Kids at the Allied Media Conference: History, strategy, and visions

Since 2007, the AMC has evolved an intentional space for parents, children, caregivers at the conference. In this interview, the lead organizers behind the Kids Practice Space – Robin Markle, Katie Kuhl, Jacob Klippenstein, and China Martens – take a deep dive into some questions about their work at the AMC.

As you move through the conference, be sure to check out the Kids, Caregivers and Community Practice Space, participate and support.

Why is a space for children at the Allied Media Conference so critical?

Because equitable access to childcare is an issue that affects many people, particularly queer, gay, transgender, disabled, low income, single, marginalized and people of color parents, mothers, caregivers, families and children. And childcare is a large part of how we build our communities in practical and visionary ways.

It is a radical necessity to support our caregivers, parents, and children who are on the frontlines of the issues we are discussing and exploring at the AMC.

We believe people of all ages are powerful leaders. We believe everyone is important, not because of what they do, but because of who they are.

Parents are often exhausted and overburdened by parenting in a capitalistic, white supremacist, individualistic, hierarchic, oppressive system which affects every part of our lives. It can be hard to be involved as a parent when you are the only one taking care of a child, and children often grow bored with adult spaces.

Parents and children want to stay together and participate in the AMC. We all need to learn from each other as we grow an intergenerational movement of resistance. The spaces we create at the AMC for children are inspirational, transformational, and part of building the world we want!

Kids Practice Space
Piling on top of each other to share resources during a game of Musical Chairs of Colonization at AMC2013.

How has this space evolved over the last several years?

2007
In response to requests from parents to make the conference more accessible, childcare was first offered at the AMC in 2007. The following year (2008) was the first year that the childcare space at the AMC included planned activities. As a reflection of that “childcare” was renamed as the “Kids' Track,” with one organizer and one childcare provider for the conference.

2008
Sessions at the AMC2008 Kids Track included Street Art for Kids, Printmaking, and Letter Writing as Activism for Youth. They were planned in advance and held along with ongoing childcare, where arts and crafts were always an option (as well as naps!). There was a core group of eight kids in attendance, ranging from 3 to 9 years old. We had two 21 month old children spend a day with us, and one afternoon a few teenagers came by and helped with childcare.

2009
In 2009, the Kids' Track became more formally organized. There was a call for proposals that went out with all the other tracks at the conference and an advisory board was formed with parents and caregivers. The Women’s Media Equity Collaborative Summit was held at Wayne State the day before the AMC started, so the Kids’ Track unofficially started a day early, during which a number of the kids who participated throughout the weekend created the Kids’ SPEAK Zine, inspired by a zine created by their mothers as members of the SPEAK! Radical Women of Color Media Collective. They kicked all adults out of the Kids’ Track space to prepare for a reading from their zine and invited us back in when it was time for the performance!

We secured space in the dorms to provide childcare in the evenings and offered sessions that included Radio Ecology, Book Art for Kids, Guerilla Gardening with Seed Bombs, Cyberquilting, and How To Make a Digital Zine – the last of which was led by teenagers from Banana Kelly High School (South Bronx). One of the goals for the AMC2009 Kids' Track was to connect it with the Youth Media Track, which was a track of workshops geared towards teenaged participants.

AMC2008 Opening Ceremony
On the last day of the conference, one of the Kids' Track participants presented at the AMC Closing Ceremony about all of the activities she participated in over the weekend.

seed bombs
​Instructions from the 2009 Seed Bomb workshop.

2010
In 2010, there was a "Kid’s Club," a crew of kids moving through the conference attending workshops together. A “Kid Friendly” label was added to AMC sessions which were ideal for the Kids Club to join in on.

There was also Kid’s Track of kid-focused sessions including “Comics: How to Make ‘Em,” “Arabic Drumming,” and “Game On!: Game Design for Kids.”

2011
In 2011, the Kids Transform the World Track was developed by members of the Intergalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Collectives (ICCC). The track was designed in the style of a role-playing game, following a linear narrative provided by 10 video messages from the future. These video messages introduced multi-generational characters Jadu, Ling, Ori, Camilo, and Zed, who sent urgent messages back in time from Detroit in the year 2511.

