Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists

The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, or TBABJ, is an active group that "strives to help ensure diversity in area media and accurate, balanced coverage of communities of color while serving as a resource for both established and aspiring communicators of African decent."

President (and St. Pete Times TV/media critic) Eric Deggans:

The TBABJ and its national parent, the NABJ, were founded on the belief that once journalists of color succeed, they have an obligation to reach back and help those behind them.

So we have banded together to create training programs, job fairs, scholarship programs, cultural awareness training and more, to help the industry diversify itself and cover all communities better. The techniques and networking that we have pioneered winds up helping journalists of all ethnicities, who learn from our example and are welcome to participate in our organizations.

Volunteering with NABJ is just a way of paying back those who came before me and blazed a trail so my journey would be easier. With any luck, I've helped firm up ground so those behind me can have an even easier time.

By the way, according to the website (powered by the media reform group Free Press) racial and ethnic minorities make up 34% population but own only 7.7% of full-power radio stations and 3.15% of TV stations. Something to think about.

If you're interested in getting involved with the TBABJ, now is the time. With the NABJ conference coming to Tampa from August 5th-9th, there's plenty of prep to do this weekend. Contact membership chair Camille C. Spencer at 248.760.7561 or visit the website at:



Tribeca ColorSalon's Creative Director Brandon Wagner is a man who cares about carcinogens, that is, keeping them out of his salon. "The salon industry is not exactly eco-friendly," he said, talking about the link between sulfates and parabens to breast cancer. (Coincidentally, as I drove to Tribeca last Thursday, I was listening to Nena Baker talk about her book The Body Toxic on WMNF.)

"Color is 95% water. Pigment itself is not dangerous." They don't use ammonia, and even the bleach they used to clean with has been replaced with vinegar and baking soda, in addition to all-natural cleaners, like soap nuts instead of laundry detergent ("You don't need fabric softener!"). Reusable gloves have replaced disposable, and the plastic drinking straws they once used were switched to paper - and those will soon be traded for fully biodegradable straws made of corn syrup. To cut down on paper waste, they've gone digital, utilize dry erase boards, and will soon have Dyson Airblade hand dryers to eliminate paper towel usage.

The uber-renewable resource, hair, is sent to Matter of Trust, a company that constructs mats to clean up oil spills.

Being good often comes with a price. "All the stuff costs more upfront," Brandon said. In addition, he shells out to pay for recycling. The business isn't struggling (they're opening a second location, Becky, in Ybor this fall), and he thinks Mother Earth and Tribeca's clientele and stylists are worth it.

"Are people changing their ways? I don't know. The idea is that the clients see our efforts, go home, and do it too. It's part of our message."

Oh, and on the 4th Thursday of every month, Khris Rantz's mobile Galaxy Ecowash offers ecofriendly car washing to Tribeca staff and customers. "Get your hair done and vehicle cleaned at the same time." The Korean steam method uses just about a gallon of water per vehicle. His next scheduled appearance at Tribeca is August 27th, but check out his website for more info.



While layoffs and high unemployment make life rough for us working (or wanting to work) folk, there's plenty of people unable to take care of themselves at all, at any given time. Services in place to help the neediest are struggling with "across the board cuts to Florida's most vulnerable citizens - seniors and kids." So said Michelle Cyr, Advocacy Program Coordinator for AARP Florida last week at an open house in St. Pete.

Below, Cyr wrote about the issues the AARP is currently taking on.

The severe downturn in the economy and the rapidly-rising cost of health care in America may be putting your retirement security at risk. AARP staff and volunteers are working with President Obama and Congress to generate the relief Americans need. Whether it’s fighting for affordable health care, lower prescription drug prices, or strengthening Social Security, our goal is to make issues that affect you a priority for our leaders. By taking a stand together, we will have the legislative strength necessary to fight for real and meaningful change. For more information about what AARP is doing in Florida visit or call 1-866-595-7678.

AARP can help those 50+ train & find a job, get free tax help, and more. They're currently seeking volunteer advocates (spokespeople on issues such as long term care, predatory mortgage lending, and Social Security), and Health Action Now volunteers.


Woodyfest II

When junior high school history teacher Mike Nave, a native of Pryor, Oklahoma, taught in his hometown, he gave two entire weeks to Woody Guthrie. The grand finale was a surprise visit by Mary Jo Edgmon, Woody's sister. In the spring of '98, she connected him with Sharon Jones of Okemah, who wanted to start a festival in town for Woody. By July, the first festival was held.

