I attended the allied media conference for the first time this august, down in detroit, MI. The conference brings together those who are looking at media making (in myraid forms) as a tool for social justice/social change (I’ll get back to this in a bit). The conference had a wide range of panels and events from frashion, movement, theatre, technology, uncoference bits (), caucuses, games, to much more.
I specifically attended the trans* justice workshop, making games in twine, art and gentrification, games for social change, ballez, Idlenomore, decolonization and hip hop, and the nonbinary femme caucus (with bits of the deconstructing fashion workshop). I also played some games in the arcade, went to the opening and closing ceremonies, and the first two afterparties.
The space(s) as a whole challenged me in different and varied ways. I was frequently uncomfortable both in the growing sense and in the not so great way.
The language in this space and how people described their issues, approaches and media making differed from the usual ways I have heard people speak. Online I have not noticed this as much, but in person the speed, gestures and nuances of the varied attendees sometimes made it hard for me to keep up. I parsed my thoughts slower. In the theatre based workshops this was particularly hard for me. I wanted to participate, but often I needed to translate into words in my head into acting and vice versa. Observing my communication style and the style of others at the conference when discussing social justice (or change) was a key point, especially when I now begin to think about making workshops, discussions or other dialogue open to a variety of thinking, processing, and communicating styles.
I also had many thoughts spurred on allyship. Does being a space that isn’t exclusively for a certain identity but is centered around that identity mean I should be there still? Is it harder and more important as an act of allyship to learn to center others instead of always leaving? I think this might be a key part of coalition building. (though obviously spaces for only people who self-identify as ___ are still vital!) I also noticed the true lack of accessibility in many of the moving based workshops I attended. I noticed the lack of signing even at the biggest events at the conference. I had the impression of people being thrown together without having the language to incorporate other folks and other folks experience. This might be because of the conference’s focus on solutions/problem-solving which is important but makes it challenging perhaps to grasp theoretically other issues or problems you aren’t involved with or informed upon.
I was especially disturbed by the lack of Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American recognition. The lack of territory and land acknowledgement when the fact that the conference was in Detroit and thus needed to incorporate and center Detroit’s struggles was constantly mentioned. At the #idlenomore panel so many of the questions seemed to indicate a deep desire for these struggles and their connection with other struggles. The colonial nature of some panels/workshops went completely unacknowledged.
I often didn’t feel the connection here, or I felt too much patting on the back glad this is happening and not enough critique/critical engagement. Although I am not great at networking and speaking so it’s likely I just didn’t have access to some these conversations. I have never been one who is able to whole heartedly buy into a space, never feeling the 100 percent enthusiasm connect that is so common at the end of a satisfying workshop or community building event.
I felt the potential that was there at this conference and the wealth of knowledge in the space, which I think made the mistakes or sort of self-satisfaction harder, particularly around decolonization and accessibility.
We can keep pushing for more.
I think the goal of social change is fundamentally less radical and less revolutionary than the idea of social Justice. Justice is doing what needs to be done and bringing justice to the systemic ills and systems of power. Change is addressing problems without the theory: action not praxis.
I’m glad I went, and I’m hoping to go again and see the growth and self-reflection of the conference. I have so many things to continue to process on community, on allyship, on my anxieties and inabilities to participate, and how I can push forward communities like these that have already fulfilled so much promise.