An interesting story coming from a small poor town named Aglomerado da Serra in Belo Horizonte in Brazil where a group of young black men in the beginning of 1980’s with the help of money given by one of boy’s mother to establish rather primitive radio station with a poor infrastructure. They named it FAVELA, which actually is a name for a slum, poor places filled with violence, drug dealing, murders etc. their aim was to connect people from the slum, to fight against violence and to stop drug dealing.
Furthermore, radio station turned out to become indispensable tool for the community that fought against poverty, severe electrical cuts, no running water and more. Favela radio station became a medium helping to locate missing children, calling ambulances for the injured and ill, locating the families, giving information for important issues. Even hospitals were sending the information about the victims of the accidents and attacks because they were not able to reach the family members other way.
Naturally, Radio Favela as a pirate radio station underwent many repression and attacks from the government police. One of Radio Favela’s founder Misael Avellino des Santos was arrested seven times, beaten and torture by a police. The police twice completely destroyed the radio station and even tried to connect the founders of the radio to a drug dealings and murders. After each collision, Radio Favela came back, mostly with the money collected from the local community, and the fight for radio’s existence continued for the next 23 years.
But why was the local government so intimidated by a rudimental radio station in one of many Brazilian favelas hiding up in the mountains? What was so powerful about the Favela Radio station that many saw it as a threat?
Radio Favela I think it’s a wonderful example of a community radio, young black boys started up a radio station that filled in so very necessary connection and help to the poor society they came from. That is exactly where the Brazilian government failed. Radio Favela was established with a rather modest financial input, yet because of its location up in the mountains it was accessible to variety of societies in a nearby cities, it soon became very popular among poor and also middle class. Favela was completely autonomous, if anything government police was for years strongly opposing the Radio station and its founders. Furthermore, Radio Favela’s one and only main goal was to serve the community, being a voice, a medium of this community and therefore had no profit in goal intentions. Listeners were not only supporters they were in a way Radio Favela, if they needed an ambulance they called the radio, if they wanted to talk to their friends and family, they called the radio, Radio Favela accepted over 500 calls all without censorship, calling to the Radio Favela meant connecting directly to the entire community. Local music, local artists and community issues had always the on air privilege before the national or international news. Radio Favela went even further, they hosted educational programs informing people about the cancer, their civil rights, women were informed about their rights against domestic violence, health, voting etc. in sum, Radio Favela gave their community more than the government education, police and media ever did. Because of all that, Radio Favela is a golden example of a community radio that no matter how many times it was shut down, destroyed, people suffering…it always came back, because it was so greatly needed by the favela’s community, people’s identity and their sense of belonging and gratefulness that someone did care about them and their existence.
Constant struggle, all the good the Radio Favela’s establishers didn’t go unrecognized. After 20 years of day to day struggle Radio Favela got national and international attention. In February 1999 it was a cover story on Wall Street Journal, in 1998 it was the only Brazilian radio invited to the prestige Congress of Community Radios in Milan (Italy), finally in 2001 it got a government permission, and the movie was shot in 2003 with the title Uma onda no ar ( A wave in the air).
Radio continues to exist today, it is more popular than ever, having nearly 4 million listeners, it has proved to itself and to the world that representing the community with no matter how modest means you may have as long as it is accessible to others, as long as context serves the listeners and as long as it connects and gives life to the community around it, a great changes can be made, the good will not go unrecognized.