"This year was one of the better ones," said Nave (pictured above with Wanda Jackson and husband Wendell Goodman, at a pre-festival concert in Tulsa). He said he didn't notice any decrease in turnout, despite the economy. It is a free festival after all. Volunteerism, however, was down. Nave, now based in Texas, had lined up a few students to help out but they bailed at the last minute.

Alex Elliott, in his sixth year of volunteering at the festival, picked up the slack. And the equipment when the house band or any other performer needed an extra pair of hands. A college senior from the same hometown as Nave, Elliott insists he's not a folk music fan, listing other reasons he keeps coming back: "Sam Baker, Ronny Elliott, and Rob McNurlin." He also likes the spirit of the festival, which is exactly what Mike Nave looks for in his volunteers.

Log onto the festival website for more info & to get involved at next year's festival.

2/3 of the Burns Sisters with Annie Guthrie. On left, Nancy Apple and Ronny Elliott give toothy grins.

Photos courtesy of Nancy Apple and her trusty iPhone.


88.5 WMNF

I was new to Tampa in the spring of 2005 and quickly found WMNF on the radio dial. Ready to get involved, I emailed Carrie Core, who was then the brand new volunteer coordinator. She called me back in 15 minutes, and by the end of the week I was in the station for the first time. Since then, I've done a little of everything: manned outreach tables at events, ticket taker at shows, producer, editor, reporter, early morning DJ & sub. The time I've been able to give the station as a volunteer has waxed and waned over the years, but it remains an important part of my life (and not just because I met my husband there ;)

Here's a few words from Carrie herself:

WMNF volunteers are the heart and soul of this radio station. We wouldn't and couldn't exist without them. Volunteers do everything from stuffing envelopes to hosting radio shows. If you truly desire a multicultural environment, you will find it here at the station. Our volunteers are a reflection of the variety of shows that we have on the air. So if you are a student who needs to spice up your resume, or need the community service hours for your Bright Futures Scholarship, if you
are retired or presently out of work with some hours to spare, you might want to check us out.

In other WMNF news, from Development Director Laura Taylor (via the WMNF website): WMNF is honoring Vicki Santa, our longtime and late station manager, who was the main force behind our new radio station building.

We are naming our main air-studio in her memory. On July 21st, WMNF will dedicate the Vicki Santa Memorial Studio beginning at 6pm with a live studio performance from Sonia of the group Disappear Fear. Mary Glenney of the Women's Show will emcee the concert. Sonia will also appear with Amy Snider on Sonic Detour between 4 and 6 pm. From 7 to 9pm, Ed Greene and the Freak Show will feature the naming ceremony and dedicate the entire program to Vicki.

Those who want to see Sonia will be seated on a first-come basis. The whole community is invited to our station for a potluck from 6 to 9pm. More at 813-238-8001.


Woodyfest I

Woody Guthrie’s hometown is at least 70 miles from anywhere. Last Wednesday, we drove in early from Tulsa. Ronny’s first gig was at 11 a.m. at the Colonial Park nursing home. Three other musicians played three other nursing homes as part of festival outreach.

In downtown Okemah that evening, SONiA kicked the festival wide open at the Crystal Theatre. Not your average folkie, she’s the perfect act for those who come hungry from small and/or conservative towns ravenous for like-mindedness and a Guthrie flavored family reunion. SONiA sang about peace, love, and soldiers from Viet Nam to Iraq (“Me Too”); and individual Americans who stand up for all of us (“Who’s So Scared”). One of her most poignant songs, “By My Silence,” was adapted from the WWII Pastor Martin Niemoller poem: “I didn’t know what it meant/By my silence I gave my consent.”

SONiA’s encore was a bluesy number, and she said she’s currently at work on a blues album. Next week, on July 21st, she’ll perform in Tampa at WMNF for the celebration of the life of her friend (and ours) Vicki Santa, the late station manager.

Jonatha Brooke completed the night playing much from her latest album, a collection of Guthrie songs, entitled “The Works.” Her songs are sexy and romantic, and quite a few listeners were taken by Brooke, but my camp felt her songs definitely fell short of Mermaid Avenue. Then again, most albums will.

The next afternoon at the Brick Street CafĂ©, Red Dirt singer-songwriter Monica Taylor played “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” and “If I Were a Carpenter” as well as her originals.

Randy Crouch, the fiddlin’ master, followed, packing the dusty basement. David Amram accompanied on Indian flutes and the French horn (not to be outdone, Crouch grabbed his Bud bottle and blew). Randy fiddled the blues, “Okalahoma Hills” and wrapped with the “William Tell Overture.”

