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The Allied Media Conference

June 28, 2010

On June 17, Marley and I descended on Detroit for a weekend of workshops and discussion at the Allied Media Conference. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other since Marley went to El Paso in early June, so in between workshops, while enjoying ourselves in the silkscreening (!!) lab,  and over meals we checked in with each other about what we’ve learned and how it effects us moving forward in our project.

This conference was a gathering of smart, talented, dedicated and creative people from around the country (and world) who are using their talents and art to promote social justice and social transformation. Although the workshops inspired a lot of good discussion and conversation between us, I think that the most valuable thing was simply to be in the company of so many encouraging and inspiring people. The mood of the conference was one of optimism–while we were confronted in every workshop and conversation with harsh realities of the world–oppression, injustice, discrimination–every challenge was met head on with an equally powerful creative response. We met groups bringing communities together through mural-making, artist collectives that are using their prints to raise awareness about environmental destruction in Appalachia, an amazingly inspirational artistic duo that is mobilizing communities about climate change and environmental injustice, organizations that are using storytelling to create safe communities and heal wounds, and many more groups and individuals who are doing wonderful work.

The example of these organizations prompted me and Marley to challenge ourselves anew with very difficult questions. How do we ensure that our multimedia products are accessible to the communities we work with, especially when many lack access to electricity and internet? How do we make our final product(s) relevant and meaningful to the community when “raising awareness,” that buzzword for social justice organizations everywhere, isn’t enough? How can we ensure that we enter into every part of the film-making process with the humility and consideration needed to make a respectful and honest product that captures the vibrant colonia communities without prejudice?

These are questions that we have been pondering ever since we began planning for this summer. At this conference, we gained tools and insight about how to make our product accessible and we saw the example of people who are doing respectful and meaningful multimedia work. In the next few weeks we will be incorporating these ideas into our plans and website, and continue to discuss how to improve every aspect of our work (and if you have any ideas, please let us know!).

Throughout this entire process I have felt plagued by uncertainty–dark thoughts of inadequacy, worry about feasibility, anxiety about the conflict of sticking to our values of conducting collaborative, community-based media while still getting all of the footage we need. I have learned that these troubling thoughts are important–they are what push us to be more engaged and careful in our actions. They force us to confront the flaws in our work and agonize over them and find ways to solve them–that process of struggle is what will hopefully make our project conscientious and meaningful. They stimulate reflection that allows us to be mindful of the effect of our work on the communities and people we work with. But we can’t let these negative thoughts cripple us or hinder meaningful work, and the AMC was a wonderful space of creativity and optimism that gave us plenty of ideas on how to move forward.


One Comment leave one →
  1. jcespinosa06 permalink
    June 29, 2010 1:33 pm

    Hi KT,

    Thank you for sharing so honestly!

    I am a friend of Marley’s—I TA’d for her Social Justice Documentary class last semester and we are both pursuing ‘collaborative, community-based media projects this summer.’ We had been trying to get together to chat near the end of the year, but were unable… So happy that I can still follow your efforts and hopefully help extend the community of creative social activists that you met in Detroit!

    Your uncertainty resonates with me… I am currently preparing to launch a website for the Columbia Heights Media Project and it’s been a nerve-wracking, emotional process. My feelings of uncertainty mostly come from the larger questions of the project… My project deals with the incredibly complicated HUMAN element of the development that’s going on in Columbia Heights right now.. Things are changing so fast and new residents are attracted to the diversity of the neighborhood, but true interaction and understanding across boundaries is rare. It is my aim to help facilitate this interaction through the use of media. This week I was feeling so unWORTHY of pursuing this project. Who am I, as a new resident of the neighborhood myself, to come into the neighborhood and try to help present the stories of that neighborhood?

    After a couple of hours of slight despair and an important heart-to-heart with an old friend I realized that my sense of humility is actually an important driving force of my process. I’m not pursuing this project because I feel like I’m an expert at the neighborhood or its residents or that I have something profound to say… I’m pursuing this project because I personally NEED this creative process. I am, myself, living the melancholy that I hope to address and help to work against. The camera can be an incredibly powerful tool to transform sadness into action and it is my hope and my vision that it will do so for residents of the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy… It’s an incredibly scary and difficult thing to truly engage with the world around us in a meaningful and powerful way (and to help others do the same). And yet.. how can we say that’s not of paramount importance?

    Another quote that has helped me through, “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I’m afraid” — Audre Lorde

    Anyway, thanks again for the post KT… Marley, I hope that we can continue to support each other from afar this summer!

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