In 1976, Valeria and Jim Lee founded WVSP, a non-commercial radio station that broadcast from the small town of Warrenton, North Carolina, about one hour north of Durham on Interstate 85. Prior to founding the station, the Lees had already done extensive work with North Carolina activist organizations ranging from Malcolm X Liberation University, to Floyd McKissick’s Soul City, to their own rural empowerment program, Andamule. From 1976 until WVSP’s closing in 1986, however, the Lees focused their energies on using radio as a tool for political and cultural empowerment in rural northeastern North Carolina.
As Valeria explained in a 2007 interview with SOHP staffer Aidan Smith, she and Jim launched WVSP as a vehicle for “community development…[and] justice work.” The station devoted its programming to progressive reporting on political and social issues and a wide range of musics, most prominently African American genres like jazz and blues, which rarely received airtime on commercial radio in the 1970s and 1980s South. In addition, WVSP embraced a thoroughly democratic approach to programming by giving any local volunteers willing to put in the requisite time and work the chance to host their own programs.
In the following audio excerpt, longtime WVSP staffer and music director Jereann King Johnson introduces Tickle Me Think, a children’s educational show, in an episode focusing on folk songs.