Adriana Gregson: We Must De-mystify the Pathology of Crime in Adolescents

In this interview, Adriana Gregson talks about the pilot initiative which she set up at a young offenders' institute in Caracas. The project, which was set up with government funding, allows incarcerated youths to produce radio programmes with a political content for the community.

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Adriana Gregson (Encontrarte)
Adriana Gregson (Encontrarte)
By Adriana Gregson and Akaida Libertad Orozco Díaz - Encontrarte
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Adriana Gregson Tovar. (Caracas, 1982). Tovar is a graduate in Social Communications from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). In 2005, she and a group of other Social Communication and Social Psychology students founded a collective called “Hidden Voices – Civil Association and Extension Group of the UCV”. Since then, she and her collective have participated in the design, coordination and facilitation of workshops for the “Free Speakers” project: a radio and audiovisual project for the promotion of new social practices for high-risk adolescents and for those who are currently in prison at the Carolina Uslar Attention Centre in Rodriguez Llamosas.

In 2006, she participated in the Sixth Global Social Forum held in Caracas, giving a presentation called “Free Speakers: A radio project for promoting new social practices for adolescents in jail”. In 2007, after initiating the project and carrying out an evaluation of its achievements, she participated in the Fourth Conference for Schools of Social Communication at the Catholic Andres Bello University, giving the presentation “Communication for Liberty: an analysis of the results of the Free Speakers’ project within the identity processes of a group of adolescent prisoners”. That same year, she presented her Project in the Fourth Inter-American Communication Biennial at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina.

Between January and March 2008, Tovar gave audiovisual workshops for adolescents in trouble with the law through an arrangement between the Hidden Voices Collective, Avila TV and the Endogenous Development Nucleus, Tiuna El Fuerte. She is currently the coordinator of a radio project called “Young people in high risk situations” in Tiuna El Fuerte, Caracas.

Tovar also holds a teaching position at the Journalism Department in the Social Communications School in the UCV and is an examiner in Popular Communication for  Content Coordination and Creation at the Infocentre Foundation, Ministry of Science and Technology.

Akaida Orozco: Let’s talk about the background to this. How did the project develop, who did the work-team consist of?

Adriana Gregson: Well, at that moment in 2005, we students from the Social Communication and Social Psychology departments met up. One of the students, María Eugenia Fréitez, was working in an institution that defended children’s and adolescents’ rights – CECODAP. She was also linking the issue of the Law of Social Responsibility – La Lopna – to her work at the CECODAP, and within that were the different focuses and investigative directions, such as adolescents from care homes, adolescents who are prisoners etc.

She had the opportunity to do a report on the situation of adolescents in the Carolina Uslar Internment prison in Carapita. During that report, one of the kids that she was interviewing said to her, “Miss, bring us stuff, bring us something, we are bored here, dying from having too much time on our hands, we want to do different things, whatever course you guys want”. So Maria Eugenia spoke to the Director, who at that time was creating the Bolivarian School of Morals and Lights for Liberty, and it was precisely from those circumstances that we came up with a holistic focus for a project and considered the topic of communication.

So the Director encouraged her to propose a communications project. Within that context, several of us students from social communications and some from psychology had been revising material on the psychology of street children and adolescents, so we were already forming questions surrounding the issue and developing an awareness of the topic. From within that framework the proposal came from us, alongside the needs of the kids at Uslar. We were a group of students desperate to get out on the streets, in the barrios, disillusioned with university and its elitist concepts that were totally closed off. In that moment, the idea of proposing a radio project came to us. We thought radio because there would be no problems if the kids were illiterate, and there would be no technological problems as can happen with audiovisual productions, and furthermore it is much more economic.

