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No.2, 2013

EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin


EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

Index

Page 3.

Introduction: We´re on the path to autonomy!

Page 5.

Voices from the Forest

Page 7.

La Escuelita : The People’s Popular Communication School

Page 9.

Women in Community Radio!

Page 10. The “Popular Education: Alternatives and Visions of Resistance” Conference

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EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

We´re on our path to Autonomy! She’s on the horizon. I go two steps, she moves two steps away. I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I’ll never reach her. What good is utopia? That’s what: IT´S GOOD FOR WALKING. Through popular communication, COMPPA has accompanied our sister organizations for over 10 years as they continue to follow the path to creating independent community media. The path has had its ups and downs, learning experiences, tears and laughter, mistakes and achievements, new opportunities. From the moment we began to dream of our own media we knew it would be a long road to autonomy and independence: nevertheless, we’re committed to the adventure of seeing it through. COMPPA helps build communication strategies with diverse Latin American popular, indigenous, Garifuna, and campesina organizations that are involved in struggles for autonomy, social and economic justice, and dignity in the face of mainstream censorship of their historical struggles. We started out by supporting the specific needs of each organization: from installing internet, offering introductory workshops on communication, and providing radio equipment, to developing communication strategies. During this stage, communication became an increasingly central element of each organization’s work for social justice and unity.

Eduardo Galeano

In spite of the many workshops given and radios launched, as this initial stage of support extended itself we found we needed a change in strategy: we needed to get back on the path to building autonomous media, that was self-sustaining and independent of outside involvement. An important first step was the founding of the the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios: a strategic network of organic alliances that brings together community radios that voice the struggles of grassroots organizations and their communities. This network created a space in which members could gather, reflect, and share criticism in their ongoing journey towards autonomy: here the decision was made to create The People’s Popular Communication School. The School, La Escuelita, was a three-year series of workshops in popular communication with an emphasis on community radio. Participants were strongly committed to their grassroots organizations, which in turn entrusted these community media makers keep the radios running and train new generations of popular communicators. Soon, another process emerged:

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EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

capacity-building in Popular Communication, Community Radio, and Gender, dedicated to the women in the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios. Here popular communication served as a vehicle for analyzing the role of gender in society, while creating media that reflects and respects each woman’s experience. This year-long process sought to strengthen women’s participation in their community radios, organizations, and movements.

Having planted these seeds, both COMPPA and our sister organizations are proud to harvest the fruits of our labor. After finishing La Escuelita and systematizing the process in four educational manuals, we dedicated 2012 to what we liked to call The Advanced People’s Popular Communication School. This was a space to dig deeper into some of them themes we dealt with in La Escuelita, and, more importantly, to reinforce the peer teaching process in which community media makers use the four manuals to train new generations of popular communicators. To follow up on the workshops in Popular Communication, Community Radio, and Gender, each organization and radio conducted an evaluation of the current level of women’s participation in their radios. Had it gone up since the first workshops? How are women taking part in their radios? What difficulties do they face? What can each organization do to support and meet women’s needs in their radios? Out of the evaluation came the decision to continue to build this process so that women have equal opportunities on the air, and women’s voices continue to be heard. This year is dedicated to continuing to balance the voices of men and women in community radios. “How can we broadcast our voices even more widely?” This question comes up time and again in meetings of the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios. 4

This is why it came as no surprise when the Network collectively decided to create an online platform to exchange information, coordinate activities and news coverage, and make teaching tools and resources for radios more easily available. This website aims to broaden the reach of voices and viewpoints of movements within the Network. Both creating this platform and offering workshops for publishing and using the websites are priorities this year.

So that’s what we’re up to, defining and redefining our role when it comes to supporting the fight for independent, autonomous community media. Knowing how to dream, listen, respond, share... and knowing when to take a step back are essential stances for us at COMPPA as we continue on the path to autonomy.


EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

Voices from the Forest

“The wind rushes through the fields as Don Sebastian’s hoe digs into the earth. From far away a dog barks, and birdsong floats through the leaves of the ancient trees. Dry grass rustles under the huaraches of Don Sebastian as he bends down to pick up a piece of paper. “What... what’s this?” he asks himself. As he unfolds the paper he discovers a document with the construction of a mine— located just where he is working; land that has belonged to his community for generations.” Thus begins a radio drama recently produced by popular communicators from the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios in Guatemala (listen to the complete recording, in Spanish, here: http://www.comppa.org/wordpress/?p=2091). The program, called “Voices from the Forest: A Radio drama About Defending Our Territory,” tells the story of the fictional community of Pacayá, Guatemala, as they organize to stop the construction of a mine in their territory.

It’s more than just a story. The radio drama, created over the course of several workshops with COMPPA, is one of many forms in which community radios are speaking out about the realities facing their communities while raising consciousness about how to defend their land against destruction caused by mines and other mega development projects. After three intensive days of developing the script, acting exercises, and recording (and re-recording!) the program, participants in the workshop returned to their communities, where daily life is a lot like the imaginary community of Pacayá: mines, dams, and the industrial production of African Palm oil are a constant threat to the survival of communities across Guatemala.

