By Shea Howell
June 19, 2017
Shortly after the national elections, the organizers of the Allied Media Conference (AMC) in Detroit issued a statement “Get Ready Stay Ready.” They said, “We offer the AMC as a space for our movements to converge and explore how we can use media-based organizing to dig up the roots of systemic hatred and violence. We offer the AMC as a space to create art that detoxifies the soil of this culture, so we can grow without its centuries of poison.” After nearly two decades of patient building, the organizers recognized that they had created a unique and important space to help all of us think together about how we can most intentionally respond to this political crisis.
In the Welcome to the AMC the organizers said, “We are gathering with an urgency to share the skills and strategies of visionary resistance.” Acknowledging the uncertainty of this moment, they went on to say, “We do know that an incredibly powerful community will be assembled in Detroit…We know that in the space of four days at the AMC we will share the energy, the love, and the vision we need to b ready for whatever is happening and whatever comes next.”
Sprawling across the campus of Wayne State University north to the Jam Handy and New Center Park down to the MOCAD, thousands of media activists came together last weekend to forge a new future. For those of us at the AMC, we could see the future emerging around us in workshops, plenary sessions, hands on activities and the joyful, intentionally caring ways people moved and worked with one another. Community dinners, raucous parties, quiet reflections and provocative plenaries pushed all of us to think in new ways about the possibilities of birthing a world based on justice and love.
One of the early plenary sessions was about the relationship between stories and movement making called “Stories Become Movements, Become Stories.” In many ways this session went to the heart of much of what motivated the conference this year. Stories shape and change our world. Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice reminded us that “disorganized truth can be overcome by an organized lie.” We need to organize our truths with the understanding that stories have the power to “move people past fear to action” as people strive for “meaning.”
Panelists explored the question of what stories do we need now? Paige Watkins co-founder of the Black Bottom Archives and the Detroit chapter of Black Youth Project 100 talked about the power of community driven, collaborative story telling and highlighted Riverwise as an example of the kind of storytelling that gives us a vision of the possibilities of local actions that enable us to not only survive, but thrive.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder of the media training organization Third World Majority, reminded us that stories are the way we are able to imagine a future for all of us us, saying that “darkness can be a tomb, or a womb” and that this moment requires a “collective ferocity” grounded in the belief that we as a species have the capacity to create an interdependent, liberated future. The first step, speakers said, was to listen to one another with our hearts.