So, we called together other social psychology students, who contributed a lot in terms of understanding the kids, how to understand an adolescent behind bars, what they think about criminality...Those who studied psychology had already challenged, above all, the pathology of crime, it was necessary to demystify the belief that everyone who commits a crime is a madman, a piece of dirt or sick, and to demystify that absurd idea that the problem lies within the subject, in him or her personally, and not within their social context. All these were the ideas that were around when we were establishing the project, and were the focus from which we wanted to develop the project. And that’s what we did, and the first thing was a group exercise in which we asked the kids what the radio is. We did various group exercises, ice-breaking games, and then we threw the idea of the radio project out to them and they told us, “We want to make radio”.

And when we started in that place, everybody told us that we wouldn’t be able to work with those kids, that we had to be careful, that if one of them was staring at us then it meant he was going to pull a knife out and kill us and God knows what else! That all came from the Director of the institution - who was no longer the guy who had initially approved the project – and from teachers and police officers, everyone was telling us to be careful. But we wanted to give it a go...that was in June 2005, and everything started from there really.

A.O: How old are the kids you work with?

A.G: The kids who we work with are aged between fourteen and nineteen. The institute is for adolescents aged 18 and under, but depending on the kid’s behaviour, they could be there till they`re 19. Then they send them to a detention centre for adults, La Planta or Yare. Anyway, then we started to produce radio with recorders, bond paper, pens, that’s also where we started to establish our pedagogy i.e. Hidden Voices, because when we started out we were very academic, that was all we knew up until that point, and we were talking about society and the masses and all that (laughs), and of course, the kids were saying to us “Uhuh, very good, but, what are the masses? What’s that?”

Then we realised that we were developing the concept of how to carry out the project as we were getting closer to the kids. Today, we have a consolidated and systemised pedagogy of how to treat the kids, how to generate dialogue between them and us, it’s not just about giving them a class and letting our voices be heard. From the beginning we told them that their voices were a channel, a means through which they could be in a place where their bodies couldn’t go. We established the idea that the radio was a tool for the kids to create a link with the community, through which they could take on a different societal role.

A.O: From what perspective were you approaching the radio programmes?

A.G: From the perspective that I was talking about at the beginning: how to “de-pathologise” crime, the reasons why the kids might fall into illegal practices and their associated context...We started noticing that this was a reality in all of the life stories which we began putting out on the radio. Everything which revolves around social recognition, masculinity within a group, in the barrio, the kids are totally bombarded by a culture of consumerism, through the media etc. By doing something illegal, the kids are differentiating themselves from workers – those same kids will say to you, “I’m not going to be a slave”. The other issue was imposing your will over others as a means of survival.

A.O: Was this a diagnosis you arrived at before you began the activities with them, or something you learnt along the way?

A.G: Along the way. It was realising that all that mountain of theory that we had read was really absolutely useless, if criminality is a pathology or not, what crime has to do with its social context, issues that were becoming first hand realities through practise, and from a new perspective, which was to understand that crime within the context of urban segregation is a mechanism for social recognition in a way that other mechanisms such as school, work and families are not.

It was realising and verifying that reality from the kids’ behaviour, who told us it themselves. That was one of the first things we learnt with the guys. The other important thing which we discovered was that the kids want to learn things, want to learn, and want to take on a role of responsibility within the community when they speak on the radio.

It was demystifying the belief that the kids were going to talk about death, blood and drugs...They started bringing up stories about their lives, stories that were really naive, that made you say, my God, this kid is just a baby. Stories about a kid from Africa, sports, turtles...and then we realised that this kid was a “thug”, a killer. We were given the opportunity to get to know the kids in a different role, we let them talk, let them express themselves, we weren’t trying to transform them so that they stopped speaking like themselves. That is our greatest achievement, because it allowed us to discover what those kids want and that they can be social subjects, subjects that can value themselves by their own criteria. We discovered that what they had been missing out on are concrete opportunities, and that they had been subject to too much violence, not just physically but symbolically too.

A.O: Yes, the silent dialogue which excludes them, segregates them, makes them invisible...

A.G: Exactly, the kids read in school, in the institutions where they are locked up, in the city when they come down from the barrio, in the majority of public spaces, everywhere they read that there is a certain discrimination against them, against who they are personally for the way they speak or the way they are dressed, who they are in society. They are always the object of rejection and exclusion, that’s the violence to which I’m referring.

