Lady B’s defenders want her returned to the airwaves

For decades, Lady B has been a mainstay of Philly culture. She was a pioneering female rapper (known for her 1979 hit “To the Beat Y’all”) and an integral member of the hip-hop scene as one of the first DJs to play recordings by local artists like Will Smith. But she was also known for her cultural insights and philanthropic efforts around Philly.

Earlier this month, those decades of history came to a screeching halt when Lady B was let go from her position deejaying classic R&B and hip-hop at Old School 100.3 WRNB.

No clear explanation has yet been given for the firing, but Lady B’s supporters aren’t taking it without a fight. At a news conference on Tuesday at the offices of the NAACP’s Philly branch, they promised to assemble “B’s Army” for a rally on Dec. 21 outside her old station’s offices to demand a spot for Lady B on the airwaves.

“The firing of Lady B is not only an affront to her widespread and loyal listening audience,” organizers wrote, “it is also an unprofessional act of blatant disrespect to the extensive community she serves in her relentless efforts to end gun violence, educate the youth, aid the elderly and assist the poor.”

Lady B, also known as Wendy Clark, started as an intern to Mary Mason, the queen of Philly radio. She made her name in the 1980s at Power 99 FM, and in recent years DJed “The Lady B Show” on weekdays from 2 to 7 p.m. on 100.3 FM. Fans recalled her as a positive influence on Philadelphia.

“Young people didn’t listen to their parents, but they listened to her,” said City Councilwoman Cindy Bass. “She was a voice that a generation listened to, from the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s up to today. … To take her away so swiftly, without any sort of explanation, I just find unacceptable.”

Urban One, which owns WRNB, did not respond to requests for comments on the firing.

Lady B herself has not complained, announcing the end of her career on Dec. 12 with positivity:

“I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from all of you,” she wrote in a Facebook post thanking her fans. “I am still here for you. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be in the community.”

But activist, civil rights attorney and Lady B supporter Michael Coard questioned why Lady B was let go and said he believes there were disputes over her “culture-oriented programming.”

“Lady B wasn’t just playing mindless music. She was also dealing with community concerns,” Coard said. “She still had the great R&B. She still had the old-school hip-hop, but every now and then, she’d throw in a little more of the community stuff,”

In between socially conscious interludes on everything from black history to HBCUs and how homeowners could enroll in LIHEAP, Lady B faced criticism from management, Coard believes.

“We clearly know it wasn’t for any inappropriate behavior or unprofessional action by Lady B — it was simply a decision by the management,” Coard said. “Any time major corporations in America see black folks becoming enlightened and empowered, they have to pull it.”

Minister Rodney Muhammad, head of the Philly NAACP, said Lady B’s termination is part of a troubling trend, linking it to the end of contracts for black commentators Roland Martin, also with News 1, and Tom Joyner, with the same station, who will be retiring soon.

“Under Trump’s America, we see a move now to dismantle effective black programming in the country,” Muhammad said. “That’s a disservice not only to us, but to the United States of America.”

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