Jimmy LaFave, along with the house band (which backed up many of the artists throughout the festival), closed the afternoon show with a tribute to Bob Childers, a festival regular who passed away last Spring.

Loss was an undercurrent of the week. Just over a month ago, festival founder Sharon Jones also passed away. But that just made the importance of this ego-free, family festival shine brighter.


Can You Hear Me Now?

A few summers ago before I got involved on the air at WMNF as a DJ and reporter, I'd trek up to USF once a week to sit in a little booth for an hour to read magazines, tv listings, and other local publications aloud. My recorded reading was then broadcast out to special radios in the homes of the visually impaired.

Earlier this summer, I received an email from the same folks I worked with at WUSF, telling me about TBPAC's new service for the blind - audio description. I applied and endured lots of training to get the skill down just right. SPT's reporter John Fleming followed us around during our training and reported on it here.


Is There Any News in Your News?

Even back to the days of Ed Murrow, television news had a rep for being lame, uninformative, and tainted by advertisers. Local news at worst can be harmful (does that half hour of crime and punishment really convey what your town is like?), and national news irrelevant (more Michael Jackson, anyone?). But recently I've come to love the NBC Nightly News w/ Brian Williams, especially their Making a Difference segment, which highlights do-gooders in this current hard economic climate.


Closing Night

Jimmy LaFave opened this morning's festivities with "Oklahoma Hills" at Mary Jo's Pancake Breakfast. His voice and that song are one of my favorite combinations. LaFave and the ensemble cast closed the night singing "This Land is Your Land." Both songs can easily make me misty eyed, but it was the sight beyond backstage - the crowd standing and singing along -that moved me most today.

The official end of the festival is tomorrow at noon, the Hoot for Huntington's hootenanny, at the Crystal Theatre. But outside my hotel room door and down in the parking lot, I can hear music wafting up already. It's the unofficial end, when the musicians stay up all night playing and saying good bye to their festival family. 'Til next year.



A couple of years ago, Ronny Elliott, one of my favorite Tampa do-gooders, told me about the annual Woody Guthrie festival in Okemah, Oklahoma. A music festival with a message that hasn't gone corporate, and remains free? I've always wanted to go. (Che Guevara may have been on a Gap t-shirt, but as far as I know, those capitalists haven't touched least one good thing about having a festival in the desert in the middle of the summer.)

I got a slight taste of the festival in March, when the Ribbon of Highway played Tampa Theatre. On Tuesday morning, Ronny and I left Tampa for Oklahoma. But first I asked him to write a few words about what the festival & the man mean to him.

I never cared all that much about Woody Guthrie. He was mostly just the guy that gave us Bob Dylan. I remember Martin Mull's quote, " Folk music. Remember when that crap almost caught on!" I suppose that in my own snooty fashion folk music was some kind of social phenomena for white guys who just didn't have all that much soul.

Of course I came to appreciate Woody's music and philosophies more over the years but it was never gonna bump Chuck Berry or Elvis or Big Joe Turner from their thrones in my heart.

Then I was invited to play the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma some five or six years back. The power of the music just overwhelmed me. By my second visit I was a true convert. I believe that was the year that I looked around and found myself standing onstage with Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Arlo Guthrie and lots of other folks, singing as loud as we could, with the entire audience singing along. " This land was made for you and me." I looked out at the first few rows and I could see tears streaming down cheeks. Mine, too. I never thought I liked that damned song. I thought it was corny. Guess it was just over my head. I get it now. I never get tired of that song.

I bide my time for eleven months a year waiting for July and Woodyfest.


I saw On the Waterfront for the first time last week, a day or two before Karl Malden died. Father Barry's monologue about the waterfront being his church reminded me of the whole good vs. evil thing, and despite changing times, we're no more far ahead or behind than we were back when those words were written.

In the character of Edie I found more hope, with her quote: "Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?"


I was sitting in the Starbucks at TGH the other day when I spied what I thought was among the quintessential American scenes. A middle aged lady with an armload of McDonald's came in for her morning joe, and when she attempted to exit with both hands full, she was unable to pull down the handle to open the door.

Meanwhile, a young doctor brisked by the windows and doors of the cafe, paying more attention to his hand held device than to where he was walking. After he was out of view, he came back a second later to get the door for her. She thanked him, calling him sir, and he smiled. Then they scurried off their separate ways.