On the one hand they are getting all that, and on the other, the media channels are bombarding them and telling them that the only way of gaining social recognition, of being a “good” kid, of being accepted, is through consumption. So, they are always debating their identity within that contradiction, that’s why a kid, through “thuggary*”, can find an instrument though which he can obtain what he needs materially to be accepted: the cap, the pants, the shoes etc.

Also, within that he finds a group which socially accepts him for who he is, a group which respects him, a group which doesn’t reject him for his way of expressing himself for example. At the institution where they are, everyone recognises them for what they represent socially, everyone, from educators and custodial officers to directors; they all associate the fact that, because he says the word “homie”, then that is synonymous with being a thug and that he is violent because he speaks like that.

The guys could talk like that on the radio; “S’up homie, what’s goin’ down?" but they were doing a programme on poverty. The main principle of Hidden Voices is to respect youth identities, because assuming that “thug culture” allows them to be what they are, it gives them a certain space to be free. That’s what the kid needs, to be who he is. That was the first principle that we discovered as a pedagogical tool in 2005, that the kid should express himself how he wants, that he should dress how he wants, but that he should use the radio responsibly, as a way of transmitting a message.

A.O: What was the first radio workshop that you organised like? What did you teach the kids, how did you distribute the activities that made up the programmes?

A.G: Firstly we were involved in a process of getting to know the kids, which was very recreational. We did a radio rally, it was all games. But the very same kids said to us, “Aha, but miss, when are we going to make radio?” and proposed doing a kind of newsreel from the institution. We left them to get on with it, and what we did was to advise them in terms of how to create a news programme. It flowed spontaneously from within that dynamic of familiarisation. Then, we started with a radio training curriculum from a totally academic perspective, but that started falling apart when we came head on with the reality, the interests and needs of the kids. So we started to do music programmes in which we analysed the songs of Ruben Blades and reflected on the subject of the family unit, love, poverty...We chose any song that they liked as an instrument to provoke questions, to investigate. We changed our pedagogy; we started to teach them through actions and through their own lived experiences, from their interests, not from an imposition.

A.O: How many kids participated in those radio workshops?

A.G: Sixty kids participated, only two or three stayed outside...That pedagogical change resulted in the kids having constant participation. And it wasn’t an obligatory workshop; it was voluntary, only those who wanted to went.

A.O: Who gave you financial, human, logistical support etc. at that time?

A.G: We didn’t have any kind of support, we were making radio ourselves with recorders. But then we were faced with a real need to make radio. So we started visiting community radio stations. We asked permission from the courthouse and it was the first time that we took the kids outside, in a coach with their teachers who are their custodial officers, and we went to the community radio stations, in Caricua, Ali Primera, Radio Rebelde in Catia (neighbourhoods in Caracas).

The kids got really enthusiastic as a result of those experiences. They had the experience of sitting in front of the radio with the microphones, telling the public that they were actually making radio...So at that moment they really believed in what they were doing, because, of course, up until that moment it had always been like “this is a load of rubbish that you guys are spinning us”, because we had told them that we were going to set up a studio in Uslar, but we hadn’t got any concrete results. At the same time as doing that we started soliciting CONATEL for support, (National Telecommunications Commission), we submitted the project to management at the Social Responsibility department and then the project was finally approved in February 2006.We were looking for resources, trying to get moving on the project to set up a radio studio in the Uslar detention centre.

A.O. At that moment, who was part of the project?

A.G: María Eugenia Fréitez, Víctor Fernández, Indriana Guevara and myself, who were Social Communications students, and Rebeca Gregson, Doris Ponce, Carolina Graterol and Lorena Fréitez who studied Social Psychology. After January-February 2006, Victor and Indriana left the project due to a row over the pedagogical focus, but the project kept going. Then we embarked upon a more informative stage, so that they (the kids) learnt other journalistic techniques such as how to do interviews, news and reports. We made every effort to advance with the productions, and now we had some recorders that were a bit better in quality, and we planned other visits to community radio stations for April. April-May was the second visiting period to those community stations.

