12 Feb, 2011

18 days of protest

12 Feb, 2011

It’s a cold brisk morning in Houston, Texas. I’ve just dropped Minal to school, but for some inexplicable reason, I don’t want to deposit myself at home or in the office. I want to drive and listen to the radio, KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM. This week is fund-drive, but I have multiple errands to do – stop by the post office, pick up something from the Museum, go to the bank – and I’ll just take care of all my work while I catch up on the latest news about Egypt.

As I tune in, I hear the voice of my friend Renee Feltz aka Chickpea, who used to work at KPFT and has recently started employment at Democracy Now in New York. It’s the usual fund-drive exchange: she’s talking to Duane, KPFT’s General Manager, calling for pledges. I’m on Montrose. On a whim, I turn right onto Lovett Street and pull into the Station’s parking lot. I might as well make my donation in person, and maybe I’ll go on air and say hello to Chickpea. And I also figure, I can remind Duane about the protest rallies taking place all weekend in front of Houston’s Egyptian Consulate.

Inside, at Pledge Central, the phones are somewhat quiet, and there are volunteers camped around the table. Duane paces by the french doors, microphone in hand, as I’ve seen him many a time. For a brief second more, I hear Chickpea’s voice, and then she’s replaced by Amy Goodman. I hang out for a few more minutes, share information about the protests, and then drive off, still tuned into the news. Amy Goodman disappears again, and Chickpea comes back on, urging listeners to send in pledges and keep the station alive.

But now there’s a crackle in the air, and increased background noise. Amy’s voice returns. It’s past the pledge time for her show, but clearly, there’s news to share. She urges Houston listeners to pledge, but doesn’t stay on the air too long. Chickpea’s voice is back. I’m driving with my windows rolled up, now listening closely. Something is about to happen.

After a few minutes, Amy’s voice returns. “I have some news,” she says. “And it’s directly from Cairo….Wait, it’s hard to catch from the earphone in my other ear.” Dead air and crackles. “Yes, it’s official. Hosni Mubarak has resigned. He has left Cairo.”

The background noise behind her voice is the roar of the people of Cairo on Tahrir Square.