Concordia professor, broadcast veteran, and retired Milwaukee Police Lieutenant, Dr. Ken Harris, Jr. leads a daily conversation with a predominately African-American audience on a new Milwaukee radio station.
For nearly six months, Dr. Kenneth Harris, Jr., assistant dean of Professional Development within the Batterman School of Business at Concordia University, has been the host of “The Truth in the Afternoon” on 101.7 FM The Truth. Launched in January 2021, The Truth is a Milwaukee-based audio platform serving Southeastern Wisconsin’s Black community and provides a home for sharing authentic conversations about important issues in the community.
The polymathic Harris is a natural to host the coveted afternoon drivetime conversation. His raw candor and vast experiences on a police force, at the mic, and in the classroom allow him to tread adeptly through a dizzying array of topics. No matter the subject, each issue and each caller are met with a heavy mix of wit, wisdom, and wrath.
“We offer a voice to a community that has been voiceless for quite some time,” says Harris. “Our shows are germane to the African American community and authentically talk about topics not covered in traditional mainstream media.”
Harris describes his show as a modern-day radio talk show. By incorporating social media and live call-ins and texts into the program he is able to have a two-way conversation in real-time with his listeners.
“I’m really good at connecting disparate information,” says Harris.
A background in broadcasting
In fact, Harris has made a career out of doing just that. He began in broadcast and earned his way to producing the Ed Schwarz Show, the number-one overnight talk radio show in America. He left broadcasting to join the police academy in Milwaukee, where he earned his way to Milwaukee Police Lieutenant before making his way to a successful career in higher education. Throughout his many lives, Harris identifies his through-line as his ability to transfer knowledge.
Harris is an avid proponent of living noblesse oblige, which roughly translates to mean that those with privilege and knowledge must share what they have and know with those who are less fortunate. Using his gifts of connecting disparate information, in rapid succession, he rattles off three seemingly unrelated quotes to emphasize his point:
Scripture: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
George W. Bush: “the soft bigotry of low expectations”
African Proverb: “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.”
According to Harris, there are no taboo topics on his show. However, as an outspoken and unapologetic Christian, Black, educated, family man, his views and his lens are firmly planted in the center of every discussion.
“I’m not trying to change people’s minds,” convinces Harris. “I’m not trying to change Milwaukee. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to do or think a certain way …
“Well, there is an exception: Education. I tell my students and our fans that education is the only thing that can’t be taken away from you and that when you die it goes with you. Your job is to share what you know.”
A mission while on the microphone
Harris’ seat at the head of the discussion table has been hard-earned. His mission is to build a bigger table, with room for more voices and different points of view. Despite the fact that Harris speaks with thousands of people each day through the radio and in his classroom, he considers his largest and most effective sphere of influence to be in one-to-one conversations.
“If through my show and in my classroom, I inspire one person who in turn inspires one other person, we would all be having a different and better conversation,” says Harris, “my job would be done.”
— Lisa Liljegren is vice president of marketing and strategic communications.
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