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KPFK radio host Margaret Prescod to moderate MLK panel discussion Saturday


For as long as she can remember, radio has played an important role in the life of Margaret Prescod.

Today Prescod produces and hosts the nationally syndicated radio program “Sojourner Truth,” heard locally on KPFK 90.7 FM.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Prescod and her family lived in a little village in Barbados, her birthplace. Her parents owned the sole radio in their village. Whenever a hurricane was about to strike, Prescod’s father was the first to hear about it on the family radio. Theirs was a chattel house—a small, movable wooden structure, not that strong, Prescod recalled. “But before my father prepared our family and our house, he went around the village to warn everyone. This was a big lesson for me and my sister: It’s not only about you; it’s about the community.”

Prescod, known today for her activism on the air and in the community, was shaped by those early years. “In our village we held on to the old African ways: to share everything we had. Before we ate our dinner, my mother had my sister and me take food across the street to an elder. ‘You take this first before you take one spoonful to your mouth,’ she told us.”

As a young teenager, Prescod, her mother and her sister immigrated as economic refugees to Brooklyn, NY. Within two weeks of their arrival, she and her sister had become activists. A medical center was in the process of being constructed, but those in charge were refusing to hire Black people. “My sister and I would block cement trucks. More than 700 people were arrested that summer.”

Prescod recalls her all-girls school in Brooklyn, where Black people were few. The school’s academic counselor told Prescod and her sister there was no reason to take college prep classes—they would become domestics anyway. But their activist aunt marched to the high school and told the counselor and principal that her nieces absolutely would take the classes they needed for college.

Prescod graduated high school at age 16 and college at 20. She had wanted to be a school teacher like her parents. She was hired to teach first, second and third graders at PS155 in Brooklyn.

“I got a real political education there,” she said.

A fight was going on for community control of schools, and Prescod’s school was one of three at the center of that struggle: The teachers union versus the community.

“The teachers were mainly White and many quite racist. The students were all Black and Puerto Rican. The parents didn’t like the way children were treated. They didn’t like the books and said the students needed to see more of themselves in their books. The mothers leading the fight were domestics; parents would be down there every day. It was a huge deal, and the parents won.”

A long-time campaigner for women’s rights and against racism, Prescod has helped found Black Coalition Fighting Black Serial Murders, Black Women for Wages for Housework, Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network, International Network of Women of Color and Women of Color Global Women’s Strike.

Near the end of 2009, Prescod was offered a position with Pacifica Radio as the executive producer and host of the Sojourner Truth show, which she had originated earlier as a volunteer. It grew from one morning per week to four.

The public can watch Prescod at work this Saturday, as she moderates a panel discussion focusing on justice and the many issues Black people contend with during the Culver City Martin Luther King Celebration.

Prescod’s panelists will be Funmilola Fagbamila, Robert Farrell, Bobby Grace and Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi.

Fagbamila, a UCLA graduate student in African American Studies, community organizer who focuses on contemporary issues facing the Black community.

Farrell, a freedom rider in 1961 with the Los Angeles chapter of CORE, is a former L.A. reporter who served for four terms as a Los Angeles City Councilman.

Grace, currently a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, is known for trying complex, high-profile cases.

Jitahidi, a long-time community organizer, currently serves as a campaign director for Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

The celebration will also include music, actor Gerald Rivers as Dr. King, screening of the film “Freedom Summer” and more.

The program is free. Doors will open at 11 a.m., and the program will run from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

The celebration will take place at the Culver City Senior Center, 4095 Overland Ave., Culver City.  For more information, visit or call (310) 253-6675.