Rachel Abrahamson is Radio Boise’s new chair of the board of directors. The radio station is an important part of the community, and the appointment of Abrahamson brings new ideas. Her mission to create a more inclusive space. BW reached out to see what the new chair had to say about the change and her vision for the future of the board.
BW: As the new chair of the board of directors at Radio Boise, can you explain what that title entails?
R.A.: Officially, the chair has general and active control of board affairs and business, as well as general supervision of its officers, agents, and employees. The chair sees that all orders and resolutions of the board are carried into effect. I guess a less stuffy explanation is that I’m a big Mama Bear, and I work hard to make sure stuff is getting done and that nothing falls through the cracks. I’m also on all of the board sub-committees, and I’m a programmer as well; I wear a lot of different hats. I’m a sounding board, a point of contact, and I help support everyone to improve our productivity and effectiveness. I love to collaborate with the staff too. It has been a daily endeavor since January because we’ve had a lot going on, but I definitely love the challenge of it all.
BW: Some people in the community seemed concerned with your recent appointment to the board. On social media some were saying it would change the way the station operates; can you speak to that?
R.A.: We aren’t changing the way the station operates, we continue to be community centered in our programming. We’re excited to be launching a search for a new general manager. Our Program Director Wayne Birt is there, and he’s been leading programming and production for 10 years. I like to call Wayne the “foundation of the station.” Our long time staffers are all there doing the magic they do, and kicking ass at it. They’re amazing. As far as programming and our mission go, some folks were still worried that we were turning into “corporate suits,” which is the furthest thing from the truth. In the last year our board has grown, bringing in six new members who are a mix of community activists, nonprofit and service industry workers, so not corporate at all.
As far as my appointment, I think some people were surprised in part because my election from board member to board chair happened pretty quickly. I’d only served one year on the board, but I did have a busy year recruiting new Board members and working hard. I’m a bit of an overachiever, but only because I’m passionate about making a difference. The board vote to elect me as chair was unanimous. Still, there were other comments made about me becoming chair that came from a hurtful place, and I haven’t spoken publicly about that before. There were inappropriate comments made, not from anyone at the station, which implied I was elected chair because I was a “model minority” diversity hire because I’m Asian American. Those tokenizing accusations cut me deeply and are the result of institutional racism that is so harmful and divisive in our country, and far too common here in Idaho. Most people are praising my work and thanking me for all that I’m doing, and I choose to focus on that. It may be a crazy notion, but the day hurtful comments cease is one I look forward to and still believe in enough to work toward.
BW: What is your vision for the future of the board?
R.A.: I want to build the most actively involved and diverse board humanly imaginable. I want our board to reflect the station’s mission to be inclusive without exception. We are evolving, and we’re finding new engagement and passion for what we do that is propelling us into the future in such a positive way. It’s important to me that we have diversity without tokenism, and I think we’re accomplishing that not just on our board, but in our programming as well. We will always lean into doing this work, no matter how many peanuts are thrown at us from the gallery. Word has it I’m pretty tenacious, and I’m one hundred percent focused on doing this work.
BW: You’re also a DJ at Radio Boise. How long have you been doing the show, and explain a little about your background and experience in Boise?
R.A.: I started guesting and training on shows back in May 2020, and I got my own program, Soundtrack Serenade, in July. I’m on Episode 38 this week, and I have to say that time really flies by. I can’t believe I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of when I made my move to the mic. It’s addictive, and I’m completely obsessed with the entire process of programming, from curating my show theme every week, to staying up all night throwing tunes out into the terrestrial radio waves. The Radio Boise DJ Booth is the one place in the world that I can throw all my cares out the window, and I just smile from ear to ear for two blissful programming hours every week.
As far as my background, I moved to Boise in February 1996, just before Valentine’s Day. There must have been the love in the air because I definitely fell in love with Boise and I put down roots here. I raised three kids who all went to Borah High School and then on to BSU. I have a long-running addiction to nonprofit and community organizations here.
I was at the Boise Weekly from 1996-99, and again from 2001-2008. I run a pop-up-not-for-profit art show, and I also run a not-for-profit food truck weekly pop-up that is building faster than I ever imagined it would because of good people who show up and support what I’m doing. I am proud to be so active in the community here, it definitely keeps me going.
BW: Can you speak to the importance of community radio in Boise and what listeners might look forward to?
R.A.: To pull from the About page on our Radio Boise website, “It’s the most democratic form of media available to the average citizen today.” Radio is free and can be found anywhere, and the possibilities with radio are endless. The infrastructure is built out. We play music and offer access that isn’t being provided anywhere else, and we also have public affairs and arts and issues programs that face things head on. We do it with personality by employing the most age-old tactic in the book...by opening our doors to community members. Our primary goal as a media outlet is to serve underrepresented voices by having programming that gives all people a voice, whether that be through music or conversation.
We have over 70 original programs on the station, so there is something for everyone to fall in love with. We have five new programs at the station just this year alone. We are growing in leaps and bounds. With that, of course, comes the responsibility of listening to the ever evolving needs of our people. This year we’ve debuted a new classical show, and a new LGBTQXIA+ program hosted by our new hosts Thomas Kimble and Xander-Hattaway Bishop. The Lovely Afro, hosted by Leta Harris Neustaedter, is a new step for us, a talk/music hybrid that bridges some of the distance between music and issues. And the work continues. Wayne always likes to say we are a broadcast station “made up of ears,” which makes me think of a Fennec Fox with giant ears.
Maybe that should be on one of our T-shirts, a Fennec Fox holding a radio. I like it.