Radical Collaboration: Allied Media Conference in Detroit


The 19th annual Allied Media Conference happens June 15-18 at Wayne State University in Detroit. The conference draws all types of media makers, with "media" being "anything you use to communicate with the world," so conference participants come from wonderfully diverse backgrounds. The conference is also organized collaboratively, so it’s different from year to year. Participants can expect to attend panels and workshops, but also screenings, tours, arts, and music events, strategy sessions, karaoke, and bowling. There’s a lot to take in, and the scope of the experience is inspiring.

Ahead of this year’s conference, we chatted with Katie Dover-Taylor, Ypsilanti resident and librarian, who has been involved with AMC for several years, about what you can expect from the conference, radical librarianship, and how AMC’s Detroit roots might provide an opportunity to experience conversations about Detroit in a different way.

Q: For those who haven't been to AMC, what's the first thing to know?
A: AMC is an incredibly diverse gathering of creative people who use media to organize for social change. Every summer, AMC brings together a community of artists, filmmakers, radio producers, technologists, youth organizers, writers, entrepreneurs, musicians, healers, and dancers to Detroit to learn from and support one another. I think this video (above) is the best summary -- it’s hard to describe in words what the experience of AMC is really like.

Q: You have been involved with AMC since 2015. Has the conference evolved over the past few years?
A: AMC keeps growing. AMC is always evolving because the organizing process is collaborative and iterative -- each year coordinators submit their ideas for Tracks, Practice Spaces, and Network Gatherings and so the content changes from year to year. The AMC staff writes a 'zine to describe the organizing process, which they update regularly based on feedback from coordinators and attendees.

Q: You've worked on the “Radical Librarianship” track at AMC. What does that term mean for you? Has the political climate since last year's election influenced how you view this term or your work?
A: To me, radical librarianship is about expanding our understanding of what constitutes library work. There are so many people who organize information, document community knowledge, and make resources accessible to their communities who are not professional librarians but have so much to teach us about librarianship. I think the media making, creative activism, and community-centered approaches to social justice that people develop and explore at AMC each year are some of the most awesome incarnations of library work I've ever seen. Those of us who work in traditional libraries have a lot to learn from community organizers about equitable, diverse, and inclusive library services, and we can share our knowledge of collections, literacies, and research that is central to our work in the library profession.

I'm particularly interested in anti-racism in libraries. One thing I have learned in the last few years is that no matter how neutral you wish to seem, politics will act on you. You cannot opt out of the political reality. Amy Sonnie of Libraries 4 Black Lives articulates a vision for librarians as we work to navigate our political reality and advocate for change in librarianship and society as a whole: “Some librarians pride themselves on being ‘neutral.’ We respond: Equity is a library core value. Civic engagement is a core library value. Intellectual freedom is a core library value. Democracy is a core library value. Yet, marginalization in all forms -- and racism in particular -- disrupts and limits equity, civic participation, and freedom. It deforms democracy. If we are to fulfill our mission and uphold library values then we must be advocates against marginalization and inequity, and for justice and equity.”

Q: What are you most looking forward to in this year's conference? How do you approach building your AMC schedule when there are so many exciting events and sessions to choose from?
A: I'm looking forward to the Radical Libraries, Archives, and Museums track and the Boom Concepts Salon Practice Space, which will host the Black Unicorn Pop-up Library. This will be my first year as a presenter and attendee rather than coordinator, so I'm looking forward to having a little more freedom to explore additional content areas. I really want to check out the Radical Kitchen Practice Space. I think AMC will be releasing the full schedule of sessions in the next couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to reading more about this year's content as I try to build a schedule.

Q: You're a resident of Ypsi, and you've worked in many libraries in Southeast Michigan, including in Detroit, Southfield, Westland, and Milan. Do you think there's anything particularly relevant to learn from AMC for folks in Southeast Michigan?
A: I think there's a lot for folks in Southeast Michigan to explore and discover at AMC and by learning more about Allied Media's Sponsored Projects. AMC is rooted in Detroit and provides many opportunities to learn about past and present movements in the city. I also think AMC provides an opportunity for white folks, in particular, to practice de-centering ourselves in conversations about Detroit and our region, and to experience the vibrant creativity that marginalized folks bring to struggles for social justice and social transformation.

Anna Prushinskaya is a writer in Ann Arbor. Her collection of essays, A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother, is forthcoming from MG Press in fall 2017.

Allied Media Conference happens June 15-18 at Wayne State University in Detroit. Tickets to AMC are on sale now; some scholarships may be available.