A.O: When you visited the community radio stations, did you do the programmes live or were they pre-recorded?

A.G: We had the scripts to do the programmes live, and we had a couple of things that were pre-recorded, but it was mostly just following the scripts live and that’s what we worked with. We never managed to do reports, but we did do interviews. We followed the pedagogical principle that we described; respecting their needs, their interests, their way of speaking and being, but always with a sense of responsibility towards what they were communicating. Then we did various programmes, one on hip-hop and we invited Guerrilla Seca on the show, another on basketball and we invited Alexis Vargas, a professional basketball player. The interview with Guerrilla Seca was with Faith and Happiness Radio Station, the interview with the basketball player was with Radio Station Ali Primera.

We did a third programme on social responsibility because there was a group that wanted to understand the legal system which had them imprisoned, or rather, they wanted to understand the law, the sanctions, the privileges, they wanted to understand the system of social responsibility. So we invited a researcher from the Catholic Andres Bello University on the show to talk about the penal responsibility system and two people from the National Commission for Children’s and Adolescents’ Rights. Then after that we started to work on the type of report that we would do, but we needed to refresh, to start working from recreation. We were a bit bogged down from not having equipment; we hadn’t managed to consolidate the project to open a radio station. Furthermore, we couldn’t do visits all the time, it was complicated to get permission in order to take the kids out of the institution, so what we decided to do was to create “speaker radio”.

A.O: What was “speaker radio”?

A.G: It was radio that we did from the institution, we invited family members, the community and we did the set design like it was a radio studio. For example, we did a salsa programme and we interviewed drummers, dancers and did a set design linked to salsa. We invited a graffiti artist on the show so he could paint a salsa-themed mural in the institution. The kids set up like they were doing a radio show, with the microphones and the audience in front of them and they pretended to do radio, but it was live and the audience heard it through speakers. We did that 3 times. Those were the methods we used to make radio when we didn’t have radio.

A.O: Were families, friends, people from the community and the centre receptive?

A.G: My hair is standing on end! It’s was a matter of seeing just how stigmatised  the kids were, they had been told so many times that they were trash, that they were the dregs of society etc, and now they were there making radio and investigating the history of salsa. And their families were there, and also there is always the issue of the maternal figure who is always there with the kids. And the mothers, well they laughed, joined in, it was like a big party. We really managed to create a nice atmosphere. The kids really valued that space because it was a family space, a space in which they could be in another environment with their families, girlfriends and kids.

We realised that the question of “thuggary” was so related to social recognition that we could use social communication as an alternative for that very reason. There is a really strong element within thuggary which is related to a long narrative of rejection, exclusion and violence, right the way throughout their lives and from a very young age, which leads them down a path of destruction, in which they don’t just kill but die a bit also. Because the kid that decides to become a gang member is destined to die young. The majority of the kids end up getting into trouble and then they’re dead by 18. And so, the possibility of social communication as an option which provided a form of social recognition really worked, because the kids like it, they went along with it and learnt.

Well, in that recreational period we started to do radio soaps. AVESA, the Venezuelan Association for Alternative Sexualities, invited us to participate in some workshops on sexuality. The topic of sexuality was a constant characteristic in our kids, the majority of them were already fathers. From my experience, there are a number of “natural” things that we possess as the middle class, maybe it comes from formal education, but the whole topic of the sperm, the ovary and pregnancy, well these kids had no idea. They are damaged by a whole list of myths and prejudices and don’t have any control or planning with regards to their lives or families.

After that experience we started to make clips on sexuality which we called “Speaking Clearly”. We still didn’t have equipment. At the same time, we had to consolidate ourselves as a civil institution, open up a legal account, and collect all the requirements, because a lot of time passed between CONATEL approving the project and being given the bursary. We also realised that the budget we had given was really stupid for what developing a project of this type would entail, we were really naive. As a result, we had to look for people who would help us to build the project out of solidarity, who worked practically unpaid, because we didn’t have enough money for that.

