Los Angeles, CA — She built it and they came: growing from 50 women in the year 2000 to over 5,000 women, men and children in 2009. The “it” was the KJLH Women’s Health Forum and the “she” is Jacquie Stephens, who until last Tuesday, June 16, served as the award-winning News and Public Affairs Director of KJLH for 26 years.

The community institution that is Jacquie Stephens started locally in 1983. That was when the respected journalist came to visit a friend, and on the suggestion of her then Denver news director, decided to test the waters of Los Angeles, the number two radio market in the country.
The waters parted, and after a quick study, Jacquie Stephens built a bridge between the community and the popular radio station owned by Steveland Morris, AKA Stevie Wonder.

“I grew up in Chicago and once sneaked in to see Little Stevie Wonder perform. Little did I know he would become my boss,” said Jacquie Stephens from her Chicago home.

“I hated to leave so abruptly without a chance to say goodbye, but you know I am not one for a lot of fanfare,” she said. Stephens’ last broadcast of her weekly radio show, “L.A. Speaks Out,” told the story to anyone listening closely. It was a program on elder care, preparing listeners for the eventuality that one day they might have to arrange care for fragile parents, especially, as in Jacquie’s case, if you are the only child.

“As always, I’d spent the Christmas holidays with my folks. They were getting up there but very independent. On Dec. 27, my step-dad collapsed. He was taken to the hospital and never returned home,” she said. In April, he passed away, leaving her mom, now in her 80s, all alone.

“My mother is the quintessential mother. She was always on top of things. But she grew up in that “Ozzie and Harriett” era where the woman left everything to the man to handle,” said Jacquie, who stepped in to help her mother locate important documents and regain her footing.
Jacquie’s only daughter, Steja, pinch-hit for her in Chicago, until Jacquie knew it was time to head back to the Windy City. On Tuesday, she boarded a plane and an era gracefully ended.

As the highest ranking woman at the station, Karen Slade, general manager, choked back tears during Jacquie’s exit interview. She was flooded with memories of their tenure over the decades at KJLH. They had flown to New York to secure a Peabody Award. Jacquie has traveled to Spain, Korea, covered the Democratic National Convention and had a host of other awards lavished on her.

“I will absolutely, positively miss her, especially her professionalism, trustworthiness, and tenacity. She never put her guests in an uncomfortable position, but always sought the truth. She always allowed them a zone in which to speak freely, even when difficult questions had to be asked. In this entertainment driven business, she was once voted sexiest voice of southern California by Radio Guide, but that did not phase her. I need Jacquie. But her mom needs Jacquie more,” said Slade.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a frequent guest, recalled the on-air effort Jacquie gave to the Jena 6 trial and how she partnered with her in New Orleans to get the story first hand. “Jacquie Stephens has been a voice that illuminated issues of concern for the African American community for more than 25 years. She has brought together activists, politicians and ministers to engage in discussions and find solutions for problems in the community. Beyond being a community leader and voice, she is a precious daughter who goes beyond the call of duty for her family… I wish her the best.”

When Jacquie first went on air in 1983, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She covered his various campaigns, as well as those of his opponents. “More than any other on-air personality, Jacquie Stephens provided continuity and focus for Black listeners. Her work ethic and tenure are worthy examples for those who follow her,” said Ridley-Thomas.

What is not readily known is who will fill in the big shoes left by Jacquie. “The People Meter has come in and challenged us, so we are in rebuild mode, said Slade. “I have to meet with our vacationing program director Aundrae Russell to determine what to do next.”

“What a body of work she left behind,” said Roland Bynum, on-air personality and L.A. Speaks Out engineer. “She has covered every major story to befall L.A., including earthquakes, civil unrests, tensions between law enforcement and the community, and countless campaigns. Her “fait accompli” was the annual checkup she and the women of KJLH afforded uninsured women at the KJLH Women’s Health Forum.

Cynthia Davis, assistant professor, Medical Sciences Institute at Charles Drew University, was floored by the news. “This is really a loss to the community. Jacquie and I had become so close. I was on Jacquie’s show so many times, I felt as if I was employed at KJLH. I was her resident HIV expert, giving her statistics for news stories.”

One father of five sons who Jacquie named her resident historian was Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn.
“Jacquie Stephens was the queen of Black talk radio in Los Angeles. She raised the bar so high in broadcasting no one has yet to reach it. It was on her program where I first announced and launched Black History 4 Young People, and named the first scholarship after her.”

Incredibly, Jacquie was the only African American radio news director in the Los Angeles market, and a familiar and cherished announcer of the Los Angeles Black Business Expo at the L.A. Convention Center. Harold Hambrick, Expo president said “The women of this community have become dependent on Jacquie as one of their voices. An ardent supporter of the Black Business Expo, we will miss her.”

From the Peabody to the Press Club Award, the NAACP Image Award and the California Woman of the Year from the California State Legislature, and most recently the NAACP Community Service Award, community organizations have thoroughly honored Jacquie for her work.

As Jacquie settles into her new location, she is concerned about current trends in the industry. “I pray that Black radio ownership will be able to continue and thrive (especially news departments), but that is something that we the people must work to maintain.”