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fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov
TTY: 202/418-2555

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

January 14, 2000


On December 5, 1955, at the height of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, five thousand African-Americans flocked to the city's Holt Street Baptist church to show their support for the struggle against Jim Crow. One thousand people stood in the church's pews and aisles while four thousand others lined the streets surrounding it.

Around 7 that night, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., made his way past the throng and spoke words that would make him a national leader. As his words echoed off church walls and over loudspeakers, it became clear that Dr. King was not only a man of vision but that the churches would play a critical role in the civil rights movement.

Other community-based institutions would also prove crucial in that struggle. African-American newspapers would publish stories about oppression, black colleges would turn into staging grounds for peaceful sit-ins, and African-American radio stations would use the airwaves to advertise marches and rally support.

Black DJs kept listeners informed and inspired people to work in their communities; DJs, of all people, challenged the country to do more, be better, and fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all. In Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, the DJs Eddie Castenberry and Jack Gibson urged their listeners to take part in community marches and rallies. Without black radio, Gibson said years later, "there would have never been a movement."

Today, we celebrate Reverend King's life and give thanks to the preachers, editors, reporters, teachers, students, and DJs who challenged this nation to live up to its ideals. But we should also remember Dr. King's message that the American people "are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

America is made up of many communities, and for the nation to be strong, our individual communities must also be strong. That means our churches, newspapers, radio stations, and other communications networks must be accessible to all and pillars on which communities can stand.

I've heard from thousands of students, teachers, Reverends, Rabbis, men and women of all colors and creeds who want to use these pillars--radio, television, the Internet--to strengthen their neighborhoods and the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood for which Dr. King gave his life.

I support their efforts to get access to these community building blocks. Americans should have access to low power radio that can be used for community programming; television that serves the public interest, communications products that are accessible to people with disabilities, and the E-rate program to wire the nation's schools and public libraries to the Internet.

I applaud Americans who use the power of technology to unlock human potential and better their communities. The men and women who strive in Dr. King's spirit, bringing us closer to the day when his vision of equal opportunity is a reality for every American.