Low Power to the People

By | August 9th, 2011 | 1 Comment

It is a paradox of the our time: The tools of media are unprecedentedly accessible — anyone with an internet connection can start broadcasting via blog, podcast, Twitter, or various other outlets within minutes — even as the vast bulk of the media itself has fallen into the iron grip of a few conglomerates. Quoth Josh Stearns’ piece, “Take Back the Media”, in the current issue of Orion Magazine:

In the U.S., years of runaway media consolidation have diminished the diversity of voices on the airwaves, gutted our nation’s newsrooms, and wrested more and more media out of the hands of the people. Just a week before the demonstrations in Egypt began, the Obama administration approved one of the largest media mergers in a generation. Comcast, America’s largest residential cable and internet company, now controls NBCUniversal, one of the nation’s most popular news and entertainment studios. The combination of production and distribution into one megamedia giant means, for many of us, that one company will have unprecedented control over what we see and how we see it, online, on cable, and over the air.

Such developments should worry anyone who appreciates the Fourth Estate’s crucial role in a functioning democracy, not to mention in a dysfunctional democracy like ours that is coping (ineptly) with monumental fiscal, political, and economic woes. But media consolidation is only one aspect of the story. The counter-narrative is that the internet has empowered individuals to chip away at the monolithic media industry, a quintessential for-better-and-worse development that is accelerating the demise of both worthy big-city newspapers and worthless oil-rich tyrants.

While blogs and Twitter have garnered a fair share of headlines for their role in the upheaval of the 21st-Century media industry, another potentially game-changing medium remains broadly unsung. Low Power FM (LPFM) stations are nonprofit radio stations that broadcast at low wattage within a short radius (several miles or so depending on, for example, topography). Local radio activists champion LPFM stations as an antidote to the elephantiasis afflicting mainstream media in the form of the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and its ilk. Such stations, organizations like the Prometheus Radio Project say, transcend their literal power shortage by amplifying the volume of independent voices that would otherwise be drowned out in their communities.

Leah Weston is one such voice. A member of the progressive activist collective Emerge Miami, WVUM DJ (on-air name: Leah Swanky), and all-too-infrequent Beached Miami contributor, Weston is hoping to launch an LPFM station in Miami, provided the FCC ends up giving our fair city a license (or several). While the chances of that happening are better than ever since Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act last December, there is still a lot standing in the way. For one thing, Miami is a competitive market, and commercial and even public radio stations aren’t necessarily eager to welcome LPFMs onto “their” dial. Then there’s the fact that the FCC is still digesting the Local Community Radio Act and figuring out how to dispense LPFM licenses. There is no guarantee Miami will get one.

But the what-ifs are not deterring Weston from laying the groundwork for Miami’s first LPFM. On Tuesday night (i.e., tonight) at Sweat Records, she will be giving a presentation about LPFM and its future in Miami for anyone who wants to listen, brainstorm, and take action. It is a move born out of frustration with Miami’s existing media outlets.

“Our public media favors either 24-hour music programming or news that doesn’t touch on local issues very well, or very meaningfully,” Weston says. “So I think this would be a good way for people who are doing progressive things in Miami to actually broadcast from the same platform and strengthen people’s knowledge of what’s happening here.”

As a possible model, Weston points to BBOX, a new Brooklyn-based station that broadcasts locally sourced content out of a red shipping crate in a farmer’s market. Programming includes interviews, call-in shows, street journalism, radio documentary, DJs, and live music performances.

Weston envisions a similar mishmash of Miami-sourced content on her own LPFM. It’s a lofty aim, with obstacles at both the local and federal levels, but she is confident the Miami dial will ultimately get a bit more crowded with low-power, high-volume community stations.

“The amazing thing about radio is that it’s pretty rudimentary,” she says. “You can set up a bare bones operation with a relatively small budget.”

To learn more about it, head over to Sweat Records at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook and email and RSS.

Commemorating Emerge’s five years in the bike lane

By | July 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments

If you’re a regular Beached Miami reader, then you know about Emerge Miami and all the good work they do to make our hometown a better, more bicycle-y place. This weeks marks the group’s fifth anniversary, and, in signature Emerge style, they are celebrating by hosting a really fun group bike ride (details, link below). To mark the occasion, I asked Emerge member Adam Schachner to contribute a post commemorating the group’s half decade of local activism. Cue Adam:

There’s no subtle indication that Miami is a culturally and ideologically fractious city. Miami’s communities vary as significantly as our landscapes, from club culture on our globally iconic neon Deco-ized beach, to our sprawling suburban enclaves of the western-most swamps along the Urban Development Lines. The encouraging challenge and bittersweet bane to an eager South Floridian activist is to see these gaps in communities, interests, and possibilities combined into a cohesive effort that proclaims: “This is Miami. Love it.”

So here’s Emerge Miami: a collection of activists, professionals, organizations, and all-around savvy Miamians claiming diverse heritages from the spectrum of municipalities and progressive endeavors. You may have seen them at Hands Across the Sand, professing solidarity against offshore oil drilling on Miami’s behalf. Or maybe you had to wait a few minutes at a US-1 stoplight while they crossed the intersection, leading a small legion of bicyclists clad in homemade superhero costumes in order to promote after school reading programs with local non-profit ComicEd. You may have even seen the photos from Emerge and Beached Miami’s collaboration for the first-ever Miami Bike Hunt, in which riders covered South Beach in a scavenger search, following a list of absurd and distinctly Miamian challenges.

