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Knowing their Audience: Popular Media and Education for Movement Building in Haiti

May 2019

Educate, agitate, organize: every movement needs to take all three actions. Our partners like the 60,000-member Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) in Haiti are building solutions from the bottom up, reaching tens of thousands more with mass media and person-to-person connections. Grassroots International stands with them, providing these movements the funding to organize.

Peasant Voice Radio

Week after week, hosts and producers — local activists — put on dozens of shows on the MPP’s Peasant Voice Radio (PVR). Broadcasting from a small, dimly lit room in the countryside, the movement reaches thousands.

The radio station offers sports and music, but its existence is deeply connected with the MPP’s work. As PVR states on their website:

“The motto of the MPP is: ORGANIZATION OR DEATH. Radio should encourage peasants to organize themselves to defend their interests. It must sensitize young people to organize to participate in the creation of a new Haiti.”

Peasant Voice Radio serves the same function that radical and socialist newspapers did at the turn of the 20th century. It is an educator, an agitator, and an organizer.

Movements in other countries still use print news effectively. Brasil de Fato, a collaboration of several groups including the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, has a 50,000-per-issue national circulation and several regional papers. But the MPP’s turn to radio was deliberate.

“Haiti has a strong radio culture,” Solidarity Program Officer Mina Remy told me. “Many people may not see a newspaper. The MPP and others use means that will connect them to their communities and build their movements.”

During the coup dictatorship between 1991 and 1994, the MPP ran a community radio broadcasting network with our support. Now, with our funding for PVR and the MPP’s programs and advertisements on two other stations, the regional movement reached some 30,000 peasants during 2018 alone.

“We use pen and paper, our brains, and our whole bodies, because every gesture you make could translate information to someone.” — Juslene Tyresias, MPP

Sharing the Teachings

To grow as the MPP has since its founding in 1973, the movement hasn’t just used radio. It also uses community trainings and assemblies for educating members. In turn, attendees share the teachings with their communities.

In 2018, hundreds participated in assemblies on the effects of climate change, the importance of sugar cane, and farmer-to-farmer exchanges of agroecology best practices.

Sonia Benjamin was one such participant, and applied what she learned at an ecological food production training. When neighbors in her village witnessed the success of her beautiful irrigated garden, they invited her to teach them. After the end of Sonia’s three-month instruction, they also had a strong harvest. With just one student, ten others got an education too.

Popular Education

Top to bottom, the MPP’s methods to educate and organize are sensitive to the people they’re reaching.

They’re not afraid to bring in political works from thinkers like Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin to help people understand capitalism. But “as we think through political formation we have to assess where that group is,” Juslene Tyresias of the MPP said. “Depending on their level [of political knowledge] we’ll use different things.”

As Juslene told me:

“When the MPP was founded, a lot of those peasants weren’t literate, so we’ve used a lot of images. We use a lot of songs to awaken people. And we also use political theater, little vignettes, based on the reality they’re living and the changes we want to see.

We use pen and paper, our brains, and our whole bodies, because every gesture you make could translate information to someone.”

All of these deliberate tools and sensitive strategies need funds. And Grassroots International is happy to support our partners as they build their movements.

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