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Jean-vil Joseph, better known as Mr. Man, started out his regular Friday show on Radio La Différence like he always does, playing Haitian music. “It Doesn’t Matter” by Disip, a South-Florida based Haitian band, began Mr. Man’s weekly broadcast on Feb. 25.
Joseph never sought out to become an on-air personality, and says at first he wasn’t sure radio was for him. He joined Radio La Différence, the Haitian radio station located at 1900 Asbury Ave., in 2008 to provide news on the music trends in Haiti and wasn’t used to having a microphone in front of him.
“I didn’t even know I could do radio, to be honest,” he said. “I went in one day on a show about Mother’s Day and everyone was calling and talking, and they told me to take the mic and say something to the public. I did, and they agreed with me. After that, they said I would be there every Sunday night on the mic and for music.”
Radio La Différence has taken many different forms during its existence. When Joseph joined, Radio La Différence was run by three men in the Haitian community of Chicago, now including Joseph, to help Haitians feel more connected and strengthen their community.
Emission La Différence – the first iteration – ran every Thursday night on WSBC 1240 AM. Although the program got attention, it was expensive to rent out studio space, Joseph said. Out of the original four, he is the only member left. While others moved on to different projects, Joseph said he could not watch Emission La Différence end.
“Then, it was just me,” Joseph said. “I couldn’t let it go. It’s a good tool for the community so I refused to be done.”
Joseph moved Emission La Différence to WCGO 1590 AM and then he said his program was pulled off the air by WCGO’s manager. Emission La Différence became Radio La Différence, the Internet radio station as it is known today.
Internet radio is less expensive, but Joseph said having a physical place in Evanston helped Radio La Différence gain respect.
“We had to make it [Radio La Différence] really solid so people could take us seriously,” he said.
Every Saturday at 10 a.m., Radio La Différence hosts Evanston’s Cradle to Career program. On the most recent episode, Kimberley Holmes-Ross of Cradle to Career spoke with a curator from the Visible/Invisible art show, Indira Freitas Johnson.
Joseph is hoping to expand his connections within the Evanston community in 2022. He plans to redesign the website and include a wider range of genres, including more live segments.
“We’re going to put a lot more work into what we already have this year,” he said. “Over the years I built something really special. I have a lot of great listeners.”
While producing Radio La Différence is not Joseph’s full-time job, he said he puts in many hours at the station to keep it accessible and relatable for the Haitian community in Evanston and Chicago.
Mr. Man’s live show consists of cultural programming and his favorite Haitian music. The conversations the station ignites and the learning opportunities they offer are the main reasons Joseph can’t stay away from Radio La Différence.
“People are interested in listening to other people’s views, such as what is going on in Haiti. We talk about sensitive subjects that are important for people to engage with. Sometimes we have to have a way to put the message out to our community and radio is something people love.”