On January 10, WEAA FM celebrated 39 years on the air.
In celebration, we looked back to see what has brought your community station to the brink of 40, and what is still to come.
WEAA went live on January 10, 1977. Kweisi Mfumé, program director at the time of the station’s launch, said that that his goal was to “revolutionize the listening habits of the Baltimore community. I knew the station had to be different before we came on the air.”
The initial goal was to provide citizens of the Baltimore area with a welcome change to the traditional top 40, providing an outlet for longer-form jazz and intellectual talk. From the start, WEAA has always been a station of the people.
“I have a love of radio because it’s a way of reaching people,” Mfumé said in 1977. “There are just lots of things which can be offered to people – just general bits of information, pleasant thoughts and other relevant communications. I knew that heretofore it wasn’t being done. I knew that I could turn on my radio and I would hear everything except what I wanted to hear.”
As the station evolved in the 80’s, disk jockeys began to play less R&B and more jazz, while holding strong to the format of call-in discussion and news. In the 90’s, we made the switch to being a full-fledged “straight ahead” jazz station with relevant and insightful talk shows.
Today, we operate at 12,600 watts, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and all the while we still manage to represent a blend of all of these constituent parts. WEAA continues to stand for “We Educate African Americans” and all who listen!
Throughout the years WEAA has been and continues to be an award-winning station. Most recently housing and producing award-winning programs like the Marc Steiner Show, named "Most Valuable Radio Show" from The Nation Magazine, and the Anthony McCarthy show recently named Best Talk show host by Baltimore Magazine.
We strivefor this same level of excellence in all endeavors we take on, including our most recent undertaking “Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City,” a new radio show created by Stacia L. Brown as a subset of Localore: Finding America, whose mission to invent new storytelling models with and for communities that public media doesn’t typically reach holds true to our goals.
WEAA is one of only fifteen other public media stations across the country selected for the Localore project, and the only African American station.
"Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City marks an adventurous new turn for WEAA,” said Stacia Brown, creator of the WEAA project. “As a mix of field recording and narration, it sounds unlike anything else the station airs.”
The show will tell stories about many of the systemic city-wide issues WEAA's talk radio shows discuss -- economic inequity, school segregation, housing segregation, and more -- by traveling to historic Baltimore City locations and tracking their growth and struggles through interviews with city residents, entrepreneurs, historians, and civic leaders, a fitting culmination to the decades of work that has come before it.
"We want to produce something that sounds like you're sitting in a room with family and neighbors, young and old, fondly recalling your shared memories of places that have been around as long as you can remember,” Brown said. “We also want to explore, through memory and research, how those businesses were able to survive and how others weren't."
Thanks, as always, to our dedicated group of supportive listeners and members, some of whom have been around for the past 39 years. We could not have made it this far without the help. Thank you for being the Voice of the Community!