FLINT, Michigan—When she speaks, she speaks with an undeniable confidence. Mic in hand, she’s an audio conductor bringing the very best of Flint together in every show. It’s musical. It's full of applause, laughter, resourcefulness, and — most of all — it's an immersive black history education every time it airs.
Bettye Hendricks is here on WFLT-AM 1420 as she has been at 10 a.m. every Saturday morning since 2006. The Flint resident and class of 1965 Flint Central graduate works her magic on the radio waves, transporting Flint’s cultural highlights and Black history to thousands of listeners through her radio show, “African American Inspiration.”
Far beyond the month of February, Hendricks makes sure listeners are learning about Black history — something Hendricks feels many black people miss out while learning American history.
“We’re behind on history. We’re behind on knowing that we are special people and there’s nothing small about us,” said Henricks. “I felt that this kind of program would help us feel better about who we are.”
Providing access to education is something that Hendricks herself learned growing up in Haynesville, Louisiana. It was a place where Black children often went without education because there was no bus line available to take them to school. As the granddaughter of the city’s first black school bus driver, she saw what a difference one person can make.
“I came from an environment in which black history was very important, because black people were doing major things,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks and her family relocated to Flint when in 1963. At Flint Central, she remembers enjoying glee club, piano, and business club — because being shy is something Hendricks has ever been able to relate to.
A year after graduating high school, she moved across the country to California for several years before returning to Michigan. She spent more than a decade in banking before beginning her career at General Motors, where she worked for 28 years in accounting and purchasing in the Troy area.
When she made the move to retire in 2006, she also decided to come home to Flint and she wasn’t content to sit idle with nothing to do.
“When I came to Flint, I asked people what there was to do in Flint,” said Hendricks. Some people said that there was little to nothing at all, but she was determined to prove them wrong.
It wasn’t that there was little to do in Flint, said Hendricks. It's just that many people didn’t know where to find what mattered. She approached WFLT, a well-known local gospel and ministry station, in with a solution.
“I did not want it to be a program that just based around church. I wanted it to be around the community,” said Hendricks.
When she first approached the general manager with the idea, she learned that there was no budget for the show. She would have to build it — and the funding for it — from the ground up.
And, so she did.
Her 30-minute weekly show has 14,000 listeners, Hendricks said, and it is fully funded with support from the Ruth Mott Foundation as title sponsor and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation as legacy sponsor, plus additional help from Genesee County Parks, the “New” McCree Theatre, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Genesee Health Systems, and Hamilton Community Health Network.
Despite never having done radio, Hendricks also has served as both host and producer of the radio show for the past 13 years. She is also a mother, grandmother, and student just 20 credits away from earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Africana Studies from the University of Michigan-Flint.
“To me, I think if you’ve got a message, you can say your truth and it doesn’t take much training to do that,” said Hendricks.