She happened to be at an event and a white man came up to her and told her he wanted to hire her for TV.
She had no experience in TV and told him so; but he continued to follow her and she assumed he was really trying to get a date with her so she kept her distance saying, “I don’t date white men.”
When the man told her, “I’m not trying to date you, I want to hire you,” and her good friend vouched for him — saying the man was on the up and up, she listened.
In her exclusive interview with EURweb publisher Lee Bailey, internationally acclaimed radio host, TV reporter and consumer advocate Bev Smith has a gazillion experiences she can share right off the top of her head.
Smith is a woman who has lived.
She could easily intimidate some people. She is so rich with high-profile, personal experiences and overflowing with passion and confidence when she shares them, she doesn’t quite fit in the whole fake humility era, where one is encouraged to say very little about self so that you don’t appear to be bragging.
It was a joy for me to listen to her after I was assigned to write the feature because not only can I relate to her life; and her passionate storytelling; I can feel her.
She has fought discrimination and injustice every step of the way in her very colorful and varied career. And she has been provided access to interview some of the world’s most prominent kings and leaders, top politicians and CEO’s, high profiled entertainers and celebrities; as well as community organizers and grassroots, hard working folks.
In 1975, she was named News and Public Affairs Director for Sheridan Broadcasting and hosted a lively talk show on Sheridan’s flagship station, WAMO. Since then, her “fire brand” style of talk shows have been heard on KDKA and WTAE Radio in Pittsburgh, WNWS in Miami, WKIS in Orlando and WRC in Washington DC.
And it doesn’t hurt to have Bob Johnson as one of your listeners.
“I was named the host of BET Our Voices” and for 13-years we had a show that was absolutely unbelievable. And you might say that was the beginning of my total immersing myself in targeted radio for the black community and targeted TV for the black community. So there I was – I was working for NBC in the afternoon; I would pick up my daughter and then we’d go to BET.”
As a consumer advocate telling it like it is on the radio, Smith has had to roll with the punches and at times, take her life in her hands. She has been called “Nigger Bitch” more times than she can remember; she has been followed by the FBI and has even had daggers sent to her via mail.
Her talk is sprinkled with bits about being dead center at the arrival of Haitian refugees during the Mariel boat lift; and she mentions the Sandinistas and the Contras as if the two groups were guests on her show. She speaks of events surrounding The George Bush and Ronald Reagan era…and the time when speaker Les Brown was being investigated by Janet Reno.
“I was in the middle of all of it,” she says. “I marched. I got shot at.”
She did a series of town hall meetings on-air and recalls:
“I invited the head of the Ku Klux Klan to come in and sit and talk to Mrs. Mamie Till – Emmit Tills mom …the late Ms. Mamie, a sweetheart of a woman.”
She tells Bailey, “I used my radio show for activism…I think it’s in my DNA. I’ve tried not to, but that hasn’t worked.”
On another town hall program she says,
“I invited Louis Farrakhan. And to say there was a fire storm is the understatement of the year. I was angry…and I wrote on my blog, ‘I am angry when people try to tell me who I can have sit at my table to discuss the problems in my community. I take that as an insult; because I have never once said to any of my friends who are Jewish or Christian or nothing at all, ‘Who are you having at your dinner table? I don’t like them. You can’t talk to them.’”
As news and public affairs director at WAMO in Pittsburgh, Smith built a reputation and did a lot of good for the “Everyday Joe” – for one, she got people out of jail.
“That’s when I got shot at first on the radio…I was doing a show on ‘Police Brutality.’ We seemed to know it was the Pittsburgh police,” she smirks.
And for every step backwards (in-between jobs she did sales, workshops, etc.) Smith moved several steps forward. Former colleagues loved her style so much that they promised if ever able, they would hire her to work for them and make her their “star.”
And several of them made good on that promise including Lee Fowler, program director at KDKA.
” He offered me an incentive to move to Florida; a realtor who would help me find a house, and the first three months of a down payment on a rental.”
Smith made the move to Miami, telling Lee Bailey, “I felt like the Jefferson’s ‘movin’ on up’” as she and her daughter moved into their Villa.
“And that was the beginning on an unbelievable time,” she adds.
She stayed in Miami for many years; and did quite well in radio; before she was presented with another offer even greater than the last.
This one came from news Director Kaye Barone, a former colleague who was now in Orlando.
She said, “Orlando Florida has many, many racial problems and I think you can make a difference. I want you to come to Orlando and I’m willing to pay you,” Smith recalls.
Seeing this as an offer she couldn’t refuse, Smith moved to Orlando and the first thing she did when she got there was march against the Ku Klux Klan.
Bev Smith began her talk show, The Bev Smith Show on The American Urban Radio Network, which owned Sheridan Broadcasting, in 2001. President Jerry Lobe had promised her that “One day I’m going to call you up and say ‘The Fat Lady is Singing’ (a comment she admits she took personally) and he did. She started her talk radio career on a full-time basis, on-air in the evening.
She was there for 11 years; and in 2011, the station decided to “do other things.”
“That’s when I decided I wanted to be a free slave,” she tells Bailey. “I wanted to work for myself…try my hand at syndicating myself…[Be a] slave who did the work, but became their own master.
Smith currently takes advantage of the new age and technology by doing her talk radio show from a studio in her Pittsburgh home. She has a small staff and many of the stations she worked for still carry her show.
By the end of 2014, she expects to be carried on 27 stations.
She is also documenting her rich history in the book, Talking While Black – which she says will be released in the Fall of 2014.
Learn more about this fascinating lady, and The Bev Smith radio show, at her website” “thebevsmithshow.net”.
And take a look at a full length “Our Voices.” On this show, Smith and her guests talk about the alarming percentage of Black men who are incarcerated.
DeBorah B. Pryor has been an associate with EURweb since 2003. She is now the writer and editor at EURThisNThat. As an entrepreneur, DeBorah is an independent associate for LegalShield and presides over the small business, “Public Speaking for the Private Person.” Visit her website or Email her at [email protected]