AWAKENING/art & culture

The community of Orlando, Florida has been undergoing a cultural and artistic awakening throughout the past eight years. What has brought about this cultural evolution?  None other than AWAKENING/art & culture and their creation, the Orlando Latin American Film and Heritage Festival. This organization and community radio station hopeful  serves more than the artistic needs of the local Hispanic community. The organization also provides an immense amount of education regarding sustainability, which attracts a young audience including many outside of the Hispanic community. Nelson Betancourt, the founder of the organization, has been heavily involved in the cultural, environmental, and political aspects of the community for a long time now-- even working for Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, whom Betancourt encouraged to vote in favor of the Local Community Radio Act. Betancourt views starting a station as the next big step in creating change in his community and as a vehicle to address issues on sustainability, social justice, citizenship, and political and cultural education.

A poetry program led by a professor from a local college, a show titled Solar Sphere that focuses on sustainability, live performances by local artists, and programs discussing worker's rights are just some of the features that AWAKENING/arts & culture plans on providing to the local public. The station will also provide connections for people in the community as well as, “a safe place for social, cultural, and political dialogue.” Betancourt points out the current lack of radio programs airing consistent dialogues such as these and states that constant, open conversation provides “a better context for discussion.” The ultimate goal, however, is to transform the Orlando Latin American Film and Heritage Festival into a radio station. But what is really going down at this festival? So much is going down! The incorporation of different art forms such as music, poetry, film, and academic writings is just one facet of the festival. Speakers are often brought in to discuss a particular issue. Followed by the featured speaker is sometimes either a film that touches on this issue or by a musician who connects with the issue.

Of course starting a radio station requires capital but this organization is not letting an obstacle such as finances stop them in their quest for constant discussion and focus on cultural, environmental, and political issues. Betancourt expresses his confidence in local support, “I think there will be a lot people who will be very enthusiastic to support a home to discuss sustainability initiatives and also create a community around this issue. This will help raise awareness [and] money for the station.” The potential station already has the support and dedication of a staff of fifteen or so active volunteers, each dedicated to the mission AWAKENING/arts & culture. Betancourt offers his own advice and guidance to those looking to create their own local station by advising people to look for connections within the community, “Look at the radio station as a way to bring issues of the community to the forefront, particularly ones that are not getting the attention they should. The more controversial a subject is, the more it should be discussed. That's the only way we can bring light to it. Radio stations can open wide the possibilities for a different future.” AWAKENING/arts & culture's plans to incorporate the Orlando Latin American Film and Heritage Festival, sustainability awareness, and the advancement of workers rights and create a local radio station is indeed widening the possibilities of our future.

An interview with Nelson Betancourt
By Lita Farquhar