Think back to the summer of 2020. The uncertainty of the pandemic wasn’t the only thing we were experiencing. That was also when the nation witnessed massive public protests decrying the murders of unarmed Black citizens by police.
As a public media organization with a classical music format, our obvious role was to provide an oasis from the discord. We responded by continuing to play the timeless music that was a source of comfort for our listeners, and by adding a new feature: the twice-daily Pause for Reflection providing an opportunity to reset and refresh with the help of a calming, beautiful piece of music.
But we also felt the need to do more. The moment called upon us to demonstrate our commitment to the value and worth of all our listeners, including people of color who might feel unseen and unheard. Our answer was to create programming that reflected the contributions of people of color to classical music. That’s when the NoteWorthy feature was conceived.
Three times a week, we highlight a work by an overlooked musician of color, or a woman composer or artist from another marginalized group. These selections, by and large, were already in our library, being dusted off perhaps once a year for Black History Month or some other observance. Now our intent is to showcase these overlooked artists regularly. And not just when the NoteWorthy feature is scheduled, but also throughout the mix of classical music we present every hour of every day. The work to diversify our playlist is ongoing, and it continues to introduce listeners to worthwhile composers from every culture, race, ethnic group, gender identification and sexual orientation.
In some ways, that was the easy part. Much more laborious is the effort to look inward, to the structures and practices and systems that make up WDAV as an organization, the better to assure that we are treating our staff equitably, and that they and our Community Advisory Board reflect the diversity of our community. This work is ongoing, and it receives guidance from the policies, values and aspirations of Davidson College, the institution which holds our broadcast license.
WDAV also exists within a system of media organizations that are bound by the ideals and mandate of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 which was enacted to provide everyone in our nation access to the highest levels of quality programming, whatever their race, ethnicity, or economic means.
These factors led us to membership in Public Media for All, a coalition of organizations and professionals brought together to support, inspire, and hold each other to our commitments. As I wrote in September of 2021 upon joining the organization:
“WDAV’s participation in Public Media for All is a way to assure that our station is accountable to our professed commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. As a leading station in the classical music format, we feel a responsibility to model for other stations like ours how they may embrace and accomplish DEI work. We also seek to be true to our stated mission to ‘build community through classical music,’ and realize that this is only possible if our programming, staffing and business practices fully reflect the nation we live in and the region we serve, and respect the diversity of ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives they represent. We believe fervently that pursuing these objectives will make our station stronger, will serve our audience better, and will uphold the highest ideals of public broadcasting.”
This work has at times been challenging, but it is always inspiring. With each new step we take, the promise of a future that truly fulfills our ideals and values becomes more real. You can click here to read our Anti-Racism and Anti-Discrimination Statement, as well as the Action Items we have undertaken as part of this commitment.
November 10th, 2022