Fresno Free College Foundation Annual Banquet

Fresno Free College Foundation Annual Banquet
Photo by United Way of Greater St. Louis via Flickr Creative Commons

By Rychard Withers

The Fresno Free College Foundation (FFCF) will be celebrating 43 years as a part of the Fresno community with a banquet on Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. The event will take place at Wedgewood (formerly known as Grand Occasions) at 4584 W. Jacqelyn Ave. Tickets are $35 in advance at $40 the day of the event and are available at

The foundation started in 1968 when professors were being fired at Fresno State College for political reasons. They founded the FFCF to set up a legal defense fund, and over the years the foundation has been active in the Fresno arts, cultural and rights scene.

KFCF-FM began as an FFCF project in 1975 and it has been active with a number of programs, like the Ananda Fund, a scholarship fund that supports students in India and the Mountain Waters Project, which has been active in setting up water  and cultural preservation programs for Tibetan people. Other projects include support for Gallery 25, the Sleeping Bag Project and an afterschool project for disadvantaged youth called Partners in Focus. The Foundation has spawned a number of other cultural organizations like Keyboard Concerts, Orpheus, Spectrum Gallery and the Fresno Poets Association.

This year, our guest speaker will be Walter Turner, a leading authority and commentator on contemporary African affairs. The subject of his talk will be “Africa’s Spring: Challenges and Opportunities.” He is the host and producer of the weekly Pacifica radio program, Africa Today, which is aired on KPFA in Berkeley and KFCF in Fresno (88.1 FM) on Monday nights from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Africa Today is a unique program in its focus on contemporary Africa and the African diaspora. Africa Today is one of the most listened to programs via podcast and the Internet that is offered on KPFA.

Music at the banquet will be provided by Jimmy Collier, who opened for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has appeared on Sesame Street and played Carnegie Hall.

In the early 1960s, Collier became a folk singer, recording with Folk Ways Records, copies of which are now housed in the Library of Congress. He also toured with Pete Seeger on his musical sloop. He is now living in Mariposa.

We also will be honoring the recipients of the FFCF’s annual Free Speech Awards. This year, we will be honoring people for their outstanding work in advocating and working for free speech.

Jeff Robinson, who has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of the GLBTQ community, is being honored for his activities. He has hosted a gay show on KFCF for more than 21 years and was active in founding and fostering Act-Up Fresno, the Community Link newspaper, the Community Link Youth Center, the Gay Pride Parade and Fresno’s gay film festival, among other projects.

Dallas Blanchard will be honored for his work with the Needle Exchange, which has fought for the rights to provide the needed medical services of a needle exchange despite resistance from local authorities and the threat of arrest for doing so.

And we will also give a Free Speech Award to Patsy Montgomery, associate vice president for Planned Parenthood, for fighting for the rights of reproductive freedom and justice.


Rychard Withers is the executive director of the Fresno Free College Foundation and the station manager, program director and chief engineer of KFCF. Contact him at



  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. is his website. Contact him at

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