James Rockefeller’s VJTV is a Trailblazer in Black Media

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By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information 

James Rockefeller III is a local television legend, who many may remember from his Hip Hop show at Soulbeat back in the day. When BET’s Donnie Simpson or Yo MTV Raps ignored the Bay Area, Rocke and Soulbeat picked up the ball and interviewed artists like the Delinquents, Too Short, Paris, Askari X, and Seagram on our local Black owned television station.

Since the closing of Soulbeat in 2004, Rocke alongside his media comrades Pharoah Powell and Ramasses Head have created another Black owned production house based in East Oakland by the name of Where Media Meets. VJTV is one of the many companies under that umbrella. In the rapidly changing environment of media internationally, it is important that Black people become reacquainted as well as support trustworthy media-makers that are pioneers, in an industry that has constantly used psychological warfare against us. The media mediates our thoughts on ourselves, our community, and the society around us. It is also commonly used by the elite to confuse how people see current events, and manipulate people into thinking that their interests are the same as corporate interests. Rock and VJTV offer a local alternative. Check out James Rockefeller III in his own words.

JR Valrey: How did you originally get into media professionally?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: I started in this business as a stand-up comic. Who inspired me to do television was the Ku Klux Klan. I saw a flyer stapled to a telephone pole for a “Klan” hosted TV show in San Francisco with station information. I immediately went to a phone booth, and called the station. Back then, I had militant aspects to my comedy. The station representative informed me that it was a public access TV station and it was “free speech” driven. Wheels started turning and I found myself walking to the station, which was only half-mile from where I made the phone call. Showed them I.D. proving I was a San Francisco resident and signed up. My first show was titled; “And The Beat Goes On”! It was a dance show where I recruited friends from the club.

JR Valrey: How did you start working at Soul Beat? When did you leave?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Chuck Johnson, founder and president of the Soulbeat Television Network, saw me performing stand-up at a music conference in the Bay Area. I was telling a joke about Soulbeat’s vice-president Al Ballard whom I knew well. About a year had passed and I was in Oakland and heard someone calling my name. As I turned, a woman handed me a “Soulbeat ” business card and said, “We have been looking for you, call this number”. It was Linda Jordan, a producer from the network. That week, I had an interview with Mr. Chuck Johnson. The day we met, a comedy segment I had filmed for BET (Black Entertainment Television) earlier that year was airing nationwide. I was with Soulbeat from 1992 to their last airing in 2004.

JR Valrey: When and why did you found VJTV? 

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Working with Soulbeat, I had the privilege to interview national, local and independent artists and entertainers. Mr. Johnson gave me the freedom to create programming. However, every idea wasn’t acceptable no matter how good I may have thought it was. Mr. Johnson told me something I still say today, “When you get your own production company, you can produce anything you want”. That’s when VJTV The Visual Radio NETWORK was conceived.

JR Valrey: What are some of VJTV’s recent accomplishments?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Recently, VJTV has become a content provider for TV One, a national black-owned television network. Also, our past accomplishments include press covering; BET Awards, NAACP Image Awards, Oscars, Billboard Music Awards and the Heroes and Legends Awards. We’ve also interviewed A-list and legendary individuals from every genre. 

JR Valrey: What happens at the VJTV studios?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Our daily routine consists of providing entertainment programming for local networks and streaming services. We are also involved in feature films, commercials and documentary production.

JR Valrey: What is the importance of Black people owning media?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: When Black folks control their own media, they can accurately tell their own stories. Many times the [other] media outlets just tell the story they want you to hear, that may be incomplete. We should control our own narrative.

JR Valrey: Does VJTV have podcasts?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: VJTV produces several podcasts including; “Cognac Confessionals” highlighting current events while enjoying on-set cocktails. DuShun James interviews business owners and entertainers with LIVE audience interaction. “Men Lie, Women Don’t”, is a healthy conversation between the sexes as Ronni Charell inquires what makes men tick. “In The Know with Cat Bobino”  mixes pop culture, science and media to open the door for diverse students entering science, technology, engineering and math.

JR Valrey: What’s the difference between a show and a podcast?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: A show is usually recorded for a visual presentation while a vast-majority of podcasts are audio only.

JR Valrey: What other services does VJTV offer?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Where Media Meets is the production umbrella for VJTV, History In The Making Entertainment and Pharoah Films. Offering professional media production in film, television, and web content. It has grown into a team of dedicated videographers, designers, writers, and actors who believe in the power of teamwork. We are a collective of artists who stay on top of current trends and technology.

JR Valrey: How can people get in touch with you?

James “Rocke” Rockefeller: Log onto www.vjtvnetwork.rocks or www.rockevox.info to obtain information on all of our exciting companies and projects.

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