Several of the popular communicators from the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios come from the town of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, in San Marcos, where the primary conflict they face is the Marlin Mine. Owned by the Canadian company Goldcorp, the mine extracts gold while sowing illness, polluting the water, destroying homes, dividing the community and destroying the earth. “They devastate Mother Earth. They take the gold, destroy the mountains. One gram of blood is worth more than a thousand kilos of gold,” [1] reports Sister Maudilia López, of San Miguel Ixtahuacán.

In the face of such violence, community radios play an invaluable part in the fight to defend the earth. In addition to producing radio dramas, their interviews, news reports, and other broadcasts reveal the reality that the mass media ignores. The community radio, La Voz del Pueblo (The People’s Voice) interviewed Diodora Hernández, an anti-mining activist, after her difficult recovery from a gunshot to her face: “They wanted to kill me because I haven’t sold my land!” [2] By giving voice to these situations, the radios in the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios stand out as “...community media that broadcasts, 5


EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

contributes to, and promotes social and cultural consciousness, guiding and educating our people, and breaking the mass media’s blockade that keeps our communities misinformed” [3].

Throughout 2012, COMPPA worked with the Mesoamerican Network to strengthen the production of original programming on their radios. As a result, media makers from several community radios produced this story as a medium for dramatizing a real-life struggle in the language of their communities, while helping their audience to imagine new ways of organizing. The story “Voices from the Forest: A Radio drama About Defending Our Territory” concludes with the Pacayá community’s victory over the mine, and to celebrate they organize a ceremony to give thanks to the Mother Earth.

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In these small but important ways, community communicators continue working with creativity and commitment to being the “voices of Mayan culture and the future of the struggle” [4]. Sources: [1] http://www.mimundo-fotorreportajes. org/2012/07/tribunal-popular-internacionalde-salud.html#more [2] http://www.mimundo-fotorreportajes. org/2011/10/tan-firme-como-un-palo-retratos-de.html [3] http://www.uvocguatemala.org/2012/12/ nueva-era-de-lucha-yresistencia-en-el.html [4] http://www.comppa.org/ wordpress/?page_id=1865


EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

La Escuelita : The People’s Popular Communication School

The People’s Popular Communication School has concluded its first cycle! It offered a space for collaboration, training, and skill-building for the community radios and communication projects of the organizations of the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garífuna Radios. After ten years of training, workshops, and ongoing support in popular communication, COMPPA and our sister organizations have recognized the importance of fostering an integrated, continuous educational process in which each community communicator gains the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to strengthen their organizations’ communication strategies. And more and more, the path leads towards autonomy.

The beginnings of COMPPA were characterized by workshops offering an introduction to popular communication, community radio, editing audio, video, news, communication strategies; constructing antennas, transmitters... and each workshop wrapped up with its own rigorous evaluation! Thanks to these evaluations, we discovered new critiques and self-reflections from within our collective and from our sister

“I liked it because it has given us youth the opportunity participate not only at the local, but also at regional and national levels to continue sharing what we’ve learned with other young people in other radios. But the most important thing is to start with our own radio, in our own communities, and then to branch out into other spaces as the opportunity presents itself.” Rigoberto Cuz Caal, La OTRA Cooperativa

organizations. Phrases like “workshop overload” started to pop up, revealing a problem in our training process: despite many workshops, the trainings never advanced. Other questions pulled the rug out from under all of us: How can we prevent creating dependencies and continue promoting the autonomy of these radios? Several issues, among them migration, contributed to the brain drain: many skilled communicators immigrated, and with them, all that they had learned. This is when the idea of consolidating a process of more formal, comprehensive, and long-term training began. What was missing was a systematization

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Grassroots Media Bulletin

of all of our work, to be able to consolidate it in what we called The Escuelita (the “Little School”). The People’s Popular Communication School consists in eight thematic modules in popular communication with a focus on community radio. Each module covers four capacity-building areas, including: Popular Communication, Tools for Communication, Internal Organization and Facilitation, and a Technical Appendix for Radio. In addition to the modules, several overarching themes run through the Escuelita, like: Gender and Communication, Communication Rights, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Networks and Facilitation tools, and Coordinating Projects.

Moreover, when the popular communicators committed to participate in the Escuelita, they also made a commitment to share the knowledge, skills, and tools that they gained with new generations of popular communicators, in order to continue strengthening the radios of their organizations. For our part, we’ve been involved in the peer teaching process through the systematization of La Escuelita in a set of four popular communication manuals. After finishing the long process of researching, writing, illustrating, designing and printing the manuals, we’ve distributed them with our sister organizations as tools for teaching new generations of community media makers. These manuals are also useful guides for anyone in the process of constructing a popular communication project. This is another one of our efforts to defend and exercise the right to communicate. Communication is strength!

