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Networks of Media-Makers and Activists Converge at Biggest AMC Ever to Create, Connect and Transform

The 12th Allied Media Conference is now history, and the ripple effects of new relationships, skills and strategies spread out in front of us.  The four days of AMC2010, June 17-20, brought together 1,500 folks from across North America and beyond to Detroit to share and innovate media strategies for social change.  Those media strategies were 2D and 3D, digital and non-digital, ancient and new. They were local and inter-galactic.  They were presented through 130 hands-on workshops, strategy sessions, tours of Detroit, presentations, and incredible performances and dance parties.  We uplifted the creativity of a sprawling network of people who are using media to transform themselves and the world.

This is where I should be. ...Media is being used as a tool for movement building, providing shared experiences and transformative relationships.  Movement is now taking the form of transforming oneself inside to transform the outside.  That is something that in my whole history as a media person I have always wanted to do and always wanted to see. ...The AMC is a realization of that.

Ron Scott, co-founder of the Black Panther Party-Detroit Branch; chair of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. Watch the full interview on Paper Tiger TV (VIDEO)

The conference began Thursday evening with the opening of "language. power. difference.", a solo exhibit at Re: View Gallery by Allied Media Projects graphic artist, Joe Namy. Using manipulated images, video and sounds from his beloved Detroit and his homeland of Lebanon, Namy told a story of life in two worlds, persisting amidst devastation. Attendees took home free prints of his gorgeous work. Radio Ríos, DJ Ren and Mikey Eyebrowz provided a soundtrack of classic soul and old school hip hop for the event.

  

Workshops kicked off bright and early Friday morning. We learned about investigative reporting and using media tools for LGBTQ youth organizing. We explored poster art for ending the prison industrial complex, learned how to make radical comics and learned the practice of collaborative mural design. 

photo credit: Youth in Action

Mobile Voices/Vóces Móviles (L.A.) shared the ground-breaking cell-phone journalism tool they use to organize in their community of day laborers. We learned how building wireless Internet mesh networks can strengthen neighborhoods, and how to play the dumbeck at the kid-friendly Arabic drumming class.

We explored the important differences between “disability rights” and “disability justice” and the role that independent media-makers can play in building an inter-dependent world for all bodies.

photo credit: Peace Is Possible

Kids were everywhere at the AMC, with a stellar crew of childcare volunteers and a Kids! track that included many intergenerational sessions. Check out the super cool youth performances from the “Puppet Uprising!” workshop (VIDEO).

The Friday evening Opening Ceremony welcomed visitors to the cultural and political landscape of Detroit with remarks by Ron Scott (VIDEO) and performances by Sterling Toles and the Katherine Dunham dance group, the PG Institute

AMC Program Director, Jenny Lee introduced the track structure of the conference:

Each track evolves in its own way out of a community's need for convening, creating and sharing space together.  Those spaces are transformative and healing and productive.  What makes the AMC beautiful is the intersection and the rubbing-up-against of all these tracks and communities, creating a whole that is even more complex and powerful than its parts. While each are beautifully unique, all share a common pattern of practice, that is reflected in the AMP Network Principles.

In the Opening Ceremony, we heard framing remarks from coordinators of six of the 14 AMC2010 tracks: The Art and Practice of Disability Justice, Creating Safe Communities, Media Policy for Social Justice, Radio Active: From the Streets to the Airwaves, Do-It-Yourself Technology, and Indigenous Media & Technology.  They shared the visions that inspired their tracks.  Listen to excerpts from the Opening Ceremony (AUDIO) courtesy of KPFA.

On Saturday, artists from the JustSeeds Artists' Cooperative taught an environmentally and kid-friendly technique for street art campaigns: mud stencils!

        

Multimedia spoken word duo Climbing Poetree reminded us that “art is our weapon, our medicine, our voice and our vision,” performing excerpts from their 50-city Hurricane Season tour.  We learned how Indigenous communities are adapting traditional communication practices for community organizing in form of the Southwest Indigenous Listening Forum

The Medios Caminantes: Medios Creando, Fronteras Derrumbando track convened organizers from Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. for intensive hands-on media-production trainings and strategy sessions to advance immigrant rights organizing. Maegan La Mala blogged about her experience in the Medios Caminantes track at VivirLatino.com.

The always-popular Detroit graffiti tour was led by Detroit artist, Katie R. later that afternoon, making a stop at the epic North End mural, which Katie and youth from Vanguard CDC created last year. 

photo credit: Media Sanctuary

The Eco-Justice Media Making for Sustainable Communities track featured such ingenious sessions as "How to Create a Multi-media, Renewable Energy Demonstration Vehicle."

