By Barney Blakeney
Several local civil rights organizations November 27 began picketing at Cumulus Radio Station Group’s North Charleston studios to address allegations of racial discrimination in employment. Led by S.C. National Action Network, The Coalition (People United To Take Back Our Community) and the North Charleston Branch NAACP, enjoined about 30 picketers protesting at the Leeds Avenue studios.
South Carolina National Action Network President Elder James Johnson said Black employees at the radio group’s five local stations – WWWZ-93 FM, WMGL-107.3 FM, WSSX-95 FM, WIWF-96.9 FM and WTMA-1250 AM – reached out to NAN last month to ask its intervention in efforts to address ongoing racial discrimination in employment. Johnson said his organization over the past month tried without success to meet with Cumulus Radio executives. The employees previously filed complaints with management, but were ignored, Johnson said.
Number one locally rated and Cumulus Charleston’s highest revenue grossing station is WWWZ-93FM, targeted at the young urban Black audience. But since Cumulus took over the stations in 2011, the staff of its ‘cash cow’ consistently is discriminated against, Johnson and the employees allege.
“African American employees have been subjected to years of widespread systemic racial discrimination … African Americans have been denied the opportunity to be hired for sales (positions), (other) jobs, promotions, fair wages and paid work assignments,” NAN said in a statement provided Tuesday.
One employee said as in most racially integrated work environments, there always has been some racial discrimination within the company. But since Cumulus’ takeover, the discrimination has increased exponentially.
Pastor Thomas Dixon, founder of The Coalition (PUTTBOC) said, “In 2018 Black employees still suffer the same discrimination that’s existed in this country for the past 400 years! It’s ironic that new-age slave masters still are cracking the whip on the people who make their money for them. It’s the new Jim Crow.” Dixon said Tuesday’s pickets are only the beginning. “We’re going to target others to let them know that dog no longer will hunt. We will be agitating and escalating.”
North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant said the protest got off to a heated start Tuesday, but the effort must go beyond picketing to include challenging the Cumulus group’s Federal Communications Commission license and boycotting its advertising sponsors.
“Blacks propelled Cumulus to the top, Blacks can push them to the bottom,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to demand economic reciprocity.”