Enthusiastically closing the schism between activism and entertainment, Emerge Miami works towards building a network of progressive initiatives, maintaining its open-mindedness and devotion to community-building all under its founding banner: “Organizing Chaos Since 2005”. In that year, a small cadre teamed up with the freshly-opened Sweat Records to screen The Corporation, a provocative documentary and commentary on industry and human rights abuse. Since then, Emerge has regularly hosted workshops, bike rides, and networking activities to bring Miami’s progressive initiatives together.

Emerge stands by its name by championing “emergent behavior”. Founded on the premise that ideas and voices can be heard while independent of a core organizational hierarchy, Emerge functions with no board of directors or institutional management, and sustains itself on a minimal budget supplemented by donations, volunteerism, and general good will. The group is unincorporated, progressing purely by the combined interests of those who are available to participate in each of its numerous projects.

Observers of any Emerge meeting (held every Tuesday night at Sweat Records) will quickly get both the group’s gist and an insight into what makes the formula work so well. Levity and occasional juvenile humor pervade a tight schedule of reviews, upcoming event plans, and whimsical ponderings on how to cultivate Miami’s emergent potential. New participants and their ideas are always welcome. The camaraderie and productivity intertwine consistently, from preamble and socialization before the meetings start, to dinner on the town after the meeting wraps. All of this demonstrates one of Emerge’s primary tenets: All participants are friends before activists and organizers.

With five years behind us, you might be wondering what is next for Emerge. Well, after half a decade of fun-filled bicycle activism, we think its time for a major celebration. On Saturday, we’re hosting our second annual Sweet Treats Ride, which will feature the best taste bud tourism Miami has to offer, because our ongoing effort to facilitate a community of activism, group organizing, and creative frivolousness is best celebrated with an ice cream cone in one hand and a bike helmet in the other. For full event details, head over to our Facebook page.

In the longer term, Emerge’s future depends a lot on YOUR vision of an emergent Miami. As always, we will be here to help make it a reality.

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook and email and RSS.

Beautiful Barnacle

By | February 12th, 2011 | No Comments

Father and son (presumably) scoping out Biscayne Bay from the Barnacle's front yard.

Well, Emerge Miami did plan a perfect picnic, but a cold bitch named Rain went ahead and ruined it. The plan was for a couple hundred cyclists to ride from the Vizcaya Metro Station to the Glaser Organic Farmer’s Market in the Grove, pick up some grub, and then head over for said picnic at Barnacle Historic State Park, one of 53 state parks the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has proposed closing to cut its budget. The park gets its name from the 120-year-old former home of ingenious seaman Ralph Middleton Munroe, aka the Commodore. The porch-wrapped bungalow appears at the end of a long tree-lined path and commands a view of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (which the FDEP also proposed closing). Emerge had planned to launch a letter-writing campaign against the proposed closures at the picnic, but evidently Rain is a DINO. We went over to the Barnacle around noon, during a lull in the drizzle, and took some photos of the small, beautiful park, which will hopefully remain open long enough to host many other picnics to come.

A path through a hardwood hammock leads visitors from Main Street, Coconut Grove, to the Commodore’s bungalow.

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The Miami Bicycle Sound System Project

By | January 28th, 2011 | 2 Comments

This beast needs a nickname.

So it’s the last Friday of the month and that means Critical Mass. Tonight’s ride will take off at 7 p.m. from Government Center downtown and run 12 miles through East Little Havana, Allapattah, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Midtown, and Edgewater. (Get more details and/or RSVP on the Miami Critical Mass Facebook page.)

If you saw our post from last month’s CM, you know one fine gentleman provided a soundtrack for the 15-mile ride via a speaker attached to the back of his bike. Of course, listening to the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Broken Social Scene along the route just about perfected the experience of riding en masse through the streets of Miami on a breezy night, and I’m happy to report it was not a one-time treat.

Last night I spoke to said fine gentleman — one Daus Studenberg — and learned about the Miami Bicycle Sound System Project, a “labor of love” with the mission of setting Miami’s mass bike rides to music from here on out.

When did the Miami Bicycle Sound System Project start?

DS: It started about a year ago. Emerge Miami organized the Bike Prom, and they approached me to make some kind of sound system. I was very happy to do it, but I didn’t have much time. So I took whatever I had out of my garage, hacked my stereo system, took two-by-fours, tore up my bike trailer, and put it together — I even put a record player on top. I brought it out for the ride. It barely made it, but the reception was beyond most people’s expectations. I passed it off as a Bike Prom thing, but a number of people kept approaching me to build a sound system [for long-term use]. Finally I said ok. I wanted to bring the community together, so I went ahead and created a Facebook page and started taking everyone’s suggestions.

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Food Truck Frenzy Ride

By | January 8th, 2011 | 4 Comments

Jefe's Original Fish Taco & Burger on Miami Avenue.

At around 10:30 this morning, more than 100 cyclists took off from the Brickell Metro-Rail Station for a three-hour, 12-mile ride from one Miami food truck to another. Sampling delicious food and then immediately burning off the calories therein is, of course, a brilliant idea, the perfect balance of exercise and scarfing. Hats off to Emerge Miami for making it happen.

Here are some photos of the ride.

Bayshore Drive
Riding down South Bayshore Drive into the Grove.

Latin Burger
First stop: Latin Burger, off of SW 27th Avenue.

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