May 14, 2007

Giving Glory: ‘Praise is What I Do,’ Says Anita Dean About Her Radio Show

By Titan Barksdale, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

May 14--By 9 a.m. yesterday, callers had jammed the telephone lines for a gospel-radio program with Anita "Boss Lady" Dean as host.

Dean had just gone on the air. She whispered a prayer and anointed the microphone in the studio before speaking.

"Good morning ... praise is what I do," she said into the microphone. "Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, and I want you to stop right now, wave your hands and say thank you God for another day."

She then turned to the blinking green lights on the telephone. The lights signaled incoming callers -- whom Dean calls the lifeblood of the program.

"It's an anointed program, and it's about letting people know how important they are," said Dean, who was recently named the female announcer of the year in gospel radio by a radio-trade group.

Dean was hired as host of the program about two years ago, and it was her first venture into gospel radio. The program, which combines gospel music and faith, is broadcast on WPOL-AM radio in Winston-Salem and on Greensboro's WKEW-AM radio.

The stations, both called "The Light," broadcast faith-based programming, and Dean has gained a following of faithful listeners since she started there, colleagues said.

The calls were nonstop throughout her two-hour program. The callers talked about their problems, put in requests for songs and prayers and chatted about the latest church news. She called the callers "sweetheart" and "darling," and asked them about relatives, many of whom she could name.

Dean juggled several tasks throughout the show. When she answered calls, she stopped and listened. She always responded with words of encouragement.

"I let people know in my program that they are loved, and that God loves them and I care about them," Dean said. "When I open up that mike, I don't ever know how the program is going to go. I'm always led by the spirit."

In April, the N.C. Gospel Announcers Guild named Dean the female announcer of the year. The guild, which includes ministers and gospel-radio announcers, enhances the quality of faith-based radio and showcase gospel recording artists, according to its Web site.

More than 20 years ago, Dean was introduced to radio broadcasting at the Dixie Classic Fair. She passed by a booth operated by a local radio station, became interested and took classes to learn radio broadcasting.

All of her radio work had been in secular programming, said Dean, who became serious about her faith four years ago. She worked at several stations, with a six-year stint at WAAA-AM, a longtime black-owned radio station.

A reluctant move to gospel helped her to find her niche and statewide recognition.

"This (announcer of the year) is something that I had dreamed of for years, and it's all about God's timing," Dean said. "Initially, I didn't want to do gospel. When I first started at the gospel station, I didn't know anything about gospel or the songs to play, so I know it had to be a gift from God to know what songs to play and what to say to people."

Dean said that a friend she worked with at another radio station referred her to WPOL 1340 AM radio. She said that she was unemployed at the time, and decided to try faith-based radio.

Stu Epperson Jr., who owns the radio station, said that Dean is a "matriarchal figure" in the office. He said that she tries to "honor people" in ways such as sending thank-you cards to clients or visiting people who are ill.

"It is not uncommon for her to bring in a whole meal to the radio station and we'll have a great family time together," Epperson said. "She is a very kind, very altruistic woman, and the thing is, she gives all the credit to God."

Dean said that she has overcome challenges and can identify with some of the callers' stories. Midway through her program, tears welled in her eyes as she told listeners the benefits of praising God.

The callers appeared to notice her commanding voice waver slightly.

"Oh, I'm doing fine," she said to a caller as she wiped her tears away. "I just got a little caught up this morning."

The caller then told Dean about the recent death of her 18-year-old daughter.

"Oh no, 18 years old?" she asked. "You know, God doesn't make a mistake."

Dean then asked listeners to pray for the caller and her family, and cued a song.

Despite the radio stations' limited power (1,000 watts), Dean wants to increase her audience base, she said.

Epperson said that her opinions are respected, and though he owns the station, she is the "boss lady"- a moniker she was given years ago after a song titled "Who's that Lady," by R&B singers The Isley Brothers.

By 11 a.m., Dean had to go to church and closed the program by reminding her listeners that she loved them and signed off.

The green lights were still blinking. She answered them.

"She's still accepting calls," said Alfred Tillman, a former disc jockey visiting the studio. "That is what makes it pure. You won't get through on other radio stations when a program is off the air."

-- Titan Barksdale can be reached at 727-7369 or at [email protected]


Copyright (c) 2007, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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