A.O: Did the Uslar Detention Centre pay you anything for your work?

A.G: No, everything was voluntary. In the project which we submitted to CONATEL, there was a payment set aside for thesocial workers which lasted a year, on top of the radio programme. We were in the first group to be approved by the Board of Social Responsibility for that kind of project. Parallel to that, two of our colleagues began to work for Vive TV and they put forward a proposal for an audiovisual radio project. In 2006, I began the audiovisual project on the television. Not long after, a programme produced by the kids from within the detention centre was broadcast; it was called, “the Mind that Surrounds Us”. It was broadcast every Tuesday at 6 pm. At the beginning we had problems because we were always asking for permission to take the kids out, so they started objecting in the courts. Then we had the idea to do the programmes from inside the centre and that was the perfect excuse to hold social events at which the kids could do interviews. For example we did a programme about graffiti, so in view of that we invited graffiti artists and muralists from Caracas to perform at the institution. They painted the patios, and the themes which they painted were decided by us all. They had to be related to communication, to barrio kids, to basketball, radio and hip hop. We made television programmes which were produced and recorded by the kids and in which they interviewed graffiti artists, hip hop artists, sportspeople and rally drivers. 

A.O: When did you finally manage to get the study up and running in Uslar?

A.G: The radio study got going in October 2006. The international hip hop summit, which is held every year with the participation of hip hop collectives, took place in August that year at the institution and we did another television programme. After that, we concentrated on audiovisual work and on the consolidation of the study in order to have it ready for October. That’s where we began a new stage, as we had the recording studio inside the institution. We modified the workshops and their dynamic, as well as our pedagogy. So we had a recording studio but we couldn’t air the programmes, because CONATEL never authorised us to broadcast as we didn’t meet the necessary requirements. So the first step for us was to record and take the programmes to radio stations. We did a weekly programme every Saturday, it was called “Keep on Goin’: It’s out there, for freedom and nothing else” (in Venezuelan slang). It was a programme produced by several groups. Maria Eugenia had a group, Doris another one, Gabriela has hers and I had mine. Each week one of the groups produced the programme.

Then we took them to the radio stations, the first one we took to a radio station in Antimano which is the nearest (radio station) to the institution.

A.O:  How did you assign the kids their roles in order to produce the programmes?

A.G: We tried to make sure that everyone had a go at everything. We decided on the subject to talk about as a group. So, one of the kids would say, for example, “Party, miss”, and then we started to discuss how to approach the topic as a group and what the message would be. They discussed it amongst themselves, they read material and they started to write some scripts. That’s when it was decided who would say what.

We tried to make sure that everyone said something. However, there were some kids who took charge of the technical side of things, but they still participated in writing the script with the others. There were no announcement or breathing techniques, everyone just spoke how they spoke and that was that. The most important thing was that they said what they had to say and that people heard that clearly. That was how the dynamic worked from October to December, when we did another “speaker radio” with their families, we didn’t abandon that because we thought it was a very important and worthwhile experience.

In January 2007 we started to broach the issue of the socio-political formation of the kids, because we had been working there 2 years and knew everything relating to identity, context; the kids felt like they had another role – they already felt like they could do other things, meaning that we had achieved some really important goals subjectively speaking, but we needed to advance a bit more in the sense of the kid understanding what the thug lifestyle has to do with exclusion, why thuggary is related to capitalism, why there is a political content in their decision to be a gangster.

As a group we started to discuss how to reach out to the kids politically and we started to put on workshops geared more towards that. It was a strange step because the kids didn’t grasp it. It was a challenge for us to learn how to get this message across to them without being academic, without them feeling like they were misunderstood or without hurting their feelings. We also felt under a lot of pressure because the kids were leaving to go back out on the streets. Lots of the kids that started with us in 2005 were leaving just as the project was getting going, or they were being transferred to a prison for adults.

