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In construction, a plumbline is a weight suspended from a string used as a tool to find the true reference line. A plumbline will always find the vertical axis pointing to the center of gravity, ensuring everything is right, justified, and centered. ​ Pulling from a library of more than 3,000 shows from his storied career in broadcasting, Shelley's Plumbline leads us in a search for the truth, opening the channels of communication and understanding on tough social topics that are as relevant ...
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Today we continue telling more stories of Black history, as we share an excerpt from the recording, “Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation,” published by The New Press, in conjunction with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Stay tuned and you’ll hear the words …
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Hey, Plumbliners. Before we begin with this week’s episode, we’d like to thank you for the emails! We received an email from a teacher in Washington state. She says, … My class has been learning about the Children's March recently, and one student asked whatever happened to Shelley the Playboy after watching the documentary "Mighty Times." That led…
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Here at the beginning of Black History Month, we welcome you to season 5 of Shelley’s Plumbline. Since it is Black History Month, Shelley and I did some research. According to a recent article in Axios, “…lawmakers in 30 states have proposed new restrictions during the past year on what schools can teach about the nation's racial history…” Accordin…
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Today we bring Season 4 to an end as we shine the spotlight on the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. James was a controversial character to be sure, but he became good friends with Shelley and always admired Shelley’s belief in the power of education. When James released the song Don’t Be A Dropout, he couldn’t wait to play it for Shelley and Shelley…
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Since Shelley was a DJ and radio personality, he was instrumental in helping grow the careers of numerous well-known talented singers and musicians. During Season 4 we have covered stories about many of these musical giants who started as business associates of Shelley’s and blossomed into deep friendships. We shared stories about BB King, Sam Cook…
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On today’s episode we continue sharing stories from Shelley’s fascinating life in music as he tells us about his personal and professional relationship with Otis Redding. Otis was a chauffeur for another band when he was discovered during a break at the recording studio in Muscle Shoals. Shelley was fortunate enough to be the first DJ to play Otis’…
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Hey Plumbliners. The theme of Season 4 has been about Shelley’s life in music. But this week, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, we’re going to rebroadcast our podcast from Season 1 on Hosea Williams. Hosea Williams was a very close friend and associate of Dr King and was instrumental in organizing the Movement. Please enjoy this special …
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On December 1, 2023, Shelley received the Rosa Parks Day Award for Leadership, Commitment to Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Civic Service. Rosa Parks Day is December 1st because that was the day, in 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus. In today’s podcast, Shelley reflects on the award and on his…
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In this week’s episode, we continue exploring Shelley’s friendship with another major blues artist – Bobby “Blue” Bland, or “Blue” as Shelley called him. Like many blues, soul and R&B artists, Shelley traces Blue’s work back to his Gospel roots. In fact, there are hints of those notes in many of his most popular songs. Stay tuned and learn how Blue…
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Today we continue to explore Shelley’s life in the music world as we take a look at Lou Rawls. Lou, like Sam Cooke, was born and raised in the Chicago area and crossed paths with Sam Cooke as they sang in gospel groups before moving into R&B, Jazz, and Soul. Since Shelley was a popular radio personality, he had a hand in promoting the careers of bo…
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Today, Shelley talks about his personal and professional friendship with the Philosopher of Soul, otherwise known as Johnnie Taylor. As the PR director for Redwal Music Company, Shelley had the opportunity to spend time with Johnnie, as well as other music greats on that label, including Otis Redding. We’ll get to Otis in a future podcast. Both Joh…
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We continue to explore Shelley’s life in music, as Shelley shares stories about his relationship with Ray Charles. Ray is definitely an icon in the blues world, known for his trademark Ray Ban sunglasses. In fact, it’s generally acknowledged that Ray was the first blind musician to wear sunglasses, setting a trend for future musicians. But Ray will…
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Two of the most popular episodes of Shelley’s Plumbline were Episode 1 of Season 2, "The Final Interview with Eddie Kendricks." A lot of folks also liked Episode 2 of Season 2 … about Shelley’s life scouting for musical talent on the Chitlin' Circuit. So to kick off Season Four, we’re going to give you more stories about Shelley’s life in music – t…
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Today as we continue to explore Shelley’s life in music, we feature a conversation about Sam Cooke, one of Shelley’s dear friends. In fact, Shelley was so close to him that Sam was the godfather to one of his children. Aside from being a very good friend, Sam and Shelley shared the same mission: to use the power of music to bring people together. T…
