Radio station on Kauai rapped for suspensions
KKCR tries to fend off allegations of racism lobbed by a deejay kicked off the air
PRINCEVILLE, Kauai » Allegations of racism continue to surround Kauai community radio station KKCR after the suspension of three disc jockeys last month.
The controversy has prompted protests, an arrest and numerous angry calls for the past few weeks to the station's popular call-in political talk show "Out of the Box." It started with the suspension in December of deejay Kaiulani Edens-Huff, a Hawaiian sovereignty activist.
Edens-Huff was booted from her volunteer on-air job after getting into an on-air verbal altercation with fellow deejay Noel Brooks.
She says Brooks has repeatedly kept her show from starting on time and had made numerous culturally insensitive remarks about Hawaii.
"This guy was disrespectful to me for two years, and I had it," she added.
Further, she said, no one from the station ever called her to hear her side of the argument; and she said she was suspended via e-mail without a follow-up phone call.
The situation escalated when two fellow deejays, Jimmy Trujillo and Katy Rose, discussed Edens-Huff's suspension and allegations of institutional racism at KKCR on their "Out of the Box" radio show in late December.
They, too, were suspended.
When their supporters turned up at the station for impromptu protests on two occasions, they were met first with locked gates and then with police officers. On Jan. 3, during one of the protests, Hale Mawae, 24, of Anahola, was arrested outside the gate and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
KKCR Station Manager Gwen Palagi agreed that not all is perfect at the station.
"We acknowledge that improvements can be made," she said. "They can always be made."
However, Palagi said, Edens-Huff's suspension had nothing to do with race. And there was no reason to hear her side of the story because her argument with Brooks was broadcast and recorded, she said.
Brooks, when reached for comment, said last week that he would stand on his record of support for the station and the Hawaiian culture. A 10-year volunteer at KKCR both as a deejay and as a member of the board of directors, Brooks said his mission is to support the station as it protects and preserves the Hawaiian language and culture.
Edens-Huff said last week that her true problem is not with Brooks, but with the station itself.
"I have nothing personal against anyone at KKCR," she said, "but institutional racism does exist at that station."
She said that every week when she came in to do her "Songs of Sovereignty" show, she knew by the "hostility" she received that her ideas were not welcome. She often played music and had discussions that denounced the state and county governments as unlawful, she added.
Palagi said the station has always prided itself on listening to all members of the community.
Both sides agree that a recent decision to allow paid members of the radio station to select members of an oversight board is a step in the right direction. About 50 people showed up at Kapaa Neighborhood Center last week for the community advisory board meeting.
The allegations of racism and "growing pains" at the station were the main topics of conversation, Trujillo said.
Trujillo said the station needs to make a better effort of allowing all community members a chance to feel they are a part of the radio station. Right now, he added, only a few voices are being heard on KKCR.
Palagi's comments, on air and off, "indicate that there is a willingness to change," Trujillo added.
Palagi said recently that she hopes the public will consider the station's work during the past 10 years and not just the problems of the past month.
"I really hope that people know us better than that," Palagi said. "We are a community. We are a community radio station."