Using these characters’ requests as a springboard, kids explored topics like conflict resolution, building relationships with elders, having pride in who you are, and concluded with burying a time capsule and planting a tree above it to grow hopes and dreams for the future. Kids also took a field trip to the Catherine Ferguson Academy’s farm where everyone got to meet ducks, rabbits and goats! The track also included two workshops facilitated by kids - one on drawing anime, and another on doing community-driven research!

kids at the AMC
​Planting the "tree of dreams" (after a dress up extravaganza!)

2012
In 2012, a Kid’s Practice Space was organized by members of Regeneración, a NYC-based childcare collective, with help from ChiChiCo, Philly Childcare Collective, Kidz City, and Kelli's Child Care Collective of Atlanta. Workshops included a scavenger hunt around the Wayne State campus, a chance to make a book telling a story about the future, a field trip to Earthworks Urban Farm, and concluded with everyone making Magical Amulets to carry home some of the magic and memories from the weekend. Leading up to the conference, organizers had conference calls with tweens who were planning to attend to create some specific programming for them outside of the sessions geared for kids. These calls birthed an unofficial “AMC Tween Track”!

2013
In 2013, the Kid’s Practice Space was a collective effort organized by members of Regeneración, ChiChiCo, and Philly Childcare Collective, and with support from other ICCC members. The practice space included workshops with presenters from all over the world!

Kids created super hero portraits, traveled through portals to make magical card decks, built the cities of their dreams, had a dress-up party, and took a field trip to Feedom Freedom Farm. At the request of parents, the KPS also hosted a lunch caucus for parents and caregivers to meet up. 2013 also introduced a Kid’s Guide to the AMC with all of the kid-friendly programming in one place, plus coloring book pages and word activities.

Preparing a raised bed at Feedom Freedom Farm on our field trip.

2014
In 2014, with less capacity than in years past and many childcare collectives feeling pushed to capacity or restructuring, we almost didn't plan a Kids Track. Deciding that we could keep it simple and divide up responsibilities in different ways, we knew we could do this again.

As the core organizers shrunk to three individuals it felt stressful, until a fourth organizer joined us in March. We’ve changed the name of the childcare/Kids Track the to “Kids, Caregivers and Community Practice Space” to emphasize the importance and need for community support, and to reflect desires expressed by parents to have more parent-focused programming at the AMC. Children and parents need to be supported everywhere within the AMC by all of their community members and even childcare workers need support as well to not be isolated or overburdened. For the first time, we also fundraised to offer Kid’s travel scholarships to help more parents and children attend the AMC. We are really excited about expanding the scope of the track and making links of interdependence between kids and childcare and other types of care.

What has come out of this work of organizing a space for kids at the AMC?

Friendships, community building, intergenerational collaboration, and skill-sharing.

Friendships
We see friendships sparked at the AMC that last throughout the year and all the way until the next AMC even when the youth are thousands of miles apart. There’s a strong connection that happens when kids come together. This is why we organize the Kids Practice Space.

Community Building
Kids grow up fast and since this is our sixth year, we have seen kids grow into tweens and teens and their activism has grown with them. In Chicago, for instance, two sisters who are now teenagers recently contributed their thoughts about public schools to a local publication, AREA Chicago. It’s amazing to see our networks branch out and expand through the work young folks are doing.

Intergenerational skill sharing
One concrete example of intergenerational collaboration that came out of the Practice Space last year was between KCC PS Coordinator Jake Klippenstein and 11-year-old participant Jadon Walker. Jake and Jadon talked a lot about games, programming and random stuff after the AMC. When the ICCC decided to build a website, Jake and Jadon did research about what the best platform was to use and set up a website template together. Jadon is a very bright person and Jake hopes to continue working with him in the future!

Jake and Jadon

What are some of the highlights of the Practice Space?

Some of our most memorable sessions over the years have been collaborations with other tracks and practice spaces, like the dress-up party last year that was a collaboration with the Fierce Fashion Futures Track, or Make a Book, Make a Future, which was a collaboration with the Transformative Arts Practice Space.

