|WDKX Logo with the faces of Frederick Douglass,
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X... three great African-American leaders. Men who made tremendous contributions to history.
Rochester, New York's 103.9 WDKX radio station chose these great men's last names, as their call letters. Since it's debut on Rochester's radio airwaves in 1974, WDKX has boasted of being Rochester's first and only "Black owned radio station" and of "serving the community". However, the reality is the radio station leaves alot to be desired if you just listen to public opinion on the streets. Despite WDKX's obvious narcissistic and grandiose self complex, an overwhelming percentage of Rochesterians know the truth about "104 DKX".
Just ask Rochester hip hop artist Miguel Benet better known as "Ice Grill" who has been in the game 15 years, and has opened up for major acts such as Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon. As Ice Grill puts it, "Local talent has been overlooked for too many years to count, the only time WDKX shows support is when someone makes it, then they make it seem as if they were loyal". Like many local artists, Ice Grill has been shown love by other radio outlets, including some from out of state. "I have actually had my music played on Rochester college stations such as 89.7 and 88.5 and an FM station in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as an internet station based out of Atlanta, Georgia". Ice Grill, who has performed in Harlem's legendary Apollo Theatre, says alot of it is about one word: Payola. "If you don't grease the wheels, you don't get movement on 104 WDKX, money and who you know are the things that dictate your play in the 585, WDKX shows no support, no encouragement and no loyalty".
Then there's Rochester's Juan Nieves a.k.a. DJ Big Spliff who has been in the game for two decades, and who has always made it a point to support local talent by featuring them on his mixtapes. "My latest mixtape, HoodMoney Vol. 4 actually features more local talent than any other mixtape I have put out before". When it comes to the radio station, Nieves says "I can't remember the last time I heard a local artist on WDKX, stations like WCMF and WLGZ dedicate a whole show once a week to local artists... it's about time our urban artists get the same love and support from our so called "Community station, 104 WDKX".
585's own Lil' Eto, another skilled veteran who is featured on Peedi Crack's video "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta" along with Cuban Link and Poerilla pulls no punches when expressing his feelings about WDKX "They never supported me and I believe they never will".
But it's not just artists who feel that Rochester's first and only "Black owned" radio station is not supportive of the Rochester community, as Rochester resident Samuel Mann puts it "WDKX blocked me from making comments just because I was telling the truth, they never play local talent or showcase it. All they think about is capital. If you aren't paying, then they aren't playing local artists. Wease plays local artists for free, just to give them publicity. WDKX also never publicizes local events unless they are getting paid to do so." Mann wanted to thank me for writing about something he feels is long overdue "It's about time someone pointed this out" he said.
Even those in Rochester's business community have alot to say when it comes to WDKX. Cassandra Johnson, an African-American businesswoman wants her disappointment in the radio station to be known. "Since Mr. Andrew Langston, the founder of WDKX passed, and his son took over, the station has lost not only my respect, but that of the community as well. Mr. Langston was a good man, he cared about the community, unlike his son, Andre Marcel. It's all about what Andre can put in his pocket now".
As a filmmaker and writer who's worked hard for years to expose the corrupt Rochester, NY police department, for me, this piece actually hits home on a personal level...
I remember that cold January day in 2001, I was downtown handing out flyers letting people know about my film: R.P.D. EXPOSED! about Vandy Davis, an unarmed Jamaican father of three young children who was murdered by Rochester Police officer David Gebhardt, who claimed he tripped over an extension cord causing him to "accidentally" discharge his shotgun, striking Davis in the chest.
I walked down East Main Street with my stack of flyers, and along the way I stopped at WDKX. I introduced myself to the receptionist and explained to her that I was trying to let the community know about my film and needed the station's support. The receptionist very rudely told me I would not be able to talk to anyone and that the best she could do was to take my name and number. About a week later, I got a call from Mike Paz of WDKX. Before I could a get a word out he asks me "So, how many spots are you looking to buy?" I replied "Excuse me?" He said "Well, you have this film and you want to buy advertisement right?"
I explained to him that as a filmmaker, I was trying to create public awareness of the Rochester Police Department's long history of abusing and murdering unarmed, innocent minorities, like Vandy Davis. I also told him that as a minority owned radio station I needed their support in getting the word out to the community about my film. Mike Paz told me that if I wasn't looking to buy advertising then we had nothing to talk about, then hung the phone up on me! I can't really describe how I felt, but I do recall that I was still holding the phone in my hands several seconds later in disbelief at how rude and unprofessional WDKX's staff had been to me not only in person, but also on the phone. The next thing I remember thinking was how ironic that a radio station that I had grown up listening to, and who always seemed to take pride in being "Black owned" had a white man tell me that if I wasn't spending money, there was nothing to talk about, before hanging up the phone on me!
For years, WDKX has benefited from a monopoly-like status of being Rochester's only "minority owned" urban radio station. That being said, many Rochesterians, have had to settle for what WDKX really is... a poor representation of what an urban radio station should be. As a Latino and a Rochester native, I'm disgusted and embarassed to have a radio station in my hometown like WDKX, always bragging of being "Black owned" and claiming to be "down with the community" when in fact, quite the opposite is true.
Whether it's WDKX refusing to support local talent, selectively blocking callers from their corny "Water cooler" segments, or having a white man hang the phone up on someone who has stood up against the corrupt Rochester Police Department, there is nothing "Community" about WDKX. Frankly, the radio station should be ashamed to have named itself after three great African-American men, men who represented everything the radio station does not!