Uncle Ralph’s Video Music Box at MoCADA Brooklyn

Originally Published May 14, 2012

BrooklynBodega and The Brooklyn Historical Society put on a (#BEI)Bodega Education Initiative on Thursday May 5th, 2012 to discuss the origins of Video Music Box and MoCADA and how they connected for “The Box That Rocks” exhibition at MoCADA running through May 28th, 2012. If you haven’t gone to see it yet, be sure to get there before it ends.

Wes Jackson, president of Brooklyn Bodega, was the moderator and kicked things off by asking Ralph “Uncle Ralph” McDaniels what gave him the inspiration to start the ground-breaking and legendary video program Video Music Box.

Video Music Box

Uncle Ralph began his video production career at WNYC channel 31 while in college and was hired full-time upon graduation. As a video engineer, he learned all the technical the in’s and out’s of the business while setting up boring training videos for various organizations including the NYPD and FDNY.

The idea to create a program based on music videos came after Uncle Ralph received a video tape  from Solar Records that they sent to various media outlets promoting artists such as Shalamar, The Whispers and others. They weren’t even music videos but video of the artists set to one of their tracks. Uncle Ralph suggested to the program director that they edit the promotional videos for program that they could broadcast on the station. His idea was declined, they thought no one would want to watch such a show on TV. Uncle Ralph persisted but the powers that be did not listen until after the advent of New York Hot Tracks on WABC. It was only after channel 7 launched New York Hot Tracks that Uncle Ralph was given the green light to start broadcasting Video Music Box on channel 31 and he has been doing it ever since. Uncle Ralph and Video Music Box have seen a lot of other video music programs come and they have seen a lot of them go. Video Music Box has remained constant and has been on the air for 29 years as of the date of this writing (2012).


Laurie Cumbo, president and executive director of MoCADA did her graduate thesis at NYU on establishing and running a museum. She learned all aspects of running a museum during the 2 years it took for her to complete the Arts & Administration program. When she was finished she had all the necessary pieces already assembled and the knowledge needed to set a museum project in motion. However, Laurie wasn’t sure if this was what she should be doing but fortunately the people closest to her, including her parents, encouraged Laurie to pursue the museum project. Laurie finally relented and started MoCADA in 1988 in a Brooklyn Brownstone.  Since then they have been growing and developing the operation, today MoCADA is located on the main floor of the James E. Davis Arts Building 80 Hanson Place downtown Brooklyn. Laurie and her staff are always working to develop new opportunities for the growth and advancement of MoCADA and their mission to rediscover valuable African cultural traditions.

See an excerpt from the event in the video below…

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