Places are defined not only by geography, but by the stories we tell about them. The design of physical spaces reflect and re-inscribe narratives of power, belonging, and access. For this reason, creative placemaking and place-keeping activities that seek to transform relationships of power and expand collective imagination of what kind of world is possible, must integrate multimedia strategies into their work.
Media-based organizing is the process of using media, art, or technology to address the root causes of problems and advance holistic solutions. Its core traits include facilitative leadership, deep listening, synthesis with integrity, and iteration. Diverse approaches to media-based organizing have evolved over time through the work of thousands who convene every year in Detroit, MI for the Allied Media Conference (AMC).
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the AMC and the need for the visionary organizing space it provides has never been greater. Black Lives Matter Co-founder Alicia Garza described the purpose of the conference at the 2017 AMC Opening Ceremony, saying:
“We are here to create new stories of who we are, how we got here, and what is possible on the other side. We are here to bring about the world we desire, while dismantling the one that we don’t. We are here not to create smaller groups of people who tell the same stories, but to expand the nuance of our stories so that we can learn more about who we are and who we can be.”
Over the course of four days, the AMC provides several hundred opportunities to do the work Alicia describes in the form of hands-on workshops, panels, strategy sessions and life-changing dance parties. Participants travel from more than 200 places every year, bringing knowledge and resources from their home communities. Detroit, in turn, offers wisdom as a social movement city brimming with post-capitalist, afrofuturist projects and possibilities.
The connections forged at the AMC continue to grow throughout the year. Ideas seeded one year return the following year in the form of full-grown projects. Projects turn into campaigns, national networks, and toolkits. Below is a small sample of Detroit media-based organizing projects that contribute to the AMC year after year, nurturing and being nurtured by it.
The Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA) believes that the stories we tell about a place form a kind of DNA-- shaping what that place is and what it can become. For too long, the stories that circulate about Detroit have defined it as broken, violent, and in need of saving from itself. For this reason, DNA incubates quality, compelling film projects that advance narratives of liberation and justice. Through a fellowship program focused on first-time filmmakers of color, DNA provides funding and training for the people of Detroit who feel that the stories of their lives and neighborhoods have been written out of the city’s future. DNA is coordinating the Shaping Stories, Building Power track at this year’s AMC.
People in Education (PIE) uses digital media arts to facilitate humanizing learning environments inside and outside of schools. PIE views schools as vital organs in the body of our city. Plagued by irrelevance, dysfunction and mistreatment of all who enter them, these vital organs are failing. The toxic relationships inside of schools flow out into the rest of our community, just as they absorb those external toxins and replicate them. Through multimedia artist residencies inside of schools, PIE fosters healthy relationships of connectivity that extend beyond school walls. PIE is coordinating the Learning Liberation track at this year’s AMC.
The Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) advances an approach to technology that is rooted in community needs with the goal of strengthening human connections to each other and the planet. For the past two years, as facilitators of the Equitable Internet Initiative, DCTP has supported residents in three neighborhoods to build resilient, community-controlled wireless networks that can transform inequitable conditions in Detroit. The technology and organizing approach for this was piloted at the AMC for five years. DCTP is coordinating the Digital Futures of Consent track at this year’s AMC.
The Aadizookaan is a group of artists, media makers, cultural workers deeply rooted in Southwest Detroit. Their work takes the form of music, film, design, and storytelling. The Aadizookaan is an Anishinaabe word that means the sacred spirit of the story. Rooted in Anishinaabe and other ancestral knowledge systems and philosophy, the Aadizokaan tells stories that continue the beautiful work of bettering our quality of life in the universe. The Aadizookaan is presenting as part of the AMC’s Opening Ceremony this year.
Register now for the 20th Annual Allied Media Conference, June 14 - 17, 2018 to experience the work of these incredible projects and so much more.