Radio Bilingüe honored the anniversary of two community radio stations last week, KBBF 89.1 of Santa Rosa, and KPOO 89.5 of San Francisco. The stations celerated 40 years of programming with a party at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics. About 100 people attended the event, where volunteers served pupusas, rice and beans while a string band played Latin American music. San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía came out to show his support and read selections from his work.
José G. González, program manager of Radio Bilingüe, described the stations’ relationship with the community as symbiotic. “The community wants to have this voice on the air. They support each other,” he said.
Founded in 1973, KBBF says it was first bilingual public radio station in the nation. A group of Latino students and community members from Santa Rosa started the station as a way to celebrate their culture and deliver local and international news in Spanish. KPOO, which says it is the first noncommercial African-American-owned station on the West Coast, started broadcasting in 1971. Its mission is to bring attention to the stories of underrepresented communities, such as Spanish-speakers, women, GLBT, and low-income individuals.
In recent years both KPOO and KBBF have struggled to stay afloat. In 2008, KBBF lost a federal grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As the economy plunged into recession, both stations lost volunteer help. “It’s difficult to find volunteers because people need to get jobs,” KPOO co-founder Terry Collins said.
Also, Collins said, in the last few years both stations have had to deal with a changing demographic. “The Mission is gentrified,” he said.
Even so, maintaining a place where Latinos have a strong voice is important, said KBBF board member Josue Lopez. “We have the numbers, the population, but sometimes not the education, the resources or the political representatives,” Lopez said. “We are exploring the way to address the new generations and those who don’t speak Spanish anymore.”