Spotlight: Jamilah Bourdon
jamilah bourdon is a KBOO board member and the host of "guess who's coming to radio??!!" She's an ever-present force at the station offering provocative views on race, class & the economy along with great music and a warm and engaging personality.
"A friend of mine was a guest on a Walt Curtis' show. I brought some music, and that was my first introduction to the station. At the time, I was working graveyard at Voodoo Donuts listening to KBOO until morning. I stayed tuned for talk radio and called in, but when my call didn't get through, I came down to the station and they put me live on the microphone right then and there. That was my inspiration to join this community."
jamilah's helped with mailings, membership, events tabling, front desk receptionist, and "substituting for a lot of shows; I have experience spinning music, so that was pretty easy."
She found many mentors at the station. "Eduardo said, 'You need to be on the air.' He and Rabia were really encouraging and provided training. Jay Jay and Shaheed were instrumental in mentoring and encouraging me. Celeste, Ani…a whole network of people who encouraged me to have a creative outlet on the air, be it public affairs or music."
Why is jamilah here and on the air? "Soul liberation: my goal is to truly form community, addressing issues of people of African descent who live in the United States. There isn't a space for people's voices to be heard on the air. I talk about police terrorism, connecting with elders, intergenerationalism, the elders who I can learn from and the youth who I can learn from. I volunteer with kids at the library who are primarily black and brown—some of them have been on the show. Many souls are trapped in the labeling of what it means to be a black person or a brown person in this society, and we have to make those connections because we're all affected by it."
"I always open the show with Stevie Wonder because he is the guiding hand of everything I do in the air room. A man who speaks out and stands for peace; he could never be boxed in, and has had an activist's spirit ever since he was young. When black people speak out, people say, 'You're sensitive. What does this have to do with anything? Get over it.' But our issues aren't resolved. Stevie brings people together to listen."
She grew up in the Bronx and Brooklyn and moved to Bellingham, Washington at 23 and then to Portland four years later. "I looked for people who had lived here for more than 25 years. I learned about displacement at the time of the Oregon Convention Center. I made sure to find the people who really knew the community. I found Reflections Bookstore and then KBOO. It's a lot harder to get to know people in the Northwest than in New York. Here you can separate yourself and call it diversity. People in New York can coexist because they can find their own space with food, culture, etc. In Brooklyn, you have the West Indian Day parade, the Puerto Rican parade, and all the other community events. In Portland, people feel more comfortable on general issues like Iraq war, but not local issues like police brutality, Kendra James for example. On the show, we were talking about police terrorism. A woman called in to ask why we were 'down on the police.' I'd answer that there are nice cops but a bad system. People here want to stop the killing in Iraq, stop the killing in Afghanistan, but they'll step over homeless people. A big cultural difference in this city is that people are usually upset at what they're far removed from."
For jamilah, KBOO has offered many opportunities for growth. "I've learned patience to engage with people more than I have, to utilize my voice publicly. I've always been very shy, and I have a framework where I really have to speak, to do it and not be afraid…I learned a lot about how to read people through voice, how to really listen, to know everyone does not think like me, and being OK with that. As a board operator for talk shows, you have to learn when to cut people off: you have to learn to listen to
people, but you have to learn about boundaries too. It takes patience. And it's been great learning modes of communication that are effective and pro-active rather than contentious. It's something you have to do if you want a great on-air sound."
Creativity and collaboration are jamilah's favorite aspects of the station. "I've been fortunate to come before and after Hole in the Bucket, Circle A, the Youth Collective, and Drinking from Puddles. The show I do is totally different, but we all share that space, and it's great when everyone's here to move it along and be positive."
At a station known for diversity of people and interests, jamilah's programming is exemplary of the ability to reach across music genres and out to many different people. "For late-night programming, I play anything from Frank Zappa to the Buzzcocks , Meat Beat Manifesto, Cassandra Wilson to Teena Marie. On 'guess who's coming to radio??!!', any musician of African descent: Diane Reeves, Living Color, Joshua Redman, Stevie Wonder (of course!), Horace Silver... Positive hip hop, KRS-ONE, and even some jazz. I try to stay positive."