August 15, 2022

Five Lessons about Community Highlighted by Allied Media Conference 2022

From Thursday June 30th to Sunday July 3rd I had the pleasure to attend my first Allied Media Conference (AMC), a hybrid event with an in person component in Detroit, Michigan.  In attendance, I learned that AMC’s partners and participants are an incredibly diverse group of reformers, activists, and leaders at the intersection of a wide range of critical areas in art, technology, education, media, organizing, social justice, and more. 

From graphic designers, city government employees, local scholars and professors, teachers, non-profit leaders, artists, and small business owners, to librarians like myself, the energy, the excitement, and the capacity to learn and gain perspective from such a mix of attendees, was palpable. Attending most of the conference remotely, I had the pleasure to engage more directly by joining the “Preserving Detroit Stories an Allied Media Conference Network Gathering,” a session coordinated by Black Bottom Archives, Detroit Sound Conservancy, and Bailey Park NDC, virtually on the 30th and in person on Belle Isle on July 1st

As the Library Futures Community Fellow, the AMC experience led me to consider community work through a different lens. AMC led me to think more on “community” both as a concept and as an actor in organizing and creating change. Distilling this fantastic experience and the wealth of expertise and perspective, I would like to share five key lessons I learned:

  1. Roles in communities can and should change and vary depending on the topic or issue at hand. While membership could be relatively uniform, leveraging expertise, skills, and a diverse range of voices is essential for meaningful and impactful organizing. These roles do not always require election or formality, and strong communities are flexible and can adjust as needed. 
  2. Listening is as important (if not more important) than any other action when community organizing. Making space for diverse voices and being aware of when your voice is welcome versus when it may silence or inhibit the voice of another is an important consideration. This lesson holds especially true when one’s voice or opinion comes backed with privileges (status, funding, resources, etc.) other members in the community may lack.  A community is a stronger actor than an individual, but communities are built and shaped by individuals with unique experiences; to maintain this strength communities need to leverage the sum of these experiences. 
  3. Making the time and space to foster connection, community principles, and to review community needs is as important as the time dedicated to fostering change and setting an agenda. Without this, work and decision making risks falling to the few; in both cases the purpose of community and the strength and impact of its advocacy are lost. 
  4. The work ties back to communication. Articulating community needs and goals, and especially tying them to actionable next steps is often challenging and time consuming. Making the space to do so however, brings communities closer together, ensures representation, and leads to more effective organizing later on. 
  5. It is important to celebrate success, outwardly express gratitude, and make space for rest in advocacy/community organizing. Defining what success looks like reasonably at the outset is important, a small victory is still a victory. Communities tackling difficult issues risk burning out after both big wins and losses, and this burn out can put the community and any progress in jeopardy. 

At AMC I learned an incredible amount about organizing, archival practices, regional artists and arts initiatives, Detroit history, and the articulation of community needs and goals. I hope to channel this knowledge into my upcoming community report and explore how the practices and perspectives explored at AMC can support the continued development and success of the Library Futures community. I look forward to attending future Allied Media Conference programming and to continuing to learn and grow as an advocate inside our community. 

Feeling like you missed out? Witness the power of AMC 2022 through the recorded opening and closing ceremonies and plenary sessions.

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