Tavis Smiley to launch local talk radio station

Dominique DiPrima will leave KJLH to host morning drive time show

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Black community in Los Angeles will get its first Black-owned talk radio station starting June 19 when former television host Tavis Smiley launches KBLA Talk 1580.

Smiley made the announcement June 8, also announcing that long-time local radio personality Dominique DiPrima would anchor the morning drive time on the station with her new show, “First Things First With Dominique DiPrima” Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 a.m. DiPrima has hosted the Front Page radio show on KJLH-FM for 16 years.

Smiley, who has built a career educating and empowering African-Americans said he is excited about launching the new station will bring “unapologetically progressive” talk radio to African-American listeners. The station promises to deliver progressive issues and concerns, insightful news, views, special guests, political discussions and surprises, he said.

He plans to start the station at 12:01 a.m. June 19, to commemorate Juneteenth, the date that many Blacks celebrate as the day slavery ended in 1865. The station will operate out of a studio in Leimert Park, directly adjacent to Destination Crenshaw’s “Sankofa Park,” an open-air museum along the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line currently under construction.

DiPrima said her show will feature up-to-the-minute news with special guests who will add depth to the issues.

“I plan to have people on the show who will analyze stories and trends in politics and take a deeper dive on current issues,” she said.

She will become the first African American woman in Los Angeles to host a show during morning drive time, a major time slot in the radio business.

“I really want to keep people up to date as to what is happening locally and nationally as well as feature progressive and pro-Black commentary,” DiPrima added. “We’ll also field live calls from community members about what’s going on in the community.”

A long-time activist, DiPrima is the daughter of two esteemed activists, beat poet icon Diane DiPrima and her father, poet Amiri Baraka, who is considered by many as the father of the Black arts movement.

Over her long career in radio, DiPrima has been the recipient of five Emmy Awards, a National Association of Broadcasters Crystal Award, a SAG/AFTRA American Scene Award and several Parents Choice Awards. DiPrima also has received plenty of recognition for her work,  including a GRACIE Award and an L.A. City Council Pioneer Woman Award.

“We will be doing the show live from Leimert Park and I love the fact that we are able to plant this flag right now when there is so much gentrification happening in our community,” DiPrima said. “It is the right time in history and it is a beautiful thing to occur during gentrification.”

“On the new show, I am looking forward to serving the people I’ve been talking to since my Street Science show and later the Front Page days and I am looking forward to expanding in the future,” she said, adding that one of her first guests will be Rep. Maxine Waters.

DiPrima’s new show will be followed in the KBLA lineup by Smiley, who will host the Tavis Smiley talk show followed by an all-star line up of hosts that include comedian D. L. Hughley, Danny Morrison, Alonzo Bodden,  DeShauna Johnson, Don Amiche with Crysta and Kiara and Black Lives Matter co-founder Melina Abdullah.

Asked about woirking with Smiley, DiPrima said, “I respect him and the quality of the work that he has put out over the years when it comes to educating the community as well as the historic progressive and pro-black commentary. Now he has the opportunity to make history.

“Los Angeles, home of the Watts rebellion and Black Lives Matter summer, has never had a Black-owned talk show radio before and I’m excited to be part of this historic venture.”

She added KBLA Talk 1580 will feature a mixture of topics and concerns.

“There will be political discussions as well as a relationship show on love, sex and dating and entertainment and historical interviews,” DiPrima said. “The station will feature a blend of things, not just in my lineup, but the whole station’s lineup.”

After 16 years with KJLH radio, DiPrima added that she is sad to depart from the “Front Page” and Stevie Wonder. “Steve and I have a great relationship,” she said. “He did not want me to leave but he wished me well. We’re always going to be friends and make the world a better place. Steve and I will always be in the same struggle.


Under KBLA’s lineup, DiPrima and Smiley will be followed by “Middays With Danny Morrison” Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m. and the DL Hughley Afternoon Show Monday through Friday from 2 to 4 p.m.

That will be followed by Alonzo Bodden and “Who’s Paying Attention” from 4 to 7 p.m.  and “Let’s Get Intimate with Dr. Jeshana Johnson” from 7 to 9 p.m.

From 9 p.m. to midnight it will be “Don Amiche vs. Everybody plus Crysta and Kiara” with overnight featuring the bet of KBLA Talk 1580.

Weekends will be anchored by Black Lives Matters’ “This Is Not A Drill,” featuring Melina Abdullah, along with “The Best of State of the Black Union,” heard exclusively on KBLA Talk 1580.

The owner of KBLA Talk 1580, Smiley got his start in Los Angeles as an aide to then-Mayor Tom Bradley in the late 1980s.

He launched his media career as a radio commentator in 1991 and moved to television in 1996, hosting “BET Talk” (later “BET Tonight”) on Black entertainment Television. In 2002, he began hosting “The Tavis Smiley Show” on National Public Radio, then jumped to PBS television in 2004 with “Tavis Smiley,” a show that ran until 2017 when he was dismissed for reportedly having sexual relationships with subordinates.

This will be his first on-air job since he left PBS four years ago.

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.