Utrice Leid

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Utrice Leid


Utrice Leid

Early life

Utrice Leid was born in Prince's Town, Trinidad and Tobago to a salesman father and a homemaker mother. She later described to her radio listeners the long talks she and her siblings would have with her father Claude. He would ask them to ponder over the question, "What is going to be your statement in life?." This was not an inquiry into their future professions, but rather what purpose their entire lives would serve[1].

US education

Leid came to the United States at the age of eighteen, prepared to start college. However, when she was being interviewed, her interviewer, whom she described as a "blithering idiot", suggested instead she start over as a freshman in high school. She views this as the beginning of her activism, since she believes that the woman failed to see beyond her color and to her impressive academic record. She attended Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, where she became active in local black power groups. She then began to volunteer at radio station WBAI[2].

Radicalization

While at WBAI Lied became active in the labor movement, becoming the worker's shop steward and devoting much of her airtime as host of the popular Talkback program to worker's rights and illegal immigrants seeking work in the United States[3].

East Bloc visit

In 1985, a delegation of 16 Afro-American journalists traveled to the Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia[4].

The delegation consisted of

The trip was organized by International Organization of Journalists executive Don Rojas, the American educated former press secretary to Grenada's late leader Maurice Bishop[6], in conjunction with the Black Press Institute, the National Alliance of Black Journalists and the National Newspaper Publishers Association-the US's largest organization of owners of black newspapers.

According to one of the tours leaders Alice Palmer[7];

The trip was extraordinary because we were able to sit down with our counterparts and with the seats of power in three major capitals-Prague, Berlin and Moscow. We visited with foreign ministers, we talked with the editors of the major newspapers in these three cities...
It was a very unusual trip because we were given access...Every effort was made to give us as much as we asked for...We came back feeling that we could speak very well about the interest of the socialist countries in promoting peace.
This was before the (Soviet nuclear test ban) moratorium, this was before the Reykjavik offers...It was very clear to us in our conversations and interviews with people at that time, that this was already something of concern and, something that would be promoted when the opportunity arose, as we can see that it has been.

Malcolm X conference

A conference, Malcolm X: Radical Tradition and a Legacy of Struggle was held in New York City, November 14 1990.

Progressive Publishers and Media Wars

Chairperson:

Panel:

  • Utrice Leid, City Sun Newspaper

Coup/controversy

In 2000, Leid was notified by the new Pacifica National Board, which controlled WBAI at the time, that WBAI station manager Valerie Van Isler would be removed from her post. Leid accepted the position, not knowing the chaos that would soon ensue. In what became to be known as The Christmas Coup, on December 23, 2000, Utrice Leid officially became the station manager at 1:00 am. She changed the locks to the station and created a list of workers that would be allowed to enter the station; not including the popular hosts of The Morning Show, Bernard White and Sharan Harper[9].

WBAI's large, active listening base was thrown into a virtual civil war. Some viewed Lied as a person seeking to change the political content of the progressive station. Others viewed her as a welcome change to the contentious management at the station that some viewed as cliquish. She was practically unanimously condemned by both groups in March 2001, when she interrupted an interview with Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) on the program Building Bridges, which focused on the firing and bannings of White and Harper. She claimed she interrupted the program because it was her job to make sure only the truth was told over the airwaves. She was unanimously applauded, however, on September 11, 2001, when she kept the station on the air despite the fact that the station is located only blocks from the World Trade Center[10].

Promotion/resignation

Leid left the station in December 2002, to accept a position at the national level. When the National Board that appointed her fell out of power after a listener's lawsuit, she resigned her post. She went to a position with the New York City Parks Department[11].

References