A.O: How did you deal with the issue of reinserting the kids who were leaving the institution back into society? Had you thought of any jobs where they could continue with radio production?

A.G: Of course, that was an issue that concerned us from the beginning.  It was all very well producing radio inside the detention centre, but the kids that left went on to call us. For us, that was the most striking indication of the work that we had carried out. The kids called us and they said “Miss, I want to keep doing radio”. It was no longer about them getting certain privileges inside the institution (for good behaviour, for example), but because they wanted to continue with that activity. But it was really difficult, because what could we offer them? Our idea was to incorporate them into community radio stations, but then there was another problem, because community radio stations don’t work with those kids, but rather with more politicised kids.

So then we started doing various things, firstly, we started to give them classes here in the UCV (Central University of Venezuela). We came every week to give classes to the kids who had left the institution and we tried to produce radio in the studios at the School of Social Communications. We did that for about 3 weeks but the situation got really complicated, mostly due to space. So then we changed our strategy and we went to Radio Perola. There we gave workshops to the kids that had left and we started up a programme called “Back on the Scene”, “...and if there is silence then it’s all over”, that was the slogan. They chose the topics and we continued working with the same dynamic that we had inside. But it was really wearing us out working in the institution and outside as well. There were only a few of us and we didn’t have any money...and the kids couldn’t get any money out of this either, but they kept going all the same. That’s what made us make the effort to keep on with them.

A.O: Exactly that, the kids couldn’t live off the radio work that they did with you...What did they do? Did they go back to the criminal way of life?

A.G: Yes, and furthermore lots more were coming out of the institution. But most of those who stayed with us dedicated themselves to working, although some continued with the criminal lifestyle. So we were really desperate to help them, because we were seeing that they were willing to do something else with their lives but society just didn’t allow them to. I mean, how is a kid like that supposed to get work, where? Who is going to trust him? We couldn’t find a way of getting them jobs, of helping them. Even worse, there are “problems” on the outside, which can be the hardest thing of all. That the kid goes back to his old context and even though the kid wants to do something else there are loads of social conflicts which pull him back in again. It’s a choice between defending yourself and going back to that old dynamic, or they kill you. Which is in effect what ended up happening. Of all of the kids that got out in 2006-2007, 80% of them are dead. We saw that transition, from seeing the kid wanting to do things, wanting to be something, and then ending up dead. There are 5 of them who are still with us, others went back to the gangs and they’ll meet their end there.

Then we signed an agreement with Avila TV and some kids started going to the EUPA, which is Avila’s Audiovisual Production School. After that, the highpoint of the story is that some of the kids graduated from that agreement with Avila TV, Tiuna Fuerte and Hidden Voices, which the kids now produce. Avila TV donated a computer to us, a camera and a website editor and the kids produced their life stories and what they were thinking about doing next. The programme “Swapping the Streets for the Camera” came out. We have 6 or 7 promos and we also have one of the kid’s complete life stories, a short film production. Joel’s life story was what the same kids who left the institution ended up producing, filming and editing. We’re currently producing a second life-story.

That’s on hold at the moment though because lots of changes in terms of the institution’s administration have taken place and there are new policies in terms of prisons. The new focus was to get the communal councils involved inside the prison, but that’s been difficult to manage. A climate of social competition started to develop inside the prison and there were strikes on the part of the workers and chefs, we couldn’t give workshops, the director had no experience. This process led to the prisoners rebelling and there was police repression, which is punishable by law. There was mistreatment and kids were indiscriminately transferred to adult prisons. Actually, a riot broke out in the middle of a workshop we had organised on building musical instruments. All the musical instruments were destroyed. It was impossible to continue with the workshops. The radio studio was destroyed, it went to shit. It was a really hard blow for is, we were in a bad place. They transferred almost all of the kids. So obviously the radio project in the young offender’s institute was put on hold, so as not to say that it was over. It was impossible to continue as if nothing was going on around us.

