Where Was Everybody?: Using Radio as a Platform for Student Activism

By Matt Callahan

JMU has a problem with student activism – there isn’t enough of it.

  This month, the Center for Multicultural Student Services held a week of celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I was at one of the events, I noticed that those in attendance seemed to be mostly people who were already involved with CMSS, rather than the JMU population at large. This was surprising to me because the issues discussed there including police brutality, racial injustice, LGBTQ rights and others, are issues that I know many students feel strongly about. So, where was everybody? Many students are cynical or disillusioned about the state of American politics, feeling like they cannot create change. In light of this, there needs to be a spark that ignites activism on JMU’s campus; WXJM can be that spark.

  Many students do not realize the opportunity given to them by having a college radio station. Anyone that attends this school can get on a microphone and broadcast their ideas to the Harrisonburg community. And the idea of being political on WXJM is nothing new. There are shows that cover intersectional feminism like Dame Theory and Queerly Beloved, and shows that cover the political spectrum at large like Roadside Blasphemy and The Breeze on Air. I would encourage more individuals and organizations take to the air with their ideas, to get them out to a larger audience. For example, if CMSS had a show, they could communicate with many students that might not have known to get involved otherwise.

  WXJM house shows are another area where activism could bloom. These shows are a place where the larger student body comes together to enjoy live music, and they operate as a social function for the WXJM community. Because of the familiarity and welcoming attitude inherent to these shows, they should act as a space for the sharing of political ideas.

  WXJM house shows are a lion’s share of the DIY community for JMU. The DIY art movement is artists creating a space for themselves and other amateur/unknown artists to make art, be that a house show, a self-published zine or any other self-funded works. This attitude, willingness to circumvent existing organizations and structures to instead opt for local, member-focused actions and activities can be applied exactly to political activism. A way to fight student disillusionment is through grassroots movements, movements that could come to formation in the intellectual space fostered by house shows.

JMU has plenty of politically-minded students eager to help make a difference, but many seem to be unsure of just how to do that. For this reason, WXJM should act as a space for political outreach and organization. This would help the college radio station perform to its full potential and encourage the essential tradition of student activism.