Detroit youth from the Student Conservation Association were inspired to use the video-making skills they learned at the AMC to document the environmental friendliness of the conference (VIDEO).

The room was filled wall-to-wall for workshops on how to build your own Drupal and Wordpress-based websites, led by Alicia and Melissa, the sisters behind Toronto-based Pixelpowrrr

photo credit: Diana J. Nucera

The "Open Source for Open Communities" panel discussion challenged assumptions about who is or can be a "techie" and discussed how open technology can create empowered, accessible communities. Read reflections from Nathaniel James of the Mozilla Foundation about the session.

The Media Policy for Social Justice track showed us how and why to participate in shaping media policies at the local and federal level. We learned how media policies impact the communication rights of people in prison and detention camps, how broadband access relates to struggles for healthcare and education, and how to build healthy local "digital ecologies." Chance Williams, in the newsletter of the Media and Democracy Coalition (PDF), reflected on his experience returning to D.C. after the AMC and continuing the fight for an open Internet: 

When I arrived back in Washington, I was confronted with the reality that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to broker a backroom deal between Internet Service Providers like AT&T and content providers like Google on what rules for the Internet should be. There would be no input from the public interest community. Our ability to communicate and learn in the digital age would be decided by corporations. What does it mean when the purveyors of consumption and waste are at the table while those who work to protect of creativity and responsibility are pushed to the side? ...While I was at the AMC I saw the ways that communities can use technology to improve their lives and get a little closer to justice. We have to demand a seat at the table so the FCC can make rules that are informed by the people and communities they seek to protect.

The Creating Safe Communities track used the model of a “science fair” to present a "media-rich exhibition of resources and tools developed during our experiments to create safety and justice within our communities." Participants browsed each station, learning about the work of projects such as Challenging Male Supremacy, Durham Harm Free Zone, Communities United Against Violence, and others. 

The "M/others, Mamaz and Community Care-givers Unite Through Truth-Telling" workshop, which was part of the the INCITE! / To Tell You the Truth track, used a similar "Knowledge Fair" format to share media, practical skills and organizing models.  This session created a powerful space for participants to build community and honor their whole selves

The Allied Media Conference was one of the first outlets where I was able to explore the “Sierra” part of myself and merge it with “Mommy” in a surprisingly fluid way. This identity continuity happened on the second day of the conference, when I plugged myself into the “Radical Mamaz and M/others” group...It only took two hours with these awesome mothers for me to feel thoroughly inspired both by motherhood as a role, but also by motherhood as a communal force, with Mothers uniting to support, empower and encourage one another.
–Sierra Cameron, ImMEDIAte Justice

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence is in the process of gathering reflections and report-backs from members of their network and will be posting them here.

The two-part "Community Mapping" workshop offered case studies of how communities can use online maps to challenge inequality, unearth buried histories, and document neighborhood culture.  One participant left asking how such tools can be used to intervene in sexual violence.

We learned how ex-offenders are using "guerrilla publishing" for economic self-determination. Author and activist Yusef Shakur took AMC participants on a tour of Detroit's Zone 8/Northwest Goldberg. He shared the story of his Urban Network bookstore and community center, exploring the community economics happening at the grassroots and the connected legacy of Motown Records, whose former headquarters is located in the same neighborhood. Watch a report from the tour from The Real News (VIDEO).

Organizers from fifteen groups from across the U.S. converged at the AMC through the Communication Strategies to End the Prison Indisutrial Complex track.  Through the track, they developed infrastructure that connects local media-based organizing efforts in a visible, powerful network. 

This track grew, in part, out of sessions at past AMCs about how media can be used to connect with people in prisons. Vikki Law, an independent publisher and prison activist, coordinated conference participants at AMC2009 to create a zine that shared the stories of the AMC with incarcerated people who could not attend. She then distributed copies of the zine, titled Using Media to Connect People Inside and Out (PDF), through books-to-prisoners programs and through the mailing list of the Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison newsletter. The distributed zines included a request for artisitic and written responses. These collected responses were compiled in Using Media to Connect People Inside and Out: Responses from People in Prison to the 2009 Zine, distributed at AMC2010.  Click on the image below to download a print-ready PDF of this second edition. Distribute freely!

The AMC2010 Media Lab buzzed with the magic of the electromagnetic spectrum all weekend-long.  People built mini radio transmitters, produced 1-minute radio stories (here’s a nice example of one [AUDIO]), built seven "super computers" from salvaged parts, made their own gender-inclusive video games, learned how to make electronic musical instruments and much more.

