The Allied Media Conference
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.