BLACK TALK radio in Philadelphia is often an over-the-back-fence kind of conversation.
For at least three decades, the African-American community has exchanged the latest news, gossip or social outrage daily on WDAS, WHAT or WURD. The strength of black talk is that it is an essentially private within-the-group dialogue in a public venue transmitted on a radio frequency.
While the hosts changed over the years, many of the callers remained constant. The stalwarts, past and present, with their descriptive radio names include:
Miss Ann (the Penn Fruit Lady), Leon Williams, Beverly, Brittany, Miss Ruth Helen, Pam Africa, Hannibal, Hotep, Wayne Moore, Barbara Jean Hope, Ron from North Philly, Ron from Nicetown, Rob from Mount Airy, Brother Rob, Brother Kentu, Brother Okane, Mr. Willie, Sister Dee, Sister Carol, Sister Aminah Hotep, Louise (Mommy) Hannibal, Mr. Osiris, Big Jim from West Philly, Darrell Hinton, Leola, Joey, Jerome Avery, Momma Sally, Carl, Mr. Knox, Sacaree Rhodes, Rev. Joe, Miss Laurie, Mr. Peel, Miss Bell, Flagman . . . and then there was Fred.
He was omnipresent. While he never tried to be politically correct, he was always consistent. He was angry, and he wanted the world to know it. But as we listened to his rants, we understood that his anger didn't come from a place of hate. In a way, he represented the pent-up frustrations of his community.
Fred was his radio name, but he was born Marshall Golden, the son of a famous black jazz musician from back in the day. Since the 1990s, Fred called the radio stations daily, sometime three and four times. It's said he carried a radio with him at all times so he was never out of touch with the dialogue as he moved around the city as a courier. With his pockets full of change, he used a network of pay phones so he could dial up in an instant, staying on hold for as long as half an hour so his opinion on whatever the topic was would be heard.
BLACK TALK radio informs, entertains, is a friend to the elderly and, in many cases, acts as a call to action.
Often, the conversations tackle issues and concerns never presented in the majority media. Getting rid of nuisance stop-and-go's in inner-city neighborhoods, the demand for African-American history to be taught in the public schools, the lack of minority participation on publicly funded construction projects, and national and local politics all represent conversations on black talk radio that then spilled out onto the streets.
Over the years, many of the loyal listeners and callers to black radio showed up at rallies and demonstrations in support of community issues. And often they were recognized because of their radio fame. Fred enjoyed the attention nearly as much as he enjoyed castigating elected officials. He didn't care if you agreed with his words or tone because he'd found his voice.
But last week, just hours after calling Reggie Bryant's radio program on WURD, at 53 he suffered a heart attack and died.
Black talk radio in Philly without Fred?
That's pretty hard to conceive. *