If you’re like many folks, you will have noticed that corporate America has no problem consuming Black culture, but is mostly silent when the time comes to address Black issues. That’s exactly what long-time radio personality Ramses Ja thought in the early months of 2020 when people from coast to coast poured into the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police. As a radio host, Ramses felt there was more he could do to amplify the voices behind the bullhorns and to provide a platform for the personalities that were guiding the movement. He took his idea to the program director, general manager, and owner of Phoenix’s 101.1 FM The Beat / Mega 104.3 FM and asked them to create a space on the airwaves where these Black voices could state their case, challenge the falsehoods of other media outlets, and to better control the narrative of the movement.
After a few months of empty promises from his employer, Ramses says the program director, Fred Rico finally said “I don’t want to do a Black show.” This prompted Ramses to write an open-letter resignation from the job he held for 12 years. Fortunately for him, the power of social media ensured his resignation reverberated throughout the community. As was mentioned, it seemed that many folks had noticed that corporate America had no problem consuming Black culture but fell silent when the call came to address Black issues.
After nearly 6 months from its inception, Hip Hop Weekly sat down with host Ramses Ja and co-host Q. Ward to discuss why their new show Civic Cipher is important, how far it has come, and what their plans are for its future!
What was it that made you feel so strongly about getting this show on the radio?
I felt like if a station can play and profit from 70% Black artists and 100% Black music then they can set aside 30 minutes or an hour to a civil discourse or to empowering Black leadership. There are ways around the notion that shows like this don’t make money. Even a weekend overnight slot would still be symbolic in a lot of ways to the people whose culture you’re profiting from.
Where can folks hear this show now that you have left your old station?
Well as soon as I left the Beat, my old friend Ben Romero—the program director from Power 98.3 FM in Phoenix—reached out and said that he had seen my resignation on Facebook and how many shares it had received. He asked if I would do the show I was attempting to do at his station. In addition, I had one of my good friends DJ Mikee Mike who is the Operations Manager at DASH Radio ask if they could carry the show on their national platform. 93.9 FM and 102.7 FM also carry it as well as AZ100, Ikon Radio, Radio Phoenix, Radio Supa, and the list goes on—and now even on Hip Hop Weekly Radio. There was such an outpouring of support from all these other stations who recognized the need for this type of programming and they made the space for the show. On top of that, its available on YouTube and on every podcasting platform.
Speaking of the show, explain the format…what can listeners expect when they tune in?
Usually Q and I will discuss relevant topics related to government actions…or inaction! We discuss concepts, ideas, history, context, etc. for any number of issues that are relevant to Black folks as a whole but especially to Black folks who might tune in to a Hip-Hop station. On top of that, we try to get interviews from leaders, thinkers, candidates, and really anyone who may find it difficult to get mass-media attention for a Black agenda. Of our first few interviews, we were able to sit with folks like Dr. Camilla Westenberg from the Maricopa NAACP, Janelle Wood from the Black Mothers Forum, and Zarra Teacola from BLM Phoenix Metro.
What’s next for Civic Cipher?
We are looking to partner with stations in Tucson…New Mexico. Vegas isn’t out of the question. Some of the eastern desert cities in Southern California. Sirius XM comes after that. We are poised to move forward on all these fronts…in fact we’re already in talks with folks from a few of these markets. Basically anywhere there is Black culture available for public consumption, but there is a deficiency in Black political representation, I think we could make a case for the show.
Besides tuning in, how can people support the show?
Well the show is publicly supported, so donations are always appreciated…all the information is available on civiccipher.com. We’ve made it very easy. Signing up for our Patreon really helps with our monthly costs. Outside of that, a subscription to our YouTube channel or our podcast. Plus sharing the content really ensures that we can grow and that we have a stronger case for the show as we branch out into other markets.
Finally, how do you want people to remember you?
Probably as someone who was willing to put his people first. Granted things seem to be working out, but when the chips were down, I turned my back on my job and potentially my career. That was a scary time for me, and I don’t want to forget that. I’m confident that I have the support of my family, Q Ward, and my friends old and new, and those are the people I never want to disappoint. I suppose if I have to be remembered for something, I’d want it to be my principles. I wouldn’t ask for more than that.