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Our Fifth Barnraising - WCIW-LP in Immokalee, Florida
We were honored to be invited to build a Low Power FM radio station for the incredible organizers, workers, and volunteers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in December of 2003.
The CIW is a collective of migrant workers, hailing from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. Representing over 2500 members, the CIW fights for "a fair wage for the work we do, more respect on the part of our bosses and the industries where we work, better and cheaper housing, stronger laws and stronger enforcement against those who would violate workers' rights, the right to organize on our jobs without fear of retaliation, and an end to indentured servitude in the fields."
As the spearhead organization running the international Boycott Taco Bell campaign, the CIW understands how important access to media outlets can be when organizing for more rights, and spreading the word locally. The farmworkers of Immokalee live in small trailers, sometimes with up to ten people sleeping in living in these tight, expensive quarters. Before the workers built and organized their radio station, they'd knock on the trailer doors to encourage neighbors to come to their weekly Coalition meetings. Thirty to fifty workers would come to these meetings, and strategize on how to secure more rights for themselves and their fellow workers. Now that the community can broadcast on WCIW - hundreds of workers attend these important meetings.
Prometheus learned so much about how to organize a successful barnraising from these tireless people. The barnraising was organized to run simultaneously in English and Spanish, and we developed many new community radio materials for Spanish-language speakers and readers. The Coalition uses the 'popular education' model to make decisions about how to run the Coalition, and to spread and share information. We used this model for extended workshop and plenary sessions, and were able to teach many hundreds of local, national, and international volunteers new skills for radio broadcasting. And we took away subtle and effective models for community organizing!
WCIW is housed in the same lot where hundreds of local workers board buses before dawn, each morning, to travel to their work in the tomato fields of Southwest Florida.
About the Barn Raiser
Prometheus Barn Raisers, borrowing from the tradition of Amish barn raisings, bring together a community of people to collectively build a new radio station, and participate in a weekend of education. This allows new programmers to meet and new stations to compare notes on fundraising and equipment. In addition, broadcast professionals can share their skills with the new low power radio station licensees. In the process, participants gain hands-on experience and learn from a wide range of workshops and classes on radio production and media issues.The events are also a chance for radio activists to plan the course for future media activism and continue the fight to put the media into the hands of the people and communities.
The first ever LPFM Barn Raising held in southern Maryland was the largest gathering of Low Power FM Radio advocates ever. More than 150 LPFM applicants, supporters, and others interested in community-based media attended the conference. At the end of the conference, with new skills and experiences gained from the weekend of learning, attendees "flipped the switch" and launched WRYR FM 97.5.
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