious attacks on Asians---that New Day later tried to alter the minutes of the meeting. But they were caught.

But how can New Day be racist? Akio Tanaka is their appointee for Secretary of the PNB. Unfortunately for Tanaka, who claims Green Party leadership on his resume, the Green Party of his own Alameda County, plus the Green Party of San Francisco AND Oakland are all urging Pacifica members to "Vote NO!"

But back to racism. KPFA is in an area that is 35% Asian. But KPFA only has one show for all those myriad Asian Pacific Islanders. (And btw, no LGBTQ shows.) Hey, the important thing is to have shows that MAKE MONEY. That's the rationale behind the racist firings at KPFT Houston... where, oddly enough, producers who supported New Day did not get their shows chopped, in fact, some got better time slots! Poor communities do not buy $150, $250 and $500 premiums! No money, no show!

On July 2, 2021 in a bylaws debate on KPFT, New Day spokesperson Teresa Allen made this perfectly clear. Get rid of shows that don't make money. Lyndon Foley, the New Day Treasurer-apparent, WBAI coup supporter, has openly advocated CORPORATE FUNDING. Even though publicly New Day swears on a bible they will never accept corporate money. Ever hear of "campaign promises?"


In that same debate, New Day spokesperson Jim Osborne from KPFK Los Angeles, a pompous white lawyer, called Akio Tanaka "an oriental." An oriental??? OMG. That's like calling an African American a "negro." What racist planet are these New Day spokespeople living on??? Wherever that is, Tanaka is out there with them. Because he accused the BIPOC producers and their supporters who are fighting the racist firings at KPFT "divisive" because they dared to raise the issue of racism. Maybe a better descriptor for Tanaka is "Uncle Tom."

But wait... Sharon Kyle, New Day's pick for Chair of the national board, after she reminds you that she is Black, will insist, "Look! All the BAD things going on in Pacifica are UNDER THE CURRENT BYLAWS! New Day bylaws will SOLVE ALL THESE PROBLEMS!" (paraphrased).

Let's see. Sharon Kyle owns the for-profit L.A. Progressive. L.A. Progressive has been described as being a "KPFK without the 110,000 watts." Well, if Sharon Kyle becomes Chair of the Pacifica National Board, then she and L.A. Progressive WILL have those 110,000 watts---what some describe as a possible conflict of interest. For those feminists out there, let me point out that L.A. Progressive is now a platform for Garrison Keillor, another #MeToo abuser. Just how principled is Sharon Kyle... is it possible she is courting Keillor so Pacifica can cannibalize reruns of his shows, to bring in the mega bucks as she is campaigning she'll do?

When you prioritize money over local, marginalized voices---New Day's Yellow Brick Road---the sky's the limit.

And that sky is very white.

Please vote NO! Take a look at the anti-racist activists and labor leaders who endorse "Vote NO!"

If you mistakenly voted "Yes," you can change your vote to "No."
To do this, contact the National Election Supervisor Renée A Peñaloza at nes [at] or call (510) 993-0320

Stay well.
Peace and justice,
Sheila Hamanaka
WBAI Fight Back
Pacifica Fight Back

PS... I forgot to mention that New Day supporters have repeatedly advocated the sale of WBAI as a quick fix to solve $$$, to the benefit of CA stations. Another reason WBAI-NYC and WPFW-DC directors are excluded from New Day Officer positions til 2024.

by on the July 3 WBAI debate
"weasel words"
by you call yourself journalists ??
plenty of on-air whining and Fox News style journalism from
the New Day Hustlers ...
"Stop the Steal" ,, "landslide" ( 1,000 out of 44,000 is a
landslide ?? ), "technicality" ? err sorry it's the law..

There is a simple way to state this: TWO ELECTIONS ARE REQUIRED BECAUSE IT IS THE LAW. Pacifica is a California non profit corporation. The California Corporations Code controls. When there are two or more classes of members (listener members and staff members) and a proposed bylaws amendment affects the classes differently in a materially adverse way (voting power) a separate election is required for each class. Each class must approve separately for the amendment to be approved. (CA Corp Code Section 5034)

No whining. No fake outrage. No big lies. The current Bylaws here are good not bad, because they follow the law. The language of the current Bylaws is taken from the law, as it should be. When Kyle, Masters et al make this arguement they are advocating an illegal result. This is something an aspiring Chair of the Board and an aspiring "journalist" are expected to know. I, for one, believe they do know. At the very least they should.
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