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The History and Context of Brooklyn’s Haitian Radio Stations

Brooklyn, NY has been a hotbed of pirate radio activity for quite some time. The borough is home to many ethnic and religious communities that are not well served by the region’s major broadcasters, leading some to take to the airwaves to serve local needs without a license.

As Prof. John Anderson of explained on episode #3 of our podcast, the Haitian community is particularly well represented by unlicensed broadcasters in Brooklyn, concentrated in the Flatbush neighborhood. The Afropop Closeups podcast recently investigated Haitian radio there, digging into its history, along with both legal and unlicensed forms. In this balanced and thorough report, producer Ian Coss tapped John for perspective on licensing, and how there’s more room on the airwaves than current regulations permit.

As broadcaster Ricot Dupuy explains in the piece, radio is a traditionally vital means of communication in Haiti, dating back to oppressive Duvalier regime, which ruled the nation from 1957 to 1986. Radio was a lifeline of information when dissent was silenced. “People had radios hidden, in the kitchen, in the bathroom. People would go under the bed and listen to radio programs, to listen to words of hope about one day ending this nightmare. Even though Haiti was poor, people were saving money to buy the little radio,” he says.

That tradition carries through to the Haitian community in Brooklyn, and elsewhere in the U.S., including Boston and South Florida.

The entire 15 minute segment is well worth your time:


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