It's the same old song. The question of Tabby Johnson being
fired by Jazz-FM after being on the air for only two months
is a 21st Century version of European control over African
creativity. Once again, the creators of the music have to
take a back seat to non-Africans.

Thirty-five years ago, Archie Shepp, the great saxophonist
/educator pointed out: "Some Whites seem to think they have a
right to jazz. Perhaps that's true, but they should feel
thankful for jazz. It has been a gift
that the Negro has given, but (Whites) can't accept that -
there are too many problems involved with the social and
historical relationship of the two peoples. It makes it
difficult for them to accept jazz and the Negro as its

While it is true that so-called jazz, reggae and hip-hop are
performed by people on all continents, it is also true that
all of the innovators of these genres have been of African
origin. The mass media in North America proclaimed Paul
Whiteman the King of Jazz, Benny Goodman, the King of
Swing. Sting and the Police won a Grammy Award for their
reggae flavoured "Roxanne" before Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or
Bunny Wailer; and Eminem is the darling of the media when it
discusses hip-hop.

The controversy at Jazz.FM is aided by backward thinking that
prevails at the Canadian Radio-television and the Tele-
communications Commission. Social policy director Martine
Vallee told Now magazine's Sigcino Moyo recently that "radio
stations, unlike television, are under no onus to put
visible minority voices on the air. TV stations are required
to file progress reports to corporate plans for 'cross-
organizational diversity'. Cursory questions are asked of
radio licence applicants, but the CRTC does no follow-up."

In the Now interview Valee went on to say: "The question is,
what does cultural diversity in radio mean? Is it an audible
minority presence, the music and perspective, or merely an
organizational head count of gender, race, nationality and

Jazz.FM has that covered application-wise. Its CRTC
application says, "When hiring we endeavour to notify the
following agencies: Native Canadian Centre, Centre for
Independent Living, a training coordinating group for persons
with disabilities and Canadian Women in Radio and Television
job bank among others."

I believe if the CRTC were licensing a station to program
Polka music they would expect that a Czech or an Eastern
European organization would have been consulted. However,
regarding Jazz.FM, Vallee has not mentioned one African-
Canadian organization. Instead, it has been left to community
radio stations to keep jazz alive in Toronto.

Jazz shows on CKLN-FM, CIUT-FM and CHRY-FM have a history of
being supported by the music community. More African
Canadians should be working at Jazz-FM-Sharron McLeod, Chloe
Onari, Curtis Bailey, Tien Providence, Colin Smith, Al
Peabody, Claudia McKoy and Winston Smith could all be short-
listed. Until she was fired, Johnson, who hosted the gospel
program, Step It Up, was the only African Canadian woman on-

Jazz-FM has two men of African ancestry on-air, Canadian-born
Joe Sealy and American-born Bob Parlocha. While Sealy is
homegrown, Parlocha is an import who has a syndicated radio
program airing all night. The hiring of Johnson was like
killing two birds with one stone since it answered the gender
and race questions.

It has become fashionable to accuse African people of
playing "the race card". Bernie Webber, the chair of Jazz-
FM's board, allegedly accused Johnson of playing the race-
card. The late Johnnie Cochran said this about the race
card: "I take great umbrage at that because I think it
trivializes our whole situation. They have the deck! They own
the deck! They made the deck! And then they accuse us of
playing the race card which is preposterous."

According to Now, Johnson said things came to a head when she
mentioned to operations manager and music director, Brad
Barker, the scarcity of visible minority faces and women at
the station. Of the station's 13 on-air hosts, two are women
and one is a member of a visible minority.

Johnson is Canadian royalty. She is the sister of jazz diva,
Molly Johnson, and Clark Johnson who directed the Hollywood
blockbuster S.W.A.T. She was born in Zurich. Her early years
were spent in Philadelphia and later in Ontario, where her
family settled. She was discovered at age 16, when she was
encouraged to accompany a friend to a rehearsal for the
Toronto Production of Hair. Her friend didn't get the part;
it was offered to Johnson. This production brought Johnson
into the media limelight.

She spent a few years with Rick James and the Stone City
Band, recorded five albums with him and toured with him from
1979-82. She sang James' "Mary Jane Girls" and sang on the
Temptations smash, "Standing on The Top", with James, David
Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and others. This was the biggest hit
on the Temptations' Reunion album.

History will record that Euro woman have benefited the most
from the civil-rights and Black power movements in North
America. Numerous African Canadian women speaking on
condition of anonymity complain bitterly that you have to be
a blonde to get work in the media. However, even Euro women
have a beef with Jazz-FM.

Once again the Now article is instructive: "Money has also
been blown by the station on settling several labour board
cases, among them that of Mary Lou Creechan, the former
program host of Jazz With A Twist, a Latin Vibe show.

"Creechan claims she was "fired for raising concerns about
the lack of diversity at the station, specifically of (B)
lacks and women." Johnson's travails there don't surprise her
one bit. She says she was reprimanded for "playing too much
Latin music" when she was the only woman on air. She was also
the only "on-air personality working sans contract."

Says Creechan of Jazz-FM today: "It's an exercise in lost
potential. All guys, all White and mostly those who don't
know jazz."

What else is new?

Toronto-based Norman (Otis) Richmond can be heard on CKLN-FM
88.1 . His interview with Spike Lee is on
the Internet at the following URL: .