The KLEK story: From radio virus to radio mission

by George Jared ([email protected]) 750 views 

KLEK's LaGanzie Kale.

A computer virus changed LaGanzie Kale’s life.

A Helena-West Helena native, Kale had been working an odd assortment of jobs after graduating from Arkansas State University in 2003. And then Raymond Simes’ computer got a virus that shut down his radio station.

Kale decided he could help. He spent half a day removing the virus and Delta Force 3 KCLT 104.9 F.M. was back up and running. He then spent the next two years learning the radio station business and Simes became his mentor, he told Talk Business & Politics.

In 2015, he founded KLEK 102.5 FM. The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council owns and operates the radio station as a nonprofit organization. The mission of the radio station is to provide a wide assortment of music — jazz, blues, R&B, gospel and others. It also provides information about local and national news events and other educational tools, Kale said.

I love it. I couldnt see myself doing anything else,” Kale said. I saw it as an opportunity to bring to Jonesboro something it had never had before. Radio — it’s the only medium that is truly free. You can listen to the radio while you are doing anything.”

In 2010, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act, to increase the number of low power FM (LPFM) stations in the United States. Low power FM (LPFM) refers to community-based, noncommercial FM stations that operate at 100 watts or less and have a broadcast reach of only a few miles. At the time, there were 800 LPFM stations being used by churches, schools, nonprofits, and other community groups nationwide. These stations provide a local forum for news and discussion topics, according to the legislation.

Kale, after talking with Simes, decided to form a nonprofit board and he sought donors. The K in the station has to be used by stations west of the Mississippi River, but the LEK is in honor of his late mother, Lovie Edmond Kale. She died from cancer in 2012. His father died from cancer in 1990, so it was only him and his mother for many years, Kale said. Inside the KLEK studio, Kale has erected remembrances of his parents. He grew up as an only child.

When Im in here, I know they are with me,” he said.

Radio has always played an integral role in the Black community especially during the Civil Rights era. Black radio stations kept the community informed as to if it was safe to venture out at night or what places needed to be avoided. Certain songs were played to convey specific information, like a code at times, Kale said.

Kale got to experience a taste of that strife during the George Floyd protests in Jonesboro, following Floyds murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers in May 2020. The protests in Northeast Arkansaslargest city were relatively peaceful except for a motorist who tried to run into the crowd and when debris was dropped or thrown at a state troopers patrol car.

The latter prompted the local police to organize a dispersal unit and it stood ready to confront the protesters. Kale was streaming the protest live on social media, as he does with many newsworthy events, he said. Suddenly, he realized he was actually standing between the protesters and the police.

The moment shook him to his core.

I was no longer LaGanzie Kale covering this for KLEK. … I was a Black man in America. I started to tear up. It was one of the most important moments in my life. It was surreal.”

During the Floyd protests, then Mayor Harold Perrin wanted to reach out to the Black community immediately, Kale said. He came to the station and urged calm. Both Perrin and now Mayor Harold Copenhaver and Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott have been guests every month during the stations Community Conversations” segment. This type of effort and outreach by city leaders has been a benefit to the Black community, Kale said.

Kale employs a balanced approach to the stations news coverage. He attends local Democratic and Republican meetings. He even got each party to buy him new microphones for his studio. He covers Tea Party events and all of the NAACP events in the area.

Tragedy struck KLEK to start the year. Qubilah Jones, 45, longtime host of KLEKs Community Conversations,” passed away Dec. 31. Jones spent years battling Lymphedema, an incurable disease that causes the lymph nodes to swell. Kale called her the heart and soul” of the station. A memorial to her, just like his parents, has been erected in the studio. A few of her ashes were spread at the station, located on Franklin Street in the heart of the city.

She was the queen of the station. The response after she passed from the community was overwhelming,” he said.

KLEK is involved in a number of community events throughout the year including its Juneteenth celebration, its Kwanzaa celebration, Trunk or Treat with the Jonesboro Police Department and others. Kale hopes to expand on air programming to include a Civics minute to teach fundamentals of civics. He also wants to develop a sports talk show that focuses on the back stories of players and coaches in the area.

Do you ever reflect on what youve accomplished?

Its surreal at times. I dont get to sit down and reflect on it much. I know this. We made history. We will be in the history books.”