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by Bianca Laureano

This will be the first part in a two part series that will highlight and discuss my experiences at the Allied Media Conference (AMC) this month (June 2011). This piece will discuss my overall experience at the AMC and the next post will discuss specific workshops and sessions I attended.

Many of you may remember when I shared some conferences to check out this year that I mentioned fