Voices of South East: Fort Wayne's first Gospel radio station seeks to uplift the Black community

Fort Wayne’s first Gospel radio station launched in May of 2018. It started as an online station and transitioned to an F.M. station on the radio dial in September.

According to Monique "Mo" Moss, one of the radio personalities on Rhythm & Praise 94.1, the station's leaders realized the African American faith community in Fort Wayne needed access to Gospel music 24/7, particularly to serve the city's South East side. That’s how Rhythm & Praise 94.1 was born.

Moss, along with DeShawn Moore and Jamal Bates, each host morning, midday, and evening segments. We sit down with Moss to discuss the launch of this new radio station and the need for it in the Fort Wayne community.

Monique Moss, Program Director/On-Air Personality at Rhythm & Praise 90.3 HD2, works at the station at 1115 W. Rudisill Blvd.

IFW: Why is it important to have a Gospel station in Fort Wayne?

MM: They say Fort Wayne is the City of Churches. We need our media to match what our faith community is saying and their overall needs, in general. There are lots of churches, so we need something to represent us in that way. But we also need hope and encouragement--especially with what we have experienced over the last year.

A lot of Midwest cities have a Gospel station, but it became clear that Fort Wayne was behind. The need has been there, but finances, resources, and connections to make this happen were lacking.

Monique Moss, Program Director/On-Air Personality at Rhythm & Praise 90.3 HD2, works at the station at 1115 W. Rudisill Blvd.

IFW: Why has this development taken so long?

MM: I’m glad someone has stepped up and done this, but it needed to be done a long time ago. I would say the access, or lack thereof, represents the South East side in a lot of ways. The food deserts, the resources. South East often does not have access to things. That was also true of Gospel radio stations. We didn’t have one for our Black faith community, until now.

IFW: What has the response been?

MM: The response was: We need more access; we need to be on the dial. Now, as we are going on the dial, people are like, ‘Finally.’ This is the first time that Fort Wayne has had a Gospel radio station that is only for the genre of Gospel and covers the whole city.

We have had Gospel morning shows, had the genre on here and there, but never a station for us on 24/7 that reaches the whole community. People are excited, and they’re ready. We needed this. We have been going to different churches on the South Side, letting people know. They’re excited.

Monique Moss, Program Director/On-Air Personality at Rhythm & Praise 90.3 HD2, works at the station at 1115 W. Rudisill Blvd.

IFW: What makes Gospel music so unique?

MM: What makes gospel music different and specific is the emotion and the roots that it comes from. It’s rooted in slavery. When I talk to people about Gospel music, I talk about how it came out of the fields and people singing negro spirituals. Those songs like, “Go Down Moses” or “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” came out into our storefront black churches and continued in as it changed into what we know as Gospel music.

That emotion, that sound, that feel is what we know as Gospel music today. Of course, it’s for everyone, but it’s deep-rooted in oppression and hope.

IFW: What do you want people to know about Rhythm & Praise 94.1?

MM: It’s a Fort Wayne first. It’s making history as the first gospel radio station that covers Fort Wayne and beyond. This puts our Black faith community on the map of access. It gives equal access, like other stations in the community.

Monique Moss, Program Director/On-Air Personality at Rhythm & Praise 90.3 HD2, works at the station at 1115 W. Rudisill Blvd.

IFW: What are your future goals for the station?

MM: We want to be the mouthpiece to talk about good things happening in our city, in the South East, and the Black community. We also want to talk about social issues and be a voice for those. On other stations, you may have to say things in a certain way. But this is something that is by us, for us. Many decisions being made are being made by someone who represents us. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about needs, wants, issues, trending topics, and good things that are happening in the community.

IFW: What makes you so passionate about Gospel music and being a part of this launch?

MM: I grew up on Gospel; I grew up in the church. I thought I would have a career in basketball. I left my basketball scholarship and went to New York City for a year to serve in a church. That really set the pace for serving, wanting people to find hope, and wanting to find encouragement through a different medium.

I’m originally from Indianapolis. When I moved to Fort Wayne, I said "This is going to be my community." I’m here. Even though I’m an implant, I see the need for Gospel music for the South side. If you drive around the South side, you see the need for a lot of things, and I knew encouragement and hope was a part of that. I think that’s where it started, and the passion has continued, talking to people in the community and understanding the needs.

Monique Moss, Program Director/On-Air Personality at Rhythm & Praise 90.3 HD2, works at the station at 1115 W. Rudisill Blvd.

IFW: What is the impact that this will have on the community that you’re trying to reach?

MM: Hopefully, it will help the faith community connect in a different medium. We also just want to reach people and to give them encouragement, or hope, or a laugh on their way to and from work.

It's all about having some midday motivation, afternoon inspiration, an affirmation to speak over yourself on the way to work. It’s a different medium to impact, not just faith leaders, but also everyday people who don’t go to church on Sundays. We always come back to encouragement and hope. I think the impact will be great because we have the opportunity to reach so many people.

This story is a part of Input Fort Wayne's Voices of South East series, running from August-September 2021 and funded by the Foellinger Foundation. For more information, read the first story in the series.