The AMC: What Keeps Us Coming Back

As we gear up for the biggest AMC yet, we asked some of our returning participants what keeps them coming back year after year. Beyond the hands-on workshops, strategy sessions, media-making, and fun times on the dance floor, the thread across all of these different elements is the sense of community and relationship building that deepens every year.

Read the interviews below for three participants’ experiences building a more just, creative and collaborative world at the AMC.

Moya Bailey

Moya Bailey is a coordinator of the AMC2015 network gathering, Dismantling the Ivory Tower. She is a post doctoral fellow at Northeastern University in Boston, working on a book project about how queer and trans black women are redefining popular media representations of themselves.

What was your first experience at the AMC?

My first experience at the AMC was in 2008 – I drove up to Detroit from Atlanta with a group of friends. I had such an amazing time that I’ve only missed one AMC since then! At the time I was organizing with some friends on a project called The CyberQuilting Experiment, in which women of color received the tools, internet training, and hardware needed to bring about radical social change within their local communities. We wanted to find a way to help our elders and women of color learn tech skills and become better versed in media. This later evolved into the “Shawty Got Skillz” skillshare for women and genderqueer folks of color, which we did for about four years.

Moya Bailey
Moya Bailey (on right) with Danielle Cole at AMC2012

Why are you excited to be back this year at the AMC? What are you most looking forward to?

This year I am helping organize the Dismantling the Ivory Tower network gathering. I’m really excited to talk with other folks of color who are in the academy and strategize ways to negotiate that space. We will be exploring how to balance the demands of the academy while still being attentive and supportive of social justice movements. It all started from a conversation last year in the Research Justice network gathering and a follow-up conversation with Morgan Willis, program director of the AMC. We realized there was a real need for this space because a lot of us have had traumatic experiences in the academy and we want to use our skills and relative privilege in academic spaces to leverage something good for our communities.

I’m also looking forward to reconnecting with other people. I’m amazed at how every year things grow and people are getting more specific in how we can change our worlds for the better. There are more and more opportunities to go deep within a certain topic or skillset.

Of course, I’m also looking forward to the karaoke!

What makes the AMC different from other conferences you have attended?

The people who attend have so much say in how it’s structured. The AMC does a great job of soliciting feedback from participants and giving them the opportunity to shape the conference from year to year. People can make things happen when they don’t see it. In 2009 folks developed a loose network called “Creating Collective Access” which focused on making sure that disabled conference-goers were able to get where they needed to go, and have their own spaces within the larger conference. This group developed organically from participants at the AMC who were searching for this intentional space. They developed a list of resources to improve accessibility and this became something that has been used at other conferences and it still exists online as well as in the AMC program book.

Corina Fadel

Corina Fadel is a co-coordinator, with Emani Love, of the AMC2015 track, Creative Coping and Grieving Arts. She is a Detroit-based, Boston-bred queer writer, dancer, and bodyworker.

How has your participation in the AMC evolved over the years?

I attended the AMC first in 2008 and again in 2014. Last year I facilitated a workshop called “Creative Coping After Traumatic Loss” that was really well attended and inspired us to do a track dedicated to that specific theme. That’s pretty amazing to me – that AMC cultivates this instant feedback loop where one year you are participating and the next year you are holding space for others to participate more broadly. I’ve also been an active participant in the Healing Justice Practice Space, which was special to me because I was able to participate in the conference even while I was experiencing grief over the loss of a friend. I was providing body work sessions in massage and reiki and this space allowed me to participate in the AMC in a different way. I also participated in AMP Camp, a summer retreat for Detroit artist-educators, which I first learned about at the AMC.

Corina AMC
Corina Fadel and Emani Love at the 2015 Coordinators Meeting in Detroit

Why are you excited to be back this year at the AMC? What are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to be coordinating the “Grieving Arts” track with Emani Love. There’s a large gap between what people’s personal experiences of grief and loss are and what spaces actually exist to explore what this loss means and why it keeps happening. We wanted to open the space up for people to propose their own way in which they interact with these questions. Just seeing the proposals that came in and how vulnerable and thoughtful and radical everyone’s ideas were – it’s so exciting. There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the past year around collective loss – it feels like this track is really relevant and meaningful to people right now.

I’m also excited about other TPSNGs (tracks, practice spaces and network gatherings) at AMC2015 especially the Wage Love Practice Space and the Healing Justice Practice Space, which will be hosting a strategy session on Thursday for the first time! I’m also excited to bring in some of the healing justice practitioners into our track, using their skillsets around trauma and grief.

What have you learned in past AMCs that you use now or that has impacted your work?

One thing I’ve learned is the idea of “reframing the frame” – a lot of times the way we frame learning has to do with how much knowledge or expertise a person has. One thing the AMC taught me is that our lived experiences give us so much knowledge. That is powerful to me because it allows folks to center themselves and root themselves in their own knowledge. It reminds me of one of AMP’s network principles: “We presume our power, not our powerlessness,” which allows for a different type of listening and learning to occur. The AMC becomes fertile ground where things can evolve and grow and inhabit their own life.

Jack Aponte

Jack Aponte is a coordinator of the AMC2015 Community Technology Network Gathering. They are a worker-owner at Palante Technology Cooperative and live and organize in Oakland, CA.

How has your participation in the AMC evolved over the years?

I joined the AMC as a presenter the first year I attended in 2011. I was inspired to be in a tech-related space that was filled with folks who do community organizing, art and activism. I had such a great experience that I wanted to get more involved and sustain the connections I made. I’ve had some organizing role at the AMC every year since then! The next two years I co-coordinated the Webmaking track, which took a broader look at how we define technology. “Webmaking” was not only a reference to the Internet but also to the networks we create with each other. Networks are such a huge part of the AMC. The track was not just talking about tech but making longstanding connections with one another. The connections and ideas at the AMC shape what I do throughout the year, who I interact with and who I work with.

This year I’m helping coordinate the Community Technology Network Gathering, which has grown organically out of other parts of the AMC – the Webmaking track and the hands-on technology and media labs, for example. The Community Technology Network Gathering is a response to years of sharing practices and ideas with each other, and learning how to use technology to benefit our communities. It feels like a natural progression.

Jack Aponte
Jack Aponte killing it at AMC karaoke

What are some highlights from previous AMCs you’ve attended?

For me it’s all about the connections I’ve made and the community I’ve built over the years. Going to the AMC always feels like a family reunion in a way.

One of my favorite things in past years has been the son jarocho workshops, which present traditional music from Mexico that is often used as a tool in political movements and struggles. Every year it’s been great to duck out of the tech track and go to the son jarocho workshop to learn about music and dance. It’s so cool to have that space in the midst of a conference that is also focusing on tech and media. It’s a space in which we get to explore all these different parts of ourselves, but still within a political context.

What makes the AMC different from other conferences you have attended?

I am used to going to lots of conferences about tech and digital media tools, but they don’t touch on the actual day-to-day work that I do. These conferences are often more geared towards business and money, and they are very straight, white and male. They can become uncomfortable spaces. At the AMC I can bring all aspects of my work and passion in one place. It’s amazing to see so many queer and trans people of color at the AMC, and it really impacts the culture of the space.

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