Noises Over Norwell: Context

Noises Over Norwell was a temporary pirate radio station set up inside a vacant, foreclosed house in Dorchester that members of the community took over and occupied for four days in June, 2014, in order to pressure Fannie Mae, who owned the property, to transform the building into affordable housing. For months in 2014, City Life/Vida Urbana had been pressuring Fannie Mae, the largest owner of private real estate mortgages in the country, to sell a string of properties in the neighborhood to a non-profit cooperative that would turn the buildings into permanent affordable housing. For months, Fannie Mae had only been willing to sell the buildings to private investors.

Paul and Renee Adamson, who had been displaced from their previous home through foreclosure, moved their furniture into the empty house on Saturday morning with the support of the neighborhood and surrounding community.

The broadcast, which ran around the clock using an antenna mounted on the roof, took over 106.1 FM for the duration of the occupation -- a spot on the dial left vacant after TOUCH 106.1, "the fabric of the Black community," was raided and shut down by the FCC in April. Charles Clemons, co-founder of TOUCH, came on the air on Saturday, June 7, to show support for the effort to reclaim vacant homes for community control and reclaim an empty spot on the dial.

The first Saturday of the occupation, a celebratory cookout and block party was held on the front lawn. Inside the house, there was a library, a community room and a broadcast studio run out of an empty living room.

For the broadcast, the group responsible for the radio station held around-the-clock roundtable discussions, interviews, and conversations with policy advocates, organizers, academics, lawyers, musicians, poets, and members of the community. The group also broadcast ambient sounds of home (“24 Hours of Home”) which homeowners and tenants facing displacement recorded of their own living spaces, as well as radio plays written using the language of banking documents and foreclosure notices.

As a result of the action, Fannie Mae has stated their intention to begin selling vacant properties to non-profits with an aim to create more affordable housing -- something they had previously refused to do. This is a hopeful sign. Noises Over Norwell has been dismantled at 193 Norwell Street, but the station is being reassembled in an off-site location to broadcast again.