Public Radio Amps Up the Music this Juneteenth

June 13, 2022

Urban Alternative format launches in Minneapolis, Milwaukee

HYFIN, Radio Milwaukee Urban Alternative

Radio Milwaukee 99.9FM’s HYFIN team includes, from left to right, Chris Alexander, Program Director Tarik Moody, Element Everest-Blanks, Community Engagement Coordinator Darron “DJ” Brüwer, and Anthony Foster.  

Public radio marks Juneteenth and Black Music Month with music programming, including NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and the launch of Urban Alterative public radio format, a locally customized format using hip hop and R&B, in Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Minnesota Public Radio Urban Alternative station, a collaboration with community station KMOJ, launches on, Thursday, June 16, as an MPR HD channel. Radio Milwaukee’s HYFIN stream launches on Sunday, June 19 – Juneteenth – on WYMS HD-2 channel and on and will be simulcast on Radio Milwaukee 88.9FM HD1 from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week.

“The music on HYFIN will feel like family to our listeners. They grew up hearing these voices, and we will also be introducing them to artists that they would never hear on any other station,” said Radio Milwaukee on-air host Element Everest-Blanks, who will host a show on HYFIN from 3-9 pm weekdays starting July 4.

Developed with major support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Urban Alternative is drawing younger, more diverse audiences to public radio. The Minneapolis and Milwaukee debuts bring the number of public radio Urban Alternative stations to six, with Chicago’s Vocalo, Denver’s The DROP 104.7, Houston’s  The Vibe powered by KTSU, and Norfolk’s WNSB Hot 91. A seventh station, WJSU in Jackson, MS, launches an Urban Alterative station on August 27. CPB will post another request for proposals from public radio stations wanting to launch the Urban Alternative format later this year.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States as June 19, 1865, the day U.S. Major General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, to read the Emancipation Proclamation aloud. Last year, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. And public media honors Juneteenth with programming throughout June.

Other Juneteenth and Black Music Month programming:

  • The United States of Anxiety, a weekly live call-in show and podcast from WNYC, will air a national Juneteenth special at 6 p.m. EDT June 19 in partnership with Houston Public Media, KERA-Dallas, and Texas Public Radio. Host Kai Wright will talk with Black Texans about Juneteenth, which began in Texas and its evolution to a national holiday last year. The program airs live on at least 45 stations and will be livestreamed on WNYC’s YouTube channel.
  • NPR’s Jazz Night in America, produced by WBGO, features special programming all month including a video short about jazz pianist Hazel Scott on June 9 and episodes on American saxophonist Gary Bartz on June 23, and jazz trumpeter Theo Croker on June 30.
  • NPR Live Sessions offers a video playlist of musical performances that speak of struggles, freedom, and celebration around Juneteenth. The NPR Live Sessions platform, with music curated music by the VuHaus Group of public radio music stations, also highlights individual videos, such as Jamaaladeen Tacuma's The Battle of Images video tribute to Paul Robeson as the Video of the Week June 13-19.
  • WRTI & WXPN (Philadelphia) are awarding 46 Black Music City grants to Philadelphia area Black creatives at a Juneteenth showcase event with live performances, 1-5 pm EDT at WXPN’s Word Café Live. NPR Live Sessions/VuHaus Group will live stream the performances.
  • WMOT (Nashville, TN) will dedicate their two-hour Gospel show to Juneteenth on Sunday, 6/19.  ‘Somebody Say Amen’ airs Sunday’s from 9am to 11am. 
  • KUTX (Austin, TX), will participate in Austin’s Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 18, at Rosewood Park, with Confucius Jones mixing music at the KUTX booth from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
  • Jazz Singers, a 13-hour series hosted by Al Jarreau, is being redistributed for public radio broadcast (check local listings). Originally produced by The Smithsonian in 2001, this series had been re-packaged by PRX with new narration from original producer Jacquie Gales Webb, CPB’s vice president, radio.

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