The first day of Black History Month was a day of jubilation, excitement and tears for Melody Spann-Cooper, president and CEO of radio station WVON.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony of the station’s new headquarters at 1000 E. 87th Street (former headquarters of black-owned Soft Sheen Products) included such dignitaries as Mayor Richard M. Daley, Cook County President Todd Stroger, ComEd CEO Frank Clark, State Senator James Meeks, Cong. Danny Davis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Central City Production’s Don Jackson, TV personality Merri Dee, Rev. Michael Pfleger, Wesley South, Lucky Cordell, Pervis Spann, W.L. Lillard, WBBM’s Felicia Middlebrooks, and N’Digo Magapaper Publisher Hermene D. Hartman.
Spann-Cooper remarked to the standing-room-only crowd that the new conference hall was larger than the entire old 3350 S. Kedzie location. Mayor Daley in his brief statement talked about the historic significance of WVON and that it is still African-American-owned. Daley also talked about the $1 million TIF (Tax Increment Finance) assistance that was given to aid the station in its relocation and the expansion of its signal.
The new state-of-the-art facility features framed photos of African-American historic figures. Moderating the event was afternoon host Cliff Kelley, who also talked about the major historic significance of the station to the city of Chicago. Morning host and Chicago Defender editor Roland Martin worked the crowd, shaking hands and welcoming everyone.
Rev. Jesse Jackson talked about the history of the station, beginning in 1963 and how the “Good Guys” were part of the community and from the community. Prior to making his statements, Rev. Jackson had everyone laughing when he began by stating, “I’m fresh, clean … [and the audience yelled] and articulate” (alluding to Sen. Biden’s recent remarks about Sen. Obama).
Spann-Cooper almost brought everyone to tears, as she herself fought back her own, while paying homage to her father, Pervis Spann. “My daddy is awesome. He taught us there’s nothing we can’t do. He is the most brilliant man I know.” Spann-Cooper thanked many people for helping her get to this historic day: her personal attorney, South Shore Bank, Todd Stroger and dear friend Hermene Hartman, just to name a few.
She urged business leaders to go back to their offices and include WVON in their advertising budgets. “I’m not asking for charity. I want to do business with you, and I have a quality product. Our audience will respond to anything we ask of them.”
Spann-Cooper thanked her entire staff for their efforts in making the move: The weekday talk show hosts-The Roland Martin Show, The Santita Jackson Show, The Al Sharpton Show, The Cliff Kelley Show, The Michael Eric Dyson Show, On Target with Jon Daye, and The Bev Smith Show-and the weekend hosts, Matt McGill & Perri Small, The Pam Morris Gospel Show, The Jerry Riles Sports Show, Gregory Sain, Lynn Richardson, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Terry Mason.