This is a guest post by Yara Barbosa and Carlos Pareja of Global Action Project, a Hive NYC member organization.
From June 16-19, 2016, activists, cultural workers, media-makers, educators, and others converged in Detroit for the 18th annual Allied Media Conference (AMC) to learn, envision, and build a better world through media-based organizing. Hive member Global Action Project (G.A.P.) was in the motor city attending sessions, network gatherings, and co-facilitating a workshop using our Media History Timeline, an online tool that connects our stories to larger histories of social struggle and popular movements for justice and explores the role of media in these histories.
Being at the AMC can be a homecoming in many ways. A reunion that joins old friends to new allies within a space to reimagine what community, culture, and communications can be. Whether you’re a seasoned attendee with a few conference badges under your belt, like G.A.P.’s media history timeline coordinator Carlos Pareja, or a first-timer like G.A.P. youth leader Yara Barbosa, there is a freshness and openness that we all can find at this very special convening.
For G.A.P., the weekend began by attending a convening of media justice advocates, the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) on Thursday, June 16. This all-day gathering was one of several local and national network gatherings. Other convenings brought together design justice, Black Trans Lives Matter, women in hip-hop and other social justice advocates to strategize within a space of shared struggle and common interests.
At the MAG-Net convening, media justice activists were able to sit down with fellow organizers in the fight for an equitable, inclusive, and democratic media environment. By meeting face-to-face, conversing in small groups and sharing out to the larger gathering, participants began to build the connections that link struggles for Internet access in Mott Haven in the Bronx to fights for rural broadband in the Appalachia region in Kentucky.
G.A.P. was fortunate to spend time meeting and building with some of the amazing youth leaders and staff of Generation Justice from Albuquerque, New Mexico. As youth leadership through media production is central to the mission of both organizations, the match was inevitable. Generation Justice shared their work using radio storytelling to tell stories of immigration, poverty, indigenous rights, and other issues impacting their communities. G.A.P. shared our Media History Timeline tool, and our youth produced timeline on the policing of youth of color and youth-led movements for racial justice. Both organizations were excited at the potential of sharing educational resources and working to build additional opportunities to connect youth leaders from our communities in New York to youth leaders in New Mexico.
Among the many key policy issues that were addressed at this gathering, there was strong alignment around the urgent need to address privacy and data surveillance. Given the increased use of technology in so many areas of our lives, from electronic toll collectors to face recognition software, from data-mining social media platforms to cameras on cops, the media justice community is stepping up our work to bring greater attention to our digital rights. G.A.P. committed to bringing our Media History Timeline tool and educational resources to support the network by working to build a timeline of data surveillance. By locating early examples of government spying, observing similarities of communities targeted and stories of resistance, we can help build shared analysis of historical context to deepen our collective strategy.
On Friday, June 17, G.A.P. co-facilitated the Build a Media History Timeline workshop session with Jovan Julien from Project South, a Southern-based leadership development organization that is engaged in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice. Project South has been using both analog and digital timelines to support their organizing work throughout the Southeast.
The workshop, a part of the Education for Freedom track, brought together youth organizers from Black Youth Project 100, activists fighting port militarization in Olympia, Washington, and food justice advocates from Denver, among others, to discuss and share how we all use media in our organizing, teaching, and cultural work. After Project South and G.A.P. presented examples of media history timelines, we segued into the practical hands-on activities, as participants created timelines covering a wide range of topics. From serious topics including the chronicling of AIDS activism to more animated narratives looking at cultural perceptions of race through celebrities like Beyonce, the creative potential of the tool seemed as unlimited as the talent in the room.
During the post-workshop evaluation, participants were vocal in their excitement to use the Media History Timeline with their communities and were impressed by the intergenerational facilitation. The combination of a strong youth leader like Yara, a talented organizer and digital storyteller like Jovan, and a veteran educator like Carlos seemed to be the right mix for presenting a tool that uses the past to inform, envision, and shape a more just future.
A remarkable perk of being at a conference like the AMC is the extraordinary breadth of workshops, panels, practice spaces, and celebratory events available. At the People Powered Technology workshop, Yara was inspired by Red Hook Digital Stewards who used a simple string game to illustrate how messages are transferred from one point to another. How technology like WiFi networks still allow messages to get through even if the string is broken. And learning all this from young people living just down the road in Red Hook validated G.A.P.’s long held believe that young people are leaders for change in their communities.
Since returning from this inspiring, festive, and informative gathering, we are more committed than ever to the important work of shifting the narrative of emerging technologies from one of allure and cutting-edge convenience to of the next killer app to a framework of technology as a civil rights issue. This will take a lot of work, but as digital storytellers, media educators, youth leaders, technologists, and change-makers, this is our work: to reimagine the narrative of what security is, what community can be, and how media can be used as a tool for liberation.
Thanks to all at the Allied Media Conference for this important reminder!
Yara Barbosa is a G.A.P. youth leader who has produced videos and facilitated workshops on social justice and youth media.
Carlos Pareja is a media educator, digital storyteller, and activist who fights to change narratives, public policy, and our world.