After several months of preparation, organization, and coordination, in March 2009 The People’s Popular Communication School finally began. Over the course of three years the school trained media makers committed to the grassroots organizations they serve. Participating organizations included: In Guatemala: The Verapaz Union of Campesino Organizations (UVOC); Communities of Population in Resistance, Sierra (CPR-Sierra); Communities of Population in Resistance, Peten (CPR-Peten); Association for the Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahaucan (ADISMI). In Honduras: The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH); The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH); The Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA); The Association for the Development of the Peninsula of Zacate Grande (ADEPZA). 8

“This project has made important gains, even other organizations and movements who didn’t participate have benefitted from this school. We know this training is not only in communication, but also in the building of political consciousness, which has strengthened these organizations’ ability to organize and fight. Because sometimes there are uninspired compañeros and compañeras who see the radio as easy work, but it’s important to raise consciousness in the struggle and that’s something that gets done in practice, not in theory.” Berta Cáceres, Coordinator, COPINH


EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

Women in Community Radio!

Women like to listen to the radio, a lot! Why? It’s how we inform ourselves, educate ourselves, feel supported, and feel good listening to our favorite music! Many of us were so inspired by listening to the radio and hearing news from around the world that we wanted to get involved, take the mic, speak out and take part in our own community radios.

In light of this, at COMPPA we’ve decided to accompany this growing need for the women in the community radios of our sister organizations. A few years back we began offering trainings for women in the Mesoamerican Network of Community, Indigenous, and Garifuna Radios. These trainings provided the tools necessary to create grassroots media with an analysis of gender, while respecting the experiences of each woman, in order to strengthen women’s participation in their community radios and the struggles of their organizations. Women of all ages participated in the Popular Communication, Community Radio, and Gender training; some young, others grandmothers, and many with their babies. These compañeras learned about the radio production process; creating news reports; using equipment like mixers and voice recorders; reflecting on the triple oppression of poverty, racism, and sexism; and using poetry as a tool for transformation and expression within their work on the air.

Once the four workshops were finished, we kept working with women in our sister organizations to follow up on what was learned and deal with any difficulties that presented themselves in practice. Each organization decided to work in its own way, as the women identified the areas that needed the most work in order to make their organizations even stronger. This follow up consisted in a day-long session in which women on the radio identified questions and areas in need of further work.

The collective effort made in this first training session planted a seed, and it’s important to keep watering it so that it continues to grow and flourish. We know that perseverance and patience are essential elements for sustaining a long-term process. Several years have passed since the first work session, and now we are once again gathering to evaluate how much this seed has grown, what fears we’ve faced, what obstacles we’ve come up against, and how we wish to continue speaking out. Because we’ve already taken a stand, picked up the mic, and spoken our minds... and we’re not going to give up!

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EL GRITO

Grassroots Media Bulletin

The “Popular Education: Alternatives and Visions of Resistance” Conference

It would be a mistake to think that popular education is a static, unchanging concept. If we satisfy ourselves with Freire’s theory of popular education, we are misunderstanding, probably even wrongly practicing, the concept. Popular education is a theory and practice in constant re-creation, a transformative process that begins with self-reflection. At “Popular Education: Alternatives and Visions of Resistance”—a conference held in November 2012 in Mexico City-- Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-México hosted a space to collectively reflect on how we’re incorporating popular education into our struggles and our realities.

We began by exploring popular education as more than working with “popular” communities, and as much more than just workshops. We divided into work groups to build on our individual experiences to create a shared idea of what we think popular education is, and once we redefined the concept, we thought about whether each of our organizations is truly practicing popular education. One idea that grew out of our shared experiences is that popular education is a political stance that must begin with personal transformation in order for it to create social change. Taking this into consideration and putting it into practice supports our work as popular educators; thanks to personal and collective reflections, we found that popular education isn’t simply a tool we use to fight for social justice, but rather a truly essential part of our struggles. Our

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work

included

several

themes:

popular education and historical memory, popular communication as a tool within the struggle, popular education and feminism, and popular education and visions of resistance. In brief presentations, organizations from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil, shared their experiences related to each theme, which led to a great conversation that built on specific questions related to the themes presented. Without a doubt, our conclusions indicated a need to build skills to face repression, to integrate feminism into our daily work (which isn’t exclusive to women), recognizing communities as the authors of their own histories, and incorporating more creativity into our popular communication strategies to bridge the digital divide in the most marginalized communities.

Photo credit: Prometeo Lucero

In keeping with the tradition of popular education, the conference was full of dynamic activities in which dialogue, games, and laughter played a central part in re-imagining a popular education that strives to move beyond our local struggles, capable of mobilizing both established and new members in and beyond our communities.


Published by COMPPA Popular Communicators for Autonomy No. 2, 2013 www.comppa.org info@comppa.org


El Grito: Grassroots Media Bulletin