They say that “We Are All Cousins” and make use of online tools and social media to unite virtually the people of São Tomé and Príncipe in the diaspora and spread around the world. Global Voices spoke to Guedes Machado Medeiros, general coordinator of the informal group “Somos Todos Primos” (STP, We Are All Cousins) which launched a new website for its online radio on December 22nd.
Global Voices Online (GVO): How did the group “We Are All Cousins” come about and what are the organisation's objectives?
Guedes Medeiros (GM): The group “We Are All Cousins” emerged in 2010, and was consolidated with the existence of the radio station “We Are All Cousins”, [which] brought us greater prospects and new ideas: our objective is to promote and sell our culture to the world, we believe that we are capable of publicising São Tomé and Príncipe to the four corners of the globe. As time went on, we realised that we could offer our audience a range of programmes which was not yet available, and that is when the Group bearing the same name as the radio station emerged, made up of young students from disciplines as varied as science and literature.
GVO: Could you explain what “We Are All Cousins” means?
GM: [In Portuguese "Somos Todos Primos", STP, or] “We Are All Cousins” means nothing more and nothing less than “São Tomé and Príncipe”, because we are a small country both geographically-speaking and in terms of population, where we all have a kinship connection, we translate this concisely as “Cousins”. We thought this label was the best way to keep alive the idea and the culture that we are a country based around family. Today we believe that with the “We Are All Cousins” project, we have brought more brightness, more life and thus, as has already been said, we unite the people of São Tomé around the globe.
GVO: One of the first actions of your Group was to create an online social community on the platform Ning at the end of 2009, but it closed after a year and a half. What are your thoughts on the experience of developing this online social community?
GM: The creation of the blog on the social community Ning was the first step taken by “We Are All Cousins” as a national “brand”. From that point on the network became, without exaggeration, a great success, and when the radio station was launched with the afore-mentioned name, nobody had to ask many questions because they already knew what it was about. We owe all of the success which we have achieved today to that blog, and I must emphasise that the majority of the people who form part of the project “We Are All Cousins Group” today met through the Ning platform.
We had to close the blog because it was costing us 22€ a month and we realised later on that with this amount we could enjoy something bigger than what the Ning platform offered us. It was from there that the idea of creating our “Official Portal” arose.
GVO: Even with the closure of the Ning community, we can see that you never gave up on your objectives. Can you tell us how the radio station “We Are All Cousins” was established?
GM: Unhappy with the closure of the blog mentioned above, we tried to look for an alternative until the Official Portal was launched. Since we are passionate about music and promoting São Tomé's values, we created a “Menu Playlist” on our old blog, where readers could enjoy listening to music in “Off” mode. Leaving the blog behind, as a joke between friends and my brother Ricolve Medeiros, we recorded a video in my bedroom playing at being radio presenters and we posted it on Youtube:
There was significant appreciation of the video from its viewers, and some of those who were closer made contact with us to encourage us to create a “Web Radio”. We considered all the possibilities and we tried to find a mechanism by which we could make these ideas into a reality…
GVO: Contact draws contact and…
That was how our IT genius Hugo Menezes appeared. With the software in his possession, he needed around 2 weeks of investigative work. When he finished his research, I received the best news I have ever received in my life. He contacted me to show me a surprise, that is, the radio station which was already up and running [through the platform Listen2myradio]. From there we have brought together the conditions, although precarious, to keep the radio online until today with our effort and dedication, but because we are all students and we live in different parts of Europe, we go on air more frequently at the weekends, which is when we have more free time.
GVO: Since its foundation, what type of content and programmes has the radio broadcast? What can you say about the radio's audience?
GM: Since we started our radio services we have maintained a diverse programme, 90% of which is made up of a variety of music. Even in these conditions, we have a considerable number of listeners because, for one thing, we use the social network Facebook in our marketing because it is a very powerful tool. To diversify a little our range of programming, we established a small partnership with the National Radio of São Tomé and Príncipe in which they provide us with some recorded programmes which we replay on our radio station. For information, we talk about the situations lived by students from São Tomé in Portugal and other places. We have listeners in São Tomé and Príncipe, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Great Britain, Taiwan, Macau and many other countries, even though all of the work is still done in an “amateur” fashion.
GVO: We know that you have more ambitious projects, such as “Cousins TV” for example, which has left your listeners and Facebook followers eager and impatient…
GM: We feel that we have a great capacity to give more of what has already been done for our people and all those who appreciate the culture of São Tomé. As a result of this, we have now resolved to include in our project an online TV station which is still being studied and designed. For economic reasons it still hasn't been possible to officially launch the radio station, the online shop and the Cousins TV station which are our biggest ambitions. This is because we don't have the sufficient technical means to develop our work from here on. But while the joy for what we do exists, we've worked with whatever we had. We have some friends who have helped us, such as the artist Mesaro Soares, Ron-nie Cabral, the group STP Rappers who we could even consider to be among our sponsors. We are open to people who want to support us or who want to get to know the project more closely.
GVO: How do you interpret the empowerment of young people in São Tomé and Príncipe through active participation in social media?
GM: Without doubt our young people have begun to have greater access to the internet, and as we have a country [in which] 75% of the population is young, the trend is ever greater, and we hope that with the installation of fibre optics in São Tomé and Príncipe we will have an even higher number of internet users. In my opinion [the use of social media] is satisfactory given the difficulties we face with the telecommunications services in the country.
GVO: To end, what inspiring message would you leave for the young people of this global world, especially those from São Tomé and Príncipe ?
GM: Briefly, I would say: young people are the future of every country and while we are young, we have to begin to plant seeds and to dream big, and above all not let fear condition us. Our future is the reflection of everything that we have done today while we are young.