Emerson College’s award-winning radio station, 88.9 FM WERS, is expanding on its tradition of bringing new hip hop and R&B artists to listeners and advancing its commitment to equity and inclusion by launching ERS+, a new 24/7 urban music stream.
Launched on December 3, the new music format will live at 88.9 FM HD-2 for those with HD-equipped radios. ERS+ also will be available as a stream, online and via an app at WERSplus.org.
“What will set us apart from the others that play urban music is what always has,” Operations Manager Howard “D” Simpson said. “We have great ears for new music discovery and a deep library – and we’re not afraid to use both.”
Over the summer, as people around the world demonstrated against police brutality and systemic racism following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, WERS General Manager Jack Casey prompted WERS staff to come up with actions the station could implement in an effort to bring about positive change. The ERS+ project was soon put into development.
WERS also developed a podcast, the station’s first, that examines the history of social injustice in the United States, from slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to police brutality. An eight-part series, Shadows of a Dreamhighlights the continuing push for equality in cities like Boston and around the country. It concluded with thought leaders being asked: “Where do we go from here?” The podcast can be found at https://www.wers.org/shadowsofadream/
Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Simpson was inspired to work in radio by programmers and DJs, including Elroy RC Smith, at Boston’s heritage urban radio signal, WILD. At one time, the majority of artists played could only be regularly heard on the AM dial. Since then, R&B and hip hop have arrived at what is likely their highest level of mainstream acceptance.
“After all these years of incremental change, we wouldn’t have to contend with radio pirates if members of the Black community were truly satisfied with the local radio offerings,” Simpson said. “If we want to have an impact on the Black community, we should give people what they want.
WERS has a history of supporting hip hop and R&B artists before they became big names. Generations of fans first heard Jay Z or Queen Latifah on vintage WERS programs like The Black Experience, Rap Explosion, and 88.9@Night.
The station will revive The Black Experience and introduce Boston listeners to the newest voices, such as Tobe Nwigwe, VanJess, and Durrand Bernarr, alongside a variety of favorites.
To accommodate the new HD2 format, the current Broadway show tunes format will become an online streaming exclusive. WERS’ longstanding Standing Room Only show will continue to air Saturdays, 10:00 am-2:00 pm, on 88.9 FM.