The farm field trip is always a highlight, it gives everyone a chance to leave the campus and see parts of Detroit, and to learn about food justice and farming. We usually conclude it by eating fresh salad and watermelon at the farm. We’re sad we’re not doing it this year, but we wanted to make room for new things.

We are very excited this year for our Radical Community Care session. We worked with people from the Media Strategies for Transforming Justice Track, former organizers of the Collective Access Practice Space, and organizers of the Nation Inside Network Gathering to bring many perspectives on care to this session.

All Ages fashion Lab
​Dressing a paper doll in the Dress Up Party! An All Ages Fashion Lab workshop.

What can people expect from Kids, Caregivers and Community this year at AMC2014?

This year, the KCC practice space seeks to be a place for intergenerational community building. We are offering programming specifically designed for kids 4 and up, tweens, parents and caregivers; and hosting discussions regarding how we can create interdependent networks of care in our families and communities. Participants in the Kids, Caregivers & Community Practice Space can expect opportunities to engage in discussions, support networks, and trainings centered around community care, as well as lots of exciting creative activities for youth of course!

KCC programming will engage youth with social justice issues and the impact they can create in their communities using accessible media forms and strategies. All of the youth will have the chance to produce their own music (in Youth Music Studio), create and experience the world they would like to live in (Future Landscapes), and broadcast their own radio show (Kids Radio Hour)! Youth can look forward to the Sci-Fi Exploration session, which has grown out of the goal of offering programming geared towards the interests of 11-14 year olds at the AMC. Other sessions planned for children include Superpower Yoga and Dream Pillows, Flower Potions, and Magic Salves.

In our effort to prioritize caregivers/caregiving, we are providing a childcare training for conference volunteers and anyone else who wants to learn more about interacting with and caring for young people. We are hosting a Parents and Caregivers Lunch Caucus again, as well as a workshop on Community Care.

We are fundraising to support the transportation and participation costs for families and caregivers as well as healthy snacks and meals for KCC PS participants. Please consider making a donation to support this work and space!

How can people learn more about radical childcare?

There are many ways to learn about and support radical child care:

Talk to parents and kids! Ask them questions and pay attention to them - they are all different and are the experts on this topic.

Speakers can make announcements that they are good with children's noises to put parents at ease that they are welcome to be there. Organizers could bring toys and crayons for children who may be in attendance at your workshop.

Conference participants could offer to hold a friend’s baby or ask if you can help if you see a parent having a hard time and engage children around you. Instead of having parents leave a workshop to comfort a fussy baby, see if you can offer to walk their baby around outside the room so they can stay and finish the workshop. Or if they have to leave you could take notes for them or help them in different ways.

Even if you do not feel comfortable with children, there are other ways you can support them. You could ask the childcare room if they need any more snacks and bring them things they need (we like organic apples!).

More concrete tips here.

Participate in the Collective Practice & Practical Tips for Childcare session to learn more about supporting and providing care to young people! This workshop will be held on Friday, June 20 at 9AM.

Attend the Radical Community Care session, where panel members will discuss ways that we can all give, support and receive care within our own communities. All participants will be able to share their own questions, experiences, advice and ideas about creating access and safe spaces. This session will take place on Saturday, June 21 at 2PM.

Visit the Intergalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Collective’s website, which includes Practical Childcare Resources!

Check out the book Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities and Rad Dad magazine.

​Collective creation from the 2013 Kid's Practice Space.
​Collective creation from the 2013 Kid's Practice Space.

In answering these questions, we offer our apologies to those whose contributions to this space have been left out, there are so many of you and it was hard to try to remember and include everyone and everything we wanted to. This is just a first draft of telling this story, we plan to compile a zine with contributions from the many other people who have built this space over the years. For those who would like to share their stories and pieces of history, please get in touch with us at: amcfamilies2014@gmail.com.

For parents and caregivers with questions about childcare, kid's programming, etc or folks who would like to learn more about being supportive of families at the AMC, you can contact the 2014 Kids, Caregivers and Community Practice Space coordinators (China, Jake, Katie & Robin) at amcfamilies2014@gmail.com.

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