Days after the murder of George Floyd last year, Good Karma Brands founder and chief executive officer Craig Karmazin and vice president and market manager Steve Wexler were volunteering at a first responders’ event and got to talking about Black representation in local media. They saw a need for a radio station that “super-serves” Milwaukee’s African American community and decided that GKB, as a locally owned media company, should take the lead.
That initial conversation snowballed into what’s now known as 101.7 The Truth, which markets itself as “an audio platform that embraces Milwaukee’s Black community.” The FM station launched Jan. 4, 2021, airing live talk radio weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Its goal is to provide a space where on-air hosts and listeners alike can “speak their truth – unvarnished, authentic, sincere,” said Wexler.
“It’s very important to us that the radio station be seen as a place where the full experience of the community has a place,” he said.
Building a radio platform from the ground up is no small task, especially during a global pandemic. The first step was hiring a team of local staff, including general manager Cherie Harris, program director Kyle Wallace, and prominent on-air personalities such as activist Tory Lowe, Milwaukee Bucks in-game host Melanie Ricks, and retired Milwaukee Police Lieutenant Dr. Ken Harris.
In its first year, The Truth has found itself in the center of conversations surrounding important issues ranging from police brutality to COVID-19 vaccinations. As a result, the station has become a source for the local news media looking to gauge sentiments and reactions of the Black community on relevant topics.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk about civil unrest and equity and wealth,” said Harris. “We felt we need to talk about this, and we have to be unapologetic about it. Those conversations may be hard to listen to, but it’s going to educate us all and this is a safe space to have those conversations.”
The Truth’s content isn’t all hard-hitting news, though. Listeners tune in – and contribute to – conversations covering everything from pop culture to education to health, she said.
While the station’s primary focus is the Black community here in Milwaukee, its reach is far broader. On-air personalities draw their own following to the brand, and thanks to digital streaming platforms and podcasting, The Truth can be heard anywhere.
“We have people calling from all over – not just here in Wisconsin, but Nebraska, Las Vegas, even Africa. So, I say we’re worldwide, too,” said Harris.
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