WBOK Heads to College: Oldest Black Radio Station Opens New Studio at Xavier University | Local politics
Starting Friday, Louisiana’s oldest black-owned radio station, WBOK, will have a new home. The 70-year-old broadcast operation moved from its offices on Gentilly Boulevard, near the Fair Grounds racetrack, to the edge of the Xavier University campus in Louisiana. WBOK’s new headquarters at 909 Norman Francis Parkway will be indicated by the red WBOK 1230AM lighted sign from its old location.
Station general manager Schuyler Williams said that while WBOK is moving into new digs, the lineup will remain familiar – from early morning gospel music to the former Nova Scotia councilor’s lively talk show. Orleans Oliver “OT” Thomas, including news and commentary on sports calls in the afternoon and Pelicans basketball games at night.
It took almost a year, but a reinvented and reinvigorated WBOK-AM is ready to air.
WBOK’s role as a news, entertainment and opinion source with a black outlook will also continue, Williams said. But now the station will be positioned to help drive black radio into the future, introducing Xavier’s students to day-to-day broadcasting.
A functioning radio station requires the ability to improvise, Williams said, and prospective student interns will learn to “go with the flow.” As they gain technical experience, they will meet with city leaders, artists, writers and community members invited to the station. Over time, Williams said, students will begin to produce their own evening programming. Ideally, some of the station’s future interns will become influential broadcasters of the next generation.
“I can’t wait for them to come back to campus,” Williams said of the students, who are currently on summer vacation.
The WBOK offices will also serve as an art gallery, displaying work by faculty artists Xavier and others, Williams said. On opening day, the studio will feature paintings by Ron Bechet and Ayo Scott, as well as a striking yellow Mardi Gras Indian costume by Grand Chief Shaka Zulu.
The move to Xavier University is the latest step in WBOK’s long broadcasting history that dates back to 1951, when the station first aired on the air. Over the years, WBOK has evolved from a pop music platform to a gospel music source to a news-talk format. The station has long spoken to New Orleans’ black community, which has historically been under-represented in the media.
“I don’t think the election was stolen. I think Trump was wrong.”
Hurricane Katrina damaged WBOK’s radio tower, and faulty sea walls allowed its Gentilly offices to flood in 2005, but that wasn’t the end of the station. In 2007, WBOK was bought by Californian businessman and New Orleans native Danny Bakewell through his Bakewell Media family. Soon it returned to the airwaves as a beacon of recovery-era political awareness, at a time when many black New Orleansians are still struggling to return to their damaged city.
In 2020, Bakewell sold WBOK to Equity Media, a company formed by acclaimed New Orleans-born actor Wendell Pierce and his partners Cleveland Spears III, Troy Henry and Jeff Thomas. At the time, Pierce cited the importance of WBOK in the civil rights era as the underlying reason why it was important to keep the station’s signal on the radio dial.
“That kind of legacy connection is why I wanted to be a part of WBOK,” Pierce said. “He has this great importance in the community, and we want to take him from the 20th century to the 21st century and carry on the tradition, and New Orleans is about tradition.”
Equity overhauled WBOK’s image with a new jingle from R&B maestro PJ Morton, a new website and some lineup changes. The partners immediately announced their intention to lease space from Xavier University and relocate the station to the new site.
Xavier University student media director Varion Laurent said he expects the station to provide a window into mass communication for both students interested in broadcasting and those entering the field. other professions, including politics.
“They will be able to see how politicians deal with hard-hitting issues,” he said.
WBOK’s paid interns will have a platform to “shape societal issues” from the perspective of their generation, Laurent said. This opportunity fits perfectly with the university’s mission to promote social justice.
A housewarming reception at the new studio premises, with representatives from WBOK and Xavier as well as city officials, will take place Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. An opening ceremony is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
The heads of Canal Street commuters swiveled on Mardi Gras morning at the sight of a magnificent Indian Mardi Gras costume standing in place once oc …