North End SOUP Winner – August 2014

Reverend Joan Ross has committed much of her life to giving the residents of the North End community a voice. She’s the director of North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC), a transportation justice advocacy group. This neighborhood of Detroit consists of a large elderly population that is considerably dependent upon the city’s lacking public transportation system.  Most recently, NEWCC worked to advocate for the neighborhood by fighting an anti-community benefits bill surrounding the M-1 rail project. But Ross said it was nearly impossible to get the word out through media. They wrote opinion editorials and tried contacting local talk shows, but had difficulty making their concerns known. So, since few media outlets were listening, NEWCC decided to form its own. They are now in the process of starting a community radio station based in the North End – WNUC 97.6 FM.

“We want to give voice to those who are underserved and left out of the conversation,” says Ross. “We want to unite our communities and let people know we do have some interest, we do have opinions.”

Initially, NEWCC had difficulty getting the station established. Ross said Prometheus, a nonprofit community radio advocacy group, doubted NEWCC had a chance at finding a low-power frequency amid the cluttered airwaves. After working with an engineer in Oregon to uncover the frequency, the community organization needed permission from both Canadian and American governments to proceed. Despite the hurdles, in May of this year they received the station license. Just a few months later, without a dime to the newly formed station’s name , Ross attended and won the North End SOUP.

“SOUP was a great asset because it gave us the first initial money,” she said. “I still don’t have a grant for radio.”

They used the funds to attend a grassroots radio conference
which helped the station make important connections in the industry and build friendships.

Ross says SOUP was a huge encouragement.

“You have some starting money, you have some value, and it gives you leverage. It gives you the boost you might need to get you started.”

NEWCC plans to begin streaming online by the beginning of 2015 and to be on-air by November 2015.

The station will broadcast six to eight hours each day and will generate three local programs with content ranging from residents sharing their stories of the neighborhood to community groups discussing environmental and transit justice. One day they hope to feature home-grown music made in the North End. They also plan to use the station as a hyper-local emergency alert system.

Ross and her team have started to contact local organizations that have similar missions to come up with programming about issues facing the community and unique solutions to them.

“We see it as a way of uniting communities and looking at ways to solve issues totally differently… It’s a platform where we can do some more collaboration.”

Catch up with the latest news from NEWCC on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NorthEndWoodward

– Shelby Jouppi