The Urban Communications workshop, Spirits Known and Unknown was founded on November 6,1971 at American University radio station WAMU 88.5. It started as a two-hour broadcast and grew to become a communications workshop where African American students received professional radio broadcast experience.
Founded by Gerald B. Lee and Russell Williams, Spirits was the only student-operated and hosted show of its kind that transmitted on a 50-thousand watt station on Saturdays for almost two decades. “We wanted our program to be a training ground, a place where young blacks could get some hands on experience in the media,” says Gerald.
Spirits developed a loyal audience and its pioneering approach to broadcasting and state of the art equipment attracted students from several local colleges. The motto, “each on, teach one”, was practiced.
Spirits alumni work in communications, public affairs and media-related fields at Reuters, NPR, WHUR, WKYS, WMAL, WTOP. WRC-TV, WDVM-TV, WJLA-TV, the Associated Press, FOX, ESPN, CNN, KPOO-FM, KPFA and Voice of America.
Alumni Reggie Sanders underscored another significant aspect of the workshop value when he points out that while there are to this day “few people of color on the air or in key support positions as producers, writers and directors, had it not been for Spirits… many of us may not be where we are today.” Most graduates of Spirits echo the sentiments of JoAnne Allen, former Spirits news writer, editor and anchor, “Spirits was a great training ground, and provided a strong foundation that would carry me throughout my professional career”.
The Spirits Know and Unknown Urban Communications went of the air in 1987.