Tavis Smiley Celebrates One Year Anniversary of KBLA Talk 1580 in Los Angeles – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel
Tavis Smiley Celebrates 1580 KBLA Talk 1st Anniversary in Los Angeles
After four years away from the media spotlight due to disputed misconduct allegations against him, Tavis Smiley made a celebratory return to the airwaves last year as the owner of KBLA Talk 1580. The Only Talk Radio Station black-owned and operated west of the Mississippi, KBLA commemorated its first anniversary on June 16, 2022.
The long road to KBLA Talk 1580 begins with the human roots behind it. A small town with a traffic light called Bunker Hill, Indiana is where Smiley grew up learning the value of family. Although he was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, his family moved to Bunker Hill when he was just two years old.
But, Smiley still has a deep appreciation and connection to the “Black South.” He spent summers in Gulfport with his “Big Mama” and spent hours talking with her on the back porch, sitting in rocking chairs.
Growing up, Smiley says, he never wanted to be a Hollywood star. Instead, he aspired to be a defender of his people, much like his hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Los Angeles is where my career started,” Smiley said. “When people think of LA, they don’t think of politics, empowerment and advocacy, but here [Los Angeles] This is where it all began.
Smiley has since become an acclaimed author, activist, and radio and television host. He describes his career ideology as “loving, learning and amplifying the voices of his community”. Smiley says the notion honors the legacy of his hero, Dr. King, whom he describes as “the greatest American this country has ever produced.”
On December 13, 2017, at the height of the “Me Too Movement”, public broadcaster PBS accused Smiley of violating a company moral clause. Despite being recommended by a jury for restitution to the network, Smiley adamantly maintains his innocence.
“It was four tough years without media and the toughest four years of my career,” Smiley said. “When you’ve been on the radio and TV every day for decades and then overnight on false allegations, you find out [that you’re] defend themselves in public.
Smiley says he felt his voice had been silenced and it was a difficult transition for him. “I didn’t know I was coming back [into media], whatever that means. I have read and heard so many comments about me.
Since the age of 12, he says, he has dedicated his life to making the world safe for black people. He had no “plan b” when his public platform was snatched from him. Smiley describes it as “four long years of tumultuous, tearful upheaval”.
Then he remembers one night praying and considering his options. He says it occurred to him that if he waited on major television networks or radio stations to call her and offer her a job, that call wouldn’t come through. Instead, Smiley knew that if he was going to “come back into the ring to fight for his people,” he would have to fight for himself first.
Smiley says he was encouraged by the words of his good friend and musical legend, Prince. He recalls Prince saying, “The next phase of your career has to be owning your own distribution platform. Sadly, Prince passed away before the PBS controversy, but Smiley says he kept hearing Prince’s words in his head.
Then, one day at 3 a.m., at the height of the racial calculus surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Smiley says he realized that Los Angeles lacked a black-owned talk radio station. He started writing notes, developing ideas and implementing strategies which led to the launch of KBLA Talk 1580 on June 19 last year.
KBLA’s motto is “shamelessly progressive”. Explaining the meaning of this motto, Smiley replied, “The trouble with talk radio today is that it’s all day, all night, and all white. So we don’t apologize on our mission, and we want to be bold about it.
Smiley thinks being progressive means wanting the same things for your children that others have for theirs, such as a high-quality education, safe neighborhoods, equal pay for equal work, and living in areas where there are no has no toxic discharges. “I want to see America be as great a nation as it promised,” Smiley said.
Smiley is proud to have hosts at KBLA Talk 1580 who look like his listeners and enhance their voices. “Our community is not a monolith, and there are myriad voices in the black community, and all of those voices deserve to be heard,” Smiley said.
“We challenge people to reassess the assumptions they have and help them expand their inventory of ideas. If we stick to this, we will have done a great service to the city and to the nation.
During the week, Smiley is on the air with his own show, “Tavis Smiley”. It’s backed by weekday programming from award-winning hosts like Dominique DiPrima and political and comedic commentator DL Hughley.
KBLA Talk 1580’s weekend show lineup features familiar voices like Los Angeles hip-hop icon YoYo, comedian and talk show host Loni Love, and comedian Angelique Perrin who co-hosts ” Café Mocha” as well as civil rights lawyer Areva Martin’s show, “Areva Martin Out Loud. Additionally, Black Lives Matter (BLM) radio show, “This Is Not A Drill”, hosted by BLM/LA co-founder Dr. Melina Abdullah has been a mainstay since the station launched.
Just recently, KBLA launched a two-hour national public affairs program, “A More Perfect Union,” hosted by KBLA Talk 1580 Chief National Journalist, Educator and Political Analyst, Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey.
KBLA Talk 1580 is led by Smiley of Smiley Audio Media, Inc. Elston Howard Butler is the station’s president and general manager as well as president and chief operating officer of the holding company, Smiley Audio Media, Inc.