Kids put their own spin on broadcasting


Their first broadcast started out with hysterical laughter. They were nervous, excited and couldn't believe they were on the radio.

And just in case listeners were equally incredulous, Charrika Kelly let them know what was what.

"We're on the radio, y'all," the 13-year-old said. "Can you hear us on your radio?"

That was two months and eight broadcasts ago. Now the members of the Eastport Radio Club have settled in on 1600 AM, recalling that inaugural broadcast and the progress they've made - and fun they've had - since then.

At 4:30 p.m. Mondays, the club members announce community events, discuss a topic of their choice and play soul classics during broadcasts from the Eastport Community Center.

With the help of Teresa Davis, the recreational and educational coordinator for the center, the club members write a script and put together the show.

Dennis Conti, chairman for the utilities committee of the Housing Authority of Annapolis, came up with the idea after helping launch a similar station in the Clay Street public housing community two years ago.

With a $1,000 grant from the Annapolis community foundation, he purchased a low-powered transmitter, a mixer and a CD player.

In March, he trained a small group of kids on how to use the equipment.

"They were fast learners and very anxious to get on," Conti said. "The show gives them some experience in communication and organization skills. And it might spur some interest in broadcasting as a career."

The club has three members now, but they hope the group will grow in the coming months as others become interested in using the station to produce informative and entertaining shows.

The live broadcast reaches the Eastport Terrace and Harbour House communities.

Previous topics on the show have included poetry and comedy, when the crew wrote poems and jokes for the broadcast.

This week, they brainstormed possible topics, finally deciding to focus on the dangers of smoking.

"What are you going to say about smoking?" Davis asked the group about an hour before the broadcast.

"The ways you can get addicted," Mariah Gatling 11, said. "And that it doesn't make you look cool."

Mickell Evans, 13, on air for the first time and sitting in for another club member, wrote a rap that veered off topic.

"Kids, don't do drugs 'cause if you do drugs, your mother won't give you hugs," he rapped. "Drugs, no hugs, drugs, no hugs."

Laughter all around.

"How did we get from smoking to drugs?" Davis asked, trying to rein in the show's topic.

The rap was rejected, and Mickell, Charrika and Mariah turned back to their script, hammering out the show's details.

First, the announcement about summer camp, then the topic of the day, then music.

The dry run was marked by a few giggles during the announcements.

Mariah just couldn't keep it together, prompting Charrika to bury her head in her hands and laugh along.

"I hope when y'all go on the air, y'all aren't going to be laughing," Davis said.

"This time we have everything down," Charrika said, waving the script in the air. "Last time, we weren't prepared."

On air, all goes well.

Borrowing from an anti-smoking brochure, the trio discussed the dangers of tobacco and then played "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" by the Four Tops.

In the next segment, the group talked about school - books they were reading in class, plans for summer vacation and what goes on during a school day.

"What do you do at school on a regular basis?" Charrika asked Mickell, who attends Annapolis Middle School.

"I eat lunch, I hang out with my homegirls and homeboys, I go to class," he responded. The show was over in about 30 minutes.

It's difficult to know how many people have heard the broadcast, but Davis said people from the neighborhood often come in and ask about it.

The last broadcast before summer break is Monday. Club members said their initial interest in participating stemmed from mild curiosity but has grown.

"Other people get to hear what we have to say, and being on the radio is something most kids aren't able to do," Mariah said. "We spread the news of the day, and we have to be serious about it."

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