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From time to time, Shelley would conduct an open forum during his show, and listeners would call in. Today’s episode features a discussion from 1996 with Shelley and a listener regarding a speech given by William Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post. The discussion focuses on how racism is often used as an excuse o…
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Today we continue our exploration of one of the many organizers in the Movement who had great influence but were not as well-known. This episode features an interview from January of 1998 when Shelley sat down with Tommy Wrenn. Active in the movement in both Birmingham and Selma, Wrenn worked as a field staffer for the Dr King's Southern Christian …
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Today’s episode features an interview from 1998 with the author of The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Black, Yvonne Willie. She and Shelley discuss the role of racial identity and self-worth, revealing that internalized racism is a learned behavior. Follow us and continue the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.…
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Today we continue to share little-known stories of the struggle during the early 60s with an interview with James Armstrong. He recounts the many artificial obstacles city officials presented him when he attempted to enroll his children in Graymont School in Birmingham, Alabama, at a time when it was segregated. He prevailed, however, and his sons …
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Today, we feature an interview with author and historian Dr. Vincent Harding. A social activist, he was perhaps best known for his work with and writings about Martin Luther King Jr., whom Harding knew personally. In this episode, Dr Harding sits down with Shelley and talks about not only the Black struggle – but how several different vectors of so…
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Today, we share an interview with Johnny Ford, the first African-American mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama. He served five terms from 1972 to 1996 when he won a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. He was re-elected mayor of Tuskegee in 2004, and he served until 2008. This interview touches on the issues of gerrymandering and how it unfairly aff…
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In this episode, Shelley shares an interview from January 1993 with Rev. Nelson H. Smith, also known as "Fireball" Smith. Smith was another unknown yet highly influential foot soldier in the fight for human rights for all, participating in The Movement before the 1960s and marching side by side with Dr. King during the '60s. Throughout his ministry…
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Happy 89th Birthday to Shelley Stewart! Today, we celebrate Shelley's 89th birthday with a recording of a speech Shelley made when he was 63 years old at Friendship Baptist Church. This Church plays a special role in Shelley's life. As a boy of five, he saw his mother murdered just a few blocks away. In spite of growing up without his parents, he w…
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This week, Shelley continues to explore some of the lesser-known yet powerful foot soldiers in the Movement. One such person is Yvonne Turner. Who is Yvonne Turner? Well, well before the Human Rights Movement of the 60s, the true Movement began in the mid-1950s, and people like Yvonne Turner, Georgia Price, and others were instrumental in organizin…
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To kick off Season 3 of Shelley's Plumbline, we went through his archives, and Shelley rediscovered some rare recordings of #MLK that he had forgotten about. These are speeches MLK made in Birmingham! Why are they rare? Because for his protection and to keep Bull Conner guessing, Dr. King would often show up to churches unannounced to make speeches…
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Today Shelley shares an interview from 1995 with Ezekwa Abdullah. Ezekwa argues that Blacks still repress themselves and suffer a form of psychological slavery in the collective subconscious psyche because attitudes of repression have been preserved and passed from one generation to the next. The ghost of the plantation exists today because not eno…
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Today, Shelley replays an interview from the Free By Choice program, which brought inmates from Alabama prisons on the air to speak openly about their crimes and the decisions which led to them. These Free By Choice inmates had a strong desire to share their stories so their suffering could serve to help others avoid making the same mistakes. Follo…
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Today, Shelley reaches back into his archive to an interview with Mariam McClendon. They discuss colorism, that is, the differences in perception between light- and dark-complected blacks and the challenges darker-complected blacks encounter – even from members of their own race. Even though the interview is from 1991, the problem of colorism still…
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Today’s episode of Shelley’s Plumbline features an interview from 1989 with Orlando Jones, a one-time track star at the University of Alabama. Orlando shares his story of how he went from running on a track as an All-American scholarship athlete to running drugs across the border in Mexico, eventually getting caught and landing in prison. He shares…
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Today’s episode features a 1993 interview with Julius Davis, a man who had just spent 19 years in prison. At 21 years of age, he had been handed two life sentences for his involvement in two separate murders. Julius discusses how prior to his crimes, he was involved as a positive influence in his community and how two bad decisions led him to priso…
