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KMOJ moves to Uptown, fires Spike Moss

class=img_thumbleft>(Update below.) Homeless since December, black community radio station KMOJ-FM (89.9) announced Tuesday that it has found a new location--in Uptown. Headquartered in North Minneapolis, the heart of black Minnesota, since launching in 1978, "the People's Station" will now be moving at least temporarily to the pricey whitebread Minneapolis neighborhood mythologized by Prince and Atmosphere, in the Rainbow Building at 1422 West Lake Street. KMOJ has been broadcasting pre-recorded content from its transmitter since it was evicted from the now-demolished site at 555 Girard Avenue North in December, after the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (the station's longtime landlord) determined that the building was structurally unsafe. (More here.)

KMOJ had previously been located at the MPHA-owned Glenwood-Lyndale Community Center (at 501 Bryant Avenue North) until that building, too, was torn down--in 2003, as part of the Hollman Consent Decree. The station went on the air on September 15, 1978, launching out of the Glenwood-Lyndale housing projects across the street.

KMOJ signaled another move away from its North Minneapolis roots earlier this month by dismissing longtime community activist Spike Moss, the 12-year host of Voices of the African American Community who once persuaded Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to buy the station a new transmitter. "What's going to have to happen is the community's going to have to stand up and take this station back," says Moss, reached by phone Thursday night. "They can't take our station to Uptown. It should stay in our community."

General manager Kelvin Quarles, who joined KMOJ three years ago from Atlanta, could not be reached for comment Thursday [update: his response is below]. "Our image is changing and we have seen ratings increases," he told the Star Tribune earlier this month.

KMOJ has undergone many changes since 2002, when the station yanked all of its community-service programs off the air for 45 days (telling hosts to reapply in order to continue their shows), and flipped its format from a mixture of Quiet Storm and hip hop to Adult Urban Contemporary. Since then, "the Heart and Soul of the Twin Cities" has increasingly limited rap music to specialty shows, while paring back political call-in programs and other talk-related content. "Talk about it" Wednesdays on the morning show, for instance, were discontinued, though before KMOJ's eviction, the program came to unexpected life when the host invited listeners to comment on the flap over Keith Ellison's swearing-in.

Some public affairs programming will likely remain part of KMOJ's mix in the future: The station apparently received a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at least partly on this merit.

Friday update: Reached on his cell phone this morning, general manager Kelvin Quarles says KMOJ's move to Uptown is temporary, and in the long-term best interests of the station. "Our job is to look out for the good of KMOJ," he says. "Our goal is to help African Americans as a people. We can broadcast from St. Paul and still help North Minneapolis."

Quarles adds that the station is looking into buying property on the North Side, on West Broadway, with the help of the Ackerberg Group. "Our decision to move to Uptown is strictly based on us working out a plan for long-term success and survival."

As for Spike Moss's dismissal, Quarles says there were disagreements at the station about the show's presentation. "I have no problem with Spike Moss," he says. "Spike does a great job of being an activist, and we do a great job of communicating to the African American community."

Another update: More on the move at Buzz.mn.