The We Are Ready Now (WARN) Radio Broadcast, a collaboration between Prometheus Radio Project, KBCS Community Radio and Radio Rootz, captured the voices and visions of dozens of AMC participants. Listen to the WARN hour-long broadcast recap (AUDIO).

photo credit: Diana J. Nucera

We honored late science fiction writer, Octavia Butler, whose work has deeply shaped the way we imagine, prepare for and work to shape the future. Adrienne Maree Brown hosted an "Octavia Butler Symposium," inviting critical discussion of Octavia’s work and its lessons for survival and transformation, with a focus on the Patternist series.  Read the comprehensive notes from the Symposium here.

On Sunday, Detroit musicians Invincible and Monica Blaire, and community business-owners DJ Sicari and Hubert Sawyers III, hosted a strategy session about creating a music-based economy in Detroit. Members of Local 782–a musicians union in San Antonio–were on hand to share their experiences.  Journalists Jonathan Cunningham and Tamara Warren shared insights on how the Detroit diaspora can leverage its talents to support creative community-based development from afar.

The Palestine Education Project, 7th Generation Indigenous Visionaries and SNAG Magazine hosted their 3rd annual Skype conversation between youth in Palestine and youth at the AMC. The conversation advanced their ongoing work of building solidarity across borders through Hip-Hop, art and media. The conversation led to plans for joint actions on Columbus Day to draw connections between colonization in Palestine and the U.S.  

During the AMC2010 Closing Ceremony we heard from 8 of the 14 conference tracks, reporting-back on media created and plans hatched throughout the weekend. These report-backs were delivered by the tracks Trans & Queer Youth Media, Eco-Justice Media Making for Sustainable Communities, Medios Caminantes, INCITE!/To Tell You the Truth, Communication Strategies for Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, Rad Art: 2D Images for 3D Movements, Pop Ed Power: Intergalactic Teaching & Learning for Liberation and the Kids! track. We loved seeing in these report-backs the youth leadership of the Trans & Queer track, the Eco-Justice track (VIDEO), the Rad Art track and the Pop Ed Power track.

We stood before many of the people we had interacted with, and many we didn’t. As we were on stage, looking toward the audience, we stood before our movement and we sang our song of strength and beauty, knowing we would soon have to say goodbye to each other for now.  But at the same time, we also said hello to the inspiration, work, hope, connections and accomplishments made at the AMC—and this is just the beginning.
–Rudy "Elegost" Rosado, Youth Leader, FIERCE

photo credit: FIERCE

Conference participants went home loaded with t-shirts, posters and other art that they bought in the AMC Exhibition Area or that they made themselves in the Mobile Silkscreen Lab

Many brought home zines and books from long-time AMC vendors such as AK Press and new enthusiasts such as Aorta Magazine.

As hard as we worked throughout the days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we may have worked even harder at night–on the dance floor!  In one of their articles leading up to AMC2010, the Metro Times explained that “the AMC...[fuses] music and media — not just by encouraging bands to embrace technology and run with it, but by making sure there's awesome live music for conference attendees each night.”

On Friday night, we threw our annual Bowling & Karaoke party at The Majestic. This year we took the event a step further, throwing a rockin’ show in the adjacent Majestic Café. Midwest punk darlings Defiance, Ohio played an early set (VIDEO) that segued into a performance by one of Detroit's best rock bands, I, Crime, celebrating the release of their new LP. Then Brooklyn rock diva Tamar-kali took things to the next level with a bold hardcore soul performance.

As always, there was a raucous Karaoke session happening over in the Majestic Garden Bowl, featuring such liberatory anthems as Whitney Houston's “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

The theme of Saturday night's show at MOCAD was: AWESOMENESS! Performers from Chicago's Street Level Youth Media, Detroit Summer's Live Arts Media Project, Peoples Production House and the Palestine Education Project in New York opened up the night, along with Kiwi from the Oakland-based Native Guns

Flint, MI-based Stereoluxxx left locals and out-of-towners alike stunned with their utter fabulousness.

DJ Rimarkable vs. Durandy's Afro-Cuban house set and jessica Care moore's rock 'n' roll poetry set were equally stunning.

Then Miz Korona took the stage with a performance announcing the drop of her debut album The Injection. The show became a city-wide celebration, as the Detroit Hip-Hop scene and AMC participants packed out the MOCAD like it's never been packed before. Of the performance, the Metro Times reported:

Long-time Detroit rapper Miz Korona couldn’t have planned her album release party any better than this. ...Anybody who attended her performance this past Saturday night in conjunction with the Allied Media Conference would probably agree that the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design (MOCAD) was the perfect setting on a perfect night for the queen of Detroit hip-hop to throw down. ...Every punchline hit with aplomb. There’s a reason people think she’s one of the best rappers in the city regardless of gender. Throughout her set you could see that look on faces of non-locals who were in town for AMC. The expression said:  “Dammnn, who the hell is this?”