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In this episode, Shelley reflects on an interview from 1991 that covers the topic of racial identity. Which is the correct terminology? Black? African-American, People of Color? The interview also discusses class differences among Blacks. Be advised that this episode contains frank discussions about race and uses the n-word. Listener discretion is …
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Today we continue our exploration of the Evolution of Black Media and the role Black radio stations played during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. We explore how the Black population began to look to popular disc jockeys such as Jack Gibson, Gertrude Cooper, Georgie Woods, Martha Jean “the Queen,” and the Plumbline’s very own Shelley “The Play…
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This week we kick off the first of a two-part series on the Evolution of Black Media. In this episode, Shelley tells us about the early days of Black Media and how much of the entertainment for black audiences was produced by whites. Amos N Andy, for example, a well-known radio sitcom, was produced and performed by two white actors. Shelley recalls…
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Today we continue telling the story of Shelley’s life in the world of music as he reflects on his days traveling the south on what was known as the Chitlin' Circuit. As a talent agent for Shelby Singleton Productions, Shelley traveled the Chitlin Circuit searching for talent that played in small towns throughout the South. He would then take the ta…
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Shelley's Life in Music Today we’ll begin an exploration of Shelley’s fascinating life in the music world. Over the course of his career, Shelley worked with many major names in music, such as Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and The Temptations. And he became fast friends with musical giants such as Bobby "Blue" Bland, Otis Redding,…
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Shelley sat down in 1993 for an interview with Jim Porter, a member of the Board of Directors of the NRA. The arguments have not changed for the past 30 years, yet the problem of gun violence persists and, in fact, continues to grow in 2023. Shelley explores the challenges that existed in 1993 and compares them to today. Follow us and continue the …
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This episode concludes our series on youth gangs and drug dealers with an interview of a young man who began dealing drugs at the age of 16. He was brought into a gang at the age of 10 and exposed to the life of a drug dealer. During that time, he’d seen fellow gang members killed and maimed. He even shares a harrowing description of mutilation tha…
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Today’s episode reaches back to 1986 and was part of a series of interviews Shelley did on Open Mic with drug dealers and youth gangs. This individual had a promising career as a backup drummer for the well-known blues musician Bobby “Blue” Bland. Unfortunately, the lure of easy money pulled him into the world of dealing cocaine, Although he didn’t…
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In 1989, two gang members from the Birmingham area approached Shelley and asked to be on his show, "Open Mic." They wanted to share their experiences about the myths and realities of gang life and share their regrets over the youth they lost while acting as members of a gang. Ironically, the mother of one of the gang members heard her son on the sh…
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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have advantages such as fostering a sense of community and pride, providing a supportive environment, and offering diverse faculty and notable alumni. However, HBCUs may also face challenges such as limited resources, stigma, potential limitations in academic programs, and persistent inequalities…
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Hate crimes have devastating impacts on individuals, communities, and society and fuel fear, division, and mistrust within communities, contributing to social inequalities and damaging social cohesion. They erode trust in law enforcement and the justice system and have negative implications for economic development. Additionally, hate crimes perpet…
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Homelessness affects a diverse range of individuals. It is not limited to a particular demographic, but can impact people of different ages, genders, races, and backgrounds. Among those who are homeless are individuals experiencing mental health issues, addiction, domestic violence survivors, veterans, youth, families with children, and individuals…
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Dr. King's legacy inspired generations of activists and leaders, and his contributions continue to be recognized and celebrated today as a beacon of hope and progress. But Dr. King had a premonition about his death, and he warned the members of his inner circle to beware of the tactics external forces would use to break the movement apart after he …
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Black History Month has been celebrated for decades as a time to honor and recognize the contributions and achievements of Black individuals throughout history. However, some argue that relegating Black history to a single month perpetuates segregation and fails to fully integrate it into the mainstream curriculum. Ending Black History Month could …
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Episode #1: Internalized Racism Internalized racism refers to the subtle yet pervasive ways in which individuals from marginalized racial or ethnic groups internalize negative societal messages about their own race or ethnicity. Overcoming internalized racism requires self-awareness, education, and conscious efforts to challenge and reject negative…
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