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Sterling Toles leading a workshop at AMC 2014. AMC PHOTO

Sterling Toles leading a workshop at AMC 2014. AMC PHOTO

Week 64 of the occupation

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Time is slippery in Detroit. Sometimes you turn a corner and step into the future.

It happens in early summer walking through the Cass Corridor, coming upon an unexpected iris garden, determined to provide wild beauty in the face of encroachment. It happens in the fall in the countless celebrations by urban gardeners who have made it through another year to harvest. It happens in the gatherings across the city where African drums encourage children to dance with a joy so deep it spills out all over. And it happens every June at the Allied Media Conference.

This year was the 16th annual AMC, the eighth in Detroit. Organizers said it was the most strongly attended, bringing together over 2,000 media activists from around the globe. Mostly young, mostly people of color, with a range of gender identities, they see themselves as doing media-based organizing. Their goal is to use “media, art or technology to advance a more just, creative, and collaborative world.”

People gathered in strategy sessions, workshops and conversations. Topics included Participatory Public Art for Justice, Building the Other World That’s Possible, Librarians and Palestinian Solidarity, and Co-Designing Our Cities. The theme tracks running though the conference included Creative Place-making/Place-keeping, Liberation Technologies for World Building and Survival, and Youth Media and Movements.

Fundamental to this vibrant network of activists are their principles. Here are some all of us should think about:

– We are making an honest attempt to solve the most significant problems of our day.

– We are building a network of people and organizations that are developing long-term solutions based on the immediate confrontation of our most pressing problems.

– Whenever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems.

– Place is important. For the AMC, Detroit is important as a source of innovation and collaborative, low-resource solutions. Detroit gives the conference a sense of place, just as each of the conference participants bring their own sense of place with them.

This sense of Detroit, at a moment of opportunity and crisis, was woven throughout.  In the opening ceremony, musician, organizer, spirit leader Sterling Toles welcomed people to Detroit as a place of love. Octavia’s Brood collectively presented pieces of their developing science fiction stories, carrying us into an imagined future.

The assault on democracy, on the political and human rights of our people, and the efforts to turn cities into profit centers were discussed in workshops, films, hallways and children’s sessions.

Detroiters Resisting Emergency Mangers did a workshop about the State of Emergency, and our Alternative People’s Plan. People engaged in collaborative thinking about new ways to organize and resist efforts to turn us into a whiter, wealthier city.

Almost everyone knew of the human rights challenge to the United Nations over water shutoffs. AMCers were especially interested in the upcoming Water Week. People were encouraged to spread the word about volunteering for We the People canvassing and for Water Weekend starting June 28 at noon at Jacobi Ra Park, 24 Avalon Street in Highland Park.

The conference closed to the echo of African drums, in a whirl of motion and energy. Into that circle, Lila Cabbil of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute stepped up to ask for support for Detroit.

“I want you to know we all have the capacity to be a Rosa Parks,” she said, and as we face this unprecedented crisis, “We need to wage love, as our beloved woman warrior Charity Hicks tells us.”

Her call was greeted with a fierce energy that should shake any emergency manager who thinks he can shape our future. A beautiful, healthy, just future is already emerging.


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