the 20th anniversary of the allied media conference was a magical abundant beautiful gathering.
i proposed three sessions that were accepted, was invited to be part of a fourth session, helped organize a network gathering, hosted the closing ceremony, and was spontaneously invited to speak at the two other sessions i attended. i also partied every night for the first time in years. the result is that my brain, body and spirit were fully engaged and i feel spent and nourished…and somewhat over exposed. next year i am going to work on being more of a listener.
here are some highlights from the weekend:
on thursday we had our first ever ‘facilitation for liberation’ gathering, hosted by aorta, baby azadeh, maryse mitchell-brody, and the emergent strategy ideation institute (which is mostly me for now, with seeds planted for growth). it was a room full of some of the hardest working movement facilitators alive today. we put our attention on connecting, relationships, meaningful conversations and getting clearer on our commitments. there will be a zine produced from the gathering, and we’re dreaming about where we go from here.
on friday i started the day at the plenary on ending sexual and gender based violence and it was incredibly powerful, really landing how crucial telling our true stories is to shifting the culture of rape, harm and incarceration.
that day i got my hair dyed bright pink in my commitment to being a weird mermaid gem all the time.
i caught part two of autumn and maryse’s facilitation training and was invited to be on their panel about facilitation magic with movement elder erika thorn and durham movement mama manju ranjendran. they both broke it down – erika putting us into touch with how tiny we are in the vast arc of time, and how most of that time has not been ruled by patriarchy – that her magic . manju spoke on how her perfect dimpled baby is her cofacilitator and creates magic.
i spoke on how i realized i had facilitation magic after a bidet accident that left me soaking wet, facilitating a closing circle for a group of reproductive justice activists – and they still trusted me! i shared that the primary condition for my magic to work is willingness in the participants. if they are willing, almost anything can happen. and for some reason we had to sing destiny’s child’s hit ‘say my name’.
the friday night opening ceremony highlights included a performative unveiling of hosts una and aya, mad amc babies on video and on stage reflecting the growth of the conference, halima and sage inviting our grief, baby nzinga asleep on halima’s back, rv mendoza’s performance, a brief and powerful conversation between tarana burke and mariame kaba. and the fashions of jenny and nadine.
that night i went to asadullah’s epic annual queer house party, themed ‘we out here’, spun by dj rimarkable. i wore a white crop top and leggings, and felt excellent, receiving the peak compliment that i looked delicious.
on saturday morning, my homey chandra came from phoenix to take my headshot for the spiritual resilience fellowship. she made me feel such ease.
then i rushed to catch the rebel alliance to wakanda session which was held by manju, makani themba, kai green, and terry marshall, with sterling toles and jenna peters-golden creating art.
autumn was supposed to be on this panel, but it was at the same time as the healing justice lineages session, and autumn is a major part of that amc history. to my delight i was invited to be her replacement. here are the notes i shared on star wars (most everyone else focused on black panther):
jedi is actually an accessible state of being – its not about lineage but about humbling self to the force and practicing
– ref: anakin, rei, boy with broom
relationships matter, the collective matters, no matter how special you are
– rose and finn (from starstruck to accountability)
– basically all of rogue one…play your position, be part of a collective body learning
– how jedi get taught to stay humble – luke, obi, anakin…rei is the first humble student we see. even with the force you are vulnerable to ego.
relationship/alliance doesn’t require sameness of culture or values, but a shared purpose/commitment to life. the rebel alliance is made up of so many different kinds of cultures and systems, different agendas. but they are all committed to life, which is more than i can say for the US ruling elite. and that commitment to life has to sustain us and guide our choices even if we aren’t together.
– reference: every rebel alliance convergence, yoda’s solitary life, paige’s bomb dropping death
the dark side is in all of us. don’t give up or ignore it – don’t stop fighting it in yourself or others’. learn what it needs to teach us about balance, and fight the behaviors, but believe in the people.
– reference: luke and darth vader, rei and kylo ren.
then i dashed to the space where emergent strategy spells was scheduled to happen, but the room was too small, so the amazing conference organizer figured out a solution on the spot and we all flowed back to the room where the podcast had been.
for emergent strategy spells i shared how i was thinking of DNA, which appears, in two dimensions, to flow through a narrow crossing and open out to be inclusive. in the same way, we need our magic internally, at the small scale, at the intersections, and as far out as we can imagine.
the structure of the spells we worked on:
i/we claim the power of (insert something that is a place of weakness or shame for you; example: my big fat arms)
i/we embrace my/our (insert what that place represents; example: my vast massive body)
with this power/gift i/we can (insert things this gift or power offers you; example: hold my nibblings, comfort my friends, rest with my lovers, have strong boundaries)
i/we plant the seed of (insert a radical act or practice you can’t currently do consistently, but wish to do, related to your gift/power; example: loving my body without exceptions) for my/our liberation.
after working on individual spells and sharing them in pairs or trios, participants formed small groups. these groups were each microcosms of movement. they shared their personal spells and crafted a collective spell based on intersecting needs. the primary words in the resulting collective spells were vulnerability, authenticity, love, interdependence, pleasure and liberation.
on saturday night i wore a sequined jumpsuit and twerked on various vehicles.
on sunday i hosted the first pleasure activism workshop. we listened to audre lorde’s ‘uses of the erotic’ – it was incredible to hear her voice fill up an auditorium. we generated questions on the text, the ideas, in small groups. each group then passed one of their questions to a nearby group and received a question from another. each group took their new question and created a workshop activity to explore the question. these activities will become a digital zine to go with the release of the pleasure activism book this fall. i then shared some ideas from the book – i know i’m excited by these ideas because i got lost in them and ran out of time.
i then got to be in conversation with mariame kaba on abolition and education. she taught us so much – words from danielle sered that ‘when someone causes harm, that is never the first violence they have experienced.’ mariame taught us that for her, transformative justice is how you want someone to treat you when you lose your shit. she was just brilliant, and the questions were big ones.
from there i got to watch the closing plenary from backstage, titillated by the speakers’ work on large screen, una and michi, ricardo, francesca – all people i have respected for a while.
the closing ceremony was a bit of a dream. i am grateful that i have been able to be part of the experiment of the amc, part of the history and the present.
i felt bittersweet at the closing, because as thrilling as it was to do all the things, i also know i must find a way to take up less space in that incredible home. it’s changed so much, for everyone, for me. i feel part of that, a distraction in that, grown up by that, moved by that.
and i am excited to be behind the scenes more in coming years.
i ended the conference tipsy at the cass cafe with djs nandi, meow and just beige. my name-twin nibbling adrian was my dance partner and was so fun to teach and learn from. got to have some great conversations. i was not planning to dance. i danced for hours. i wore my new birkenstocks and they were surprisingly good for dancing. it took a full day of elevated knees to get back to my normal grade arthritis pain, and it was worth it.
the conference gives me hope that we will find and uplift solutions to our impossible problems. i am wide open to the grief this moment requires, the letting go of any lingering nationalist supremacy. and i believe the magic and practicality we practiced at the conference will help us in ways we can’t currently imagine.