Friday, July 22, 2011

Allied Media Conference: Part 2

cross posted from my Media Justice column

This is part two of a two part series about my experiences at the Allied Media ConferenceAMC). In this part I will discuss the sessions and workshops I attended. Read part one here.

After arriving and settling in the first track on Friday morning was the most difficult time to choose a session to attend. There were so many good ones, such as “
Editing As An Act of Love,” and “Video Blogging to Expand Your Message,”but I decided on “Stories that Feed Our Bodies & Communities: Media Tools for Healing.” The AMC encouraged participates to a communal note taking system called PiratePad, so folks who could not attend the session could still see what notes were taken during the session. Here is the PiratePad link for this session.

The session I selected is part of the track “Health is Dignity. Dignity is Resistance.” It was the track and meeting two of the presenters that led me to this track. I’ve wanted to meet blogger
bfp (brownfemipower) in 3D for a very long time and hear Alexis Pauline Gumbs speak live! As you can read on the PiratePad, we spoke about how we first heard about health, how it was connected to media, and how we define media. It was good to see folks in person, and the most important part for me was the resources that folks shared. I quickly realized that other folks used the space in a different way than I did and this is because I wanted to be challenged in a particular way versus completely participate in a communal discussion of healing and trauma.

Following this session was a screening of the film
Black Girl Project, which was a part of the INCITE! track. Director Aiesha Turman, who was interviewed for the Media Maker’s Salon a while back, was present to screen the film and provide a discussion after the film. As a board member of the Black Girl Project, I attended this session to support the film, program, and hear feedback from others.

The feedback Aiesha received was very supportive. There were questions about extending the definition of “girl” to include genderqueer and trans women. Aiesha shared that she is very much open to interviewing folks who challenge and expand what “girl” means just as she has done the same with “Black.” She also shared how she went about capturing the interviews, as she didn’t use a huge video camera, but her cell phone and digital camera’s video feature.

After the BGP film screening Aiesha and I went in search of food. The AMC provides a two hour lunch break and during that time some lunch caucuses. Aiesha and I walked around the area and decided on a creperie makes crepes made to order called
Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes, which is a woman owned and operated space. The food was delicious but it did take the full 2 hours to get served because they are made to order and only have two crepe makers.

After lunch we had a challenge getting into the sessions we wanted. There is limited space in many of the classrooms and the two following sessions of the day we did not get into. I wanted to attend “
The Collaborative Design Challenge” but a sign on the door told us the room was full. The following sessions of the day had three sessions of interest to me:“Decolonizing Journalism,” “Latitudes and Longitudes: Mapping Wellness,” and “Cooking as a Form of Media: Stories & Experiences of a Traditional Native Chef.” The last two sessions were completely filled with folks sitting on the floor of the rooms! This is a good sign for the presenters and the participants, but it’s also a reminder: if there is a session I really want to go to I need to make a decision early and get there on time (if not sooner) to get a seat!

Aiesha and I sat together in the auditorium chatting until the Opening Session began. It was a great time spending the day with Aiesha in this space. I got to know more about her and hear stories she shared about her family and future goals.

The Opening Session was amazing! It was held Friday evening and had an introduction to each track by the folks who helped coordinate them. That means 19 track presentations and all of them were interactive, used media in different ways, and were very engaging. It was great to see all of the folks and children present for the elder and children’s track with babies being held up over the heads of the person holding them and elders standing up so folks know they are present. So much wisdom and power among the 2000 of us!

By the end of the day, to say I was exhausted is a huge understatement! Instead of heading over to the bowling and karaoke party that was scheduled (and free for AMC goers) I had dinner with friends at a local brewery and headed home to bed early to prepare for Saturday.

The first session I chose to attend for Saturday was the
INCITE! Shawty Got Skillz Skillshare. Several friends were presenting and I was recruited to take some notes for the Pirate Pad. There were multiple forms of media that were present and this session was set up over two blocks of time and had the feel of a “science fair” where participants could move around to each space. The spaces provided were ones that focused on dancing, sensuality, using and being safe on Twitter, using social media, DIY videos, and fermentation and memory. There are some fotos on the Shawty Got Skillz tumblr page you can check out

I was only able to stay for one block of time and had to leave to my volunteer shift in the Healing Practitioner space that was created. I was offering art therapy in the form of
transformative portraits. I had brought with me colored pencils, crayons, watercolor paints, and markers. I had about 5 people register for my slot but two of them decided to go to sessions instead of stay for ours. The folks who did stay we had a lively conversation about addiction, healing, diversity, and change. There were times where I wondered if the folks who attended actually enjoyed the session I gave, as there were some comments such as “this would be great for the kids track.” I realized that many folks have sometimes rigid ideas of what healing can be and what “art” and “therapy” (separate and together) looks like. I was glad to have been in that space, a part of it, and I came home with three images that I am very proud of. One of the images I gifted to the person I was thinking about while creating it that day.

After my session I had to go back to my room and take a much deserved nap. This led me to wonder how I may experience this conference had I attended 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago when I was still in my 20s. A majority of the participants were in their mid-to late-20s and a good amount of folks under 20. The minority in the group were 30-somethings and the folks who identified as elders. There was definitely a feeling of “I wish I had known about the AMC before” and I’m not a fan of such feelings. They sometimes make me feel as if I’ve missed out on something and have to catch up. Yet, I let myself feel that and honor it and then realized that I can give and take from the AMC everything I can now and build for the future years.

After my nap I was able to make it to one of the final sessions called “
Every Ho I Know Says So: Listening to Sex Workers in the Sex Trade.” This session was an introduction to the short documentary film “Every Ho I Know Says So” and a discussion about how partners, lovers, sweethearts of sex workers can be supportive. Led by Lusty Day, a sex worker from Canada who is also a media maker and activist, we discussed our experiences and backgrounds with and as sex workers, shared what we sought to gain from this session.

After the session a caucus was held for folks who identify as sex workers who would like to create their own video of advice to stay and do so with Lusty. Below is the full documentary that Lusty has put together and shares. Lusty spoke about the challenges and support experienced while building and crafting the documentary. You’ll see that Lusty made it a point to have subtitles for the film so that it remains accessible. A website with additional videos will be coming soon!

Lusty also has created a zine of the same topic and was generous enough to send us a copy via email. If this is something you are interested in seeing leave a comment with a way to contact you and I’ll get in touch and share it!

That was my final session I attended. My plane left at noon on Saturday so attending Saturday sessions was not something I could do, especially since I had decided to have a brunch date with three folks I won’t be able to see very often. I realized that at conferences we can overwork ourselves, make ourselves anxious, and become overwhelmed very easily. It’s important to take care of ourselves, and this is one of the reasons the Healing Practitioner space was available. It’s also the reason why I prioritized building community over attending sessions that didn’t really interest me. In the end my time at the AMC and in Detroit was invaluable. It is one of the best experiences I have had this summer and I could not have had it without the support, love, and donations of everyone who helped me arrive and participate.

I hope that my reflections and reporting back of the conference is one that inspires readers to consider attending in the future. Like I said earlier, this is the conference space I needed 10 years ago, as a young person in the movement. I’m so happy to know that this space exists and that it is welcoming for us all.

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