Invincible, who helped curate the evening's line-up, came through with a special guest cameo, debuting her newest track, "Detroit Summer" (VIDEO). Underground Resistance DJ Mark Flash closed out the night, lighting the dance floor on fire in a grand finale to an epic night of music.

In a post-show interview, Korona explained why the night was so important to her (VIDEO).  The performances during the Saturday night show were enhanced by the turntablist skills of DJ Sicari, the crowd control of host Mz Jonz, the excellent event management of our partner FreshCorp, and the other-worldly custom stage design, coordinated by Wes Taylor (EMERGENCE) and his team of artists from Cranbrook Academy of Art. In their report-back on AMC2010, Fusicology wrote of the MOCAD event:

Even the audience at this party was just as entertaining as the talent on the bill – we even got down in the dance cypher like it was 1993 all over again, wanting more from DJs Sicari, Mark Flash and Rimarkable. To call this gig diverse and colorful would not even do this after-party at the MOCAD gallery justice. Packed with renewed energy and fresh faces, the former warehouse saw visitors experience Detroit legends they’d only heard about before and Detroiters reassured that there is life after death. 

We see the evening music events as equally important to the workshop content of the AMC. Music and politics journalist Davey D explored this intersections of independent music, new media and media policies in a series of interviews with AMC participants.  Here's an excerpt from his write-up for the Future of Music Coalition:

Many artists have come to understand that the industry has changed dramatically. There’s a sense that musicians and other creators have to step up their efforts and “do for self” when it comes to pursuing their craft. Yet it has been difficult for some to fully grasp that the end goal isn’t just to get airplay or TV time on a major outlet. Instead, the objective should be to forge stronger ties with a fanbase without the interference of middlemen. Here at AMC, I’ve attended workshops that described easy-to-follow and relatively inexpensive ways to set up your own broadcast station, publish and sell your own book, set up your own wireless network and the current angles regarding public access TV. In 2010, any artist not doing his/her own media and directly interacting with fans, is like someone who still rocks Cross Colours and 8 track tapes.

 Also Check out Davey D's...

With the U.S. Social Forum happening in Detroit two days after the AMC, people seized the opportunity to build “bridge” projects that spanned the 10 days of the AMC and USSF, making us wonder if the AMC should always be 10 days long!

These “bridge projects” grew out of the workshop tracks of the AMC.  The "Hot Mesh" workshop of the DIY Technology track led to the construction of a 6-node community wireless network in Detroit's North Corktown neighborhood by the end of the USSF.   Detroit Summer's Live Arts Media Project (LAMP), as part of the AMC’s Rad Art track, pulled-off one of their most ambitious and innovative youth leadership programs ever, resulting in street art all over the city that tells the story that “Another Detroit is Happening.” Read the Detroit Free Press article about the LAMP project and watch the Democracy Now! Interview (VIDEO) with coordinator Jon Blount. Prometheus Radio Project, with the Radio Active track, broadcasted live throughout the entirety of the AMC , then went on to cover the USSF out of the forum's Peoples Media Lab.

This year the Art and Practice of Disability Justice track demonstrated how the kinds of spaces we create when we come together are just as important as what we do in those spaces. Leading up to the AMC, a group of organizers from the track developed a vision of collective access: "We envision a community-built-and-led collective access network of crips and our comrades! We want to help create access in ways that also build community, care, crip solidarity, solidarity with non-disabled comrades and is led by crips!” They spent the 10 days of AMC and USSF living together in the Wayne State dorms, putting that vision into practice.

photo credit: Quirky Black Girl Photography

In a blog post, Phoenix and Tree reflected on the community we are building through the AMC: "Being at the Allied Media Conference filled me with such hope, with the knowledge that we can and are building another world because I saw it happen. I saw amazing fierce beautiful people come together across the differences the system tries to use to separate us and instead we built a space of love and radical possibility and deep dreaming and shared joy and power."

Every year we get better at sustaining the conference's connections and community throughout the year, through the collaborative projects that grow out of each AMC. 

COMING SOON: the call for AMC2011 track proposals AND updates about the emerging year-round organizing initiaitive, the Allied365 Training & Exchange Bureau

If you have media created during the AMC or other documentation, please send us links to it!

Help us plan for AMC2011 by completing the AMC2010 Reflections Survey.

Text compiled by Allied Media Projects staff and Jonathan Cunningham. Unless otherwise noted, all photos taken by AJ Manoulian.