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Our Response: Refocusing Our Vision

In June of 2011, Look Up Radio began as an internet radio station with the aim of bridging cultural barriers within the Christian music sphere by playing in equal parts Gospel and CCM. We were optimistic, ambitious, and unfortunately, naive. We engineered our platform to shed light on issues concerning systemic racism, organized and sponsored a rally at Philadelphia’s City Hall in the wake of Michael Brown’s horrendous killing by a white racist law enforcement officer. We even had several on-air panels that addressed the conversation of racial reconciliation head-on – careful to have present voices that represented backgrounds and experiences that are different from our own. We’ve reached out to CCM labels and servicing companies to secure interviews and music to play on our station, only for doors to be slammed in our faces.

What I’ve realized during our 9 years in this business is that many (not all) white Christians have not been interested in having conversations concerning race and reconciliation because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s a lense that they have the privilege of not seeing their world through. As a result, the mere existence of Look Up Radio and our mission to have meaningful conversations (that we hoped would create a spark of progress toward understanding) have almost always resulted in creating more distance. Exposing their silence and complicity on social imbalance, systemic racism, implicit biases, and white supremacy also exposes the privilege they enjoy, and subsequently the guilt that ensues. The way I’ve seen this guilt dealt with is through words like “I don’t see color”, “We are all Americans”,  “We are all Christians/children of G-d”, and “All lives matter”. This dangerous rhetoric ignores our blackness, our struggle, our past, our individuality, our theology, and our personhood. These dangerous words stoke the embers of frustration felt by African Americans across our nation until they are full aflame. These dangerous methods of dismissal are what allow the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, George Floyd, and countless others to perpetuate.

So why have we continued to persist over the past 9 years? Why have we continued to share our support with white Christian artists who have been silent when our black men, women, and children are killed in the street? When major Christian music organizations offer lip service but dismiss accountability? Again, I was optimistic, ambitious, and naive. No longer. Like many of my brothers and sisters across the nation, I am exhausted. However, my emotional fatigue extends now to a personal conviction. 

This morning, as I listened to an emotional plea from rapper and activist Killer Mike regarding the progress the people of Atlanta have made in business, government, and culture, all I could do was say “ouch”. I realized that I could do more to not only to uphold my community but the community of musicians connected to me and the culture we contribute to. Look Up Radio hasn’t done enough to support our community. We haven’t done enough to support the culture in which our station was conceived. And that’s on me.

In the wake of Radio One’s departure from the Philadelphia gospel market, there remain no high-quality black-owned Gospel radio stations in Philadelphia. Our region has some of the best songwriters and musicians the world has to offer, yet they are abandoned without a machine backing their efforts to be heard. While it is tough for any artist to break through to the industry, access to opportunity is more scarce for black Christian artists. It is for these reasons that moving forward, the primary mission of Look Up Radio will be to support and promote African American Christian music. This does not mean that we are no longer willing to be a part of the conversation of reconciliation, nor does this mean we will no longer play white Christian artists. Rather, we will continue to offer diversity with a focus on black-curated content. We understand the value of media that is for black people, curated by black people, and owned by black people. This means we will play a lot more of the music that reflects our culture (traditional, contemporary gospel, praise & worship, Christian hip-hop, indie, etc), talk about the issues that concern us, and promote businesses that value us.

So, I invite you to visit us, to listen, to allow us to be that safe place to submit your music, advertise your black-owned business, voice your frustrations with politics, encourage and inspire others, and share your interests and ideas. Allow us to help build a better, more vibrant, and sustainable community. 

With humility,

Gene Burke, Owner

Look Up Radio

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