A.O: You mean the idea was for the communal councils to take over the management of the institution?

A.G: Yes, and we opposed that and the communal councils couldn’t gain entry to the institute.  It was madness to think that they could manage an institute like that. Just because they are communal councils doesn’t mean that they know how to work with kids behind bars. We even ended up as enemies, it was horrible. We were obliged to ask the state to intervene, asking the Comptroller General of the Republic to investigate what was going on there, because they were violating people’s rights. Obviously it was the kids who rioted, but why did they do it? They concealed the reasons behind the situation, the origin of what happened and the causes, and it’s the kids who end up being criminalised again.

A.O: What is the collective’s current situation? What’s your assessment of the experiences that you’ve had?

A.G: After that we dedicated more time to the kids in the street, the graduates, to the project with Avila. We also concentrated on monitoring the crisis and taking up a position with respect to it, that’s to say that a collective can’t just be there to give radio workshops, it has to be an integral part (of the institute), and the members have to respond to the needs of the moment.

We understood that we had to confront the situation and take action. The crisis wasn’t just inside the institution but outside as well, the kids were coming out, but they were having problems and getting killed. All this made us look towards consolidating the project outside of Uslar, if we didn’t manage to consolidate a space outside then all we were doing was putting band aids on a wound. So we started looking for funding to consolidate a space outside of the institute, that was the collective’s priority, to ensure that it didn’t fail.

Bandes financed the construction of a classroom inside the Endogenous Nucleus in Tiuna Fuerte for us and they also gave us a van so we could make mobile radio. The project was so that the kids could make radio independently of the institution, make radio in the communities. That was what the van was for. Like Radio Verdura, for instance, was directed by the kids. Within that context, Tiuna Fuerte has worked a lot within the genre of hip hop and the theme of the barrio, and they have helped us. They already have an established pedagogy, that’s why we turned to them. Within that context we started to search for work for two of the kids that had come out of the institute and they started working in Tiuna.

That’s what is still going today, Avila tv continues as well. Bandes has helped us and played an important part in this project. We have now managed to build – it took a long time but it is finally ready – an industrial container which we put on some columns. An architect helped us do it and we decorated it inside like a living room. We did it with recyclable material and we use it to give classes to the graduates and the kids in the barrios. Because we understand that there needs to be prevention, treatment and monitoring.  

At the moment we are working with no resources and with only a few people, but we plan to work from within the container. Radio Container has already been created. What we have just done is to create some areas for investigation. The kids are organised into groups of two or three, and each group has an area to investigate. For example, el Valle (barrio in Caracas) and culture, youth and identity, violence, black music etc. We have been doing a workshop on radiophone language, because the first two shows were broadcast without dialogue. At the moment we are consolidating those areas of investigation in order to be able to put that dialogue in.

In 2010 we were thinking about going back to Uslar but using the methodology that we had developed outside, and having the kids incorporated into that. Radio Container’s ambition is to create and produce programmes to send out to the whole radio network, and to cultivate those community radio stations that need it the most. We’re going to do 6 programmes on each area of investigation and we are busy networking so that we can send those programmes out to networks across Caracas and throughout the country. In 2010, we’re hoping to go back to the institute to be able to keep working and to change the narrative.

Translated for Venezuelanalysis by Rachael Boothroyd

*The Venezuelan words “malandro” and “malandreo” are particularly difficult to translate, on the one hand they refer to a person who is a gang member and is engaged in criminal activity (i.e a malandro, with malandreo referring to that activity and that way of life), but on the other hand, the terms can also be used to depict members of an “underclass” which might dress and speak in a certain way. The term can basically be used in a classist sense to denote social standing and is not always used exclusively to indicate criminal activity. I have, for this reason, chosen to translate them as “thugs” and “thuggary”, consciously avoiding words like gangster which imply mafia connections, and also to communicate the negative social connotations which are implicit in the terms.