A new community radio station begins streaming online March 27, with an FM signal that covers much of South Minneapolis set to go live this summer.
The Southside Media Project is five years in the making. The project began as a conversation about the state of media in terms of social justice. When the Federal Communications Commission opened up low-power FM licenses for the first time in 30 years, Station Manager Brendan Kelly said the group realized radio would provide an accessible and low-cost vehicle for their vision.
“You don’t even have to be literate to use the radio. It kind of seemed perfect,” Kelly said.
Applications for show topics have ranged from local hip hop and relationship advice to Indigenous music and Somali women’s health. More than 30 new programs include a Haitian Creole show, AfroEuphoria Radio by Lula Selah and recordings from White Earth and Leech Lake radio stations, as well as syndicated content like “Democracy Now!”
The show El Huateque, hosted by community organizer Filiberto Nolasco Gomez, is an adaptation of a podcast he’s been doing for years.
“He’s interviewed everybody from international music stars to Council Member Alondra Cano,” Kelly said.
Ashley Fairbanks is launching a show called 115 blocks that spotlights local community organizing efforts, co-hosted by Matthew Croaston of Congressman Keith Ellison’s office. The Pratfalls, hosted by Levi Weinhagen, will provide a weekly spot for Weinhagen’s long-running podcast about creative workers. Sixth graders at Ramsey Middle School produce a segment called “Local History Matters,” which covers topics like redlining, the Minneapolis Lakers, Theodore Wirth and the Plymouth Avenue riots of 1967. An architecture show by Savannah Steele will explore Twin Cities buildings with a philosophical eye.
“I’ve never really heard this on the radio,” said Kelly.
He hopes the station can provide an onramp to professional journalism by teaching audio production skills. Three free trainings each month will give people a chance to come try the equipment, with different classes for varying experience levels and recording equipment available to loan out.
The station is located at Waite House Community Center on East 24th Street, where the 100-watt signal will broadcast five miles in each direction. Staff have enlisted 200 volunteers and built out the studio.
“The only thing that’s not up yet is our on-air sign,” Kelly said.
The Southside Media Project is owned and operated by Pillsbury United Communities, a nonprofit that works to move people toward economic stability, and the organization has so far provided much of the funding. The project is raising funds at GiveMN to support the station and install the antenna.
Kelly is often asked to compare the station to KFAI.
“I wish there were five KFAIs instead of one,” he said.
As listeners punch through the radio dial, he said, it doesn’t reflect the diversity of a community like South Minneapolis.
“We say something to the community about who has value by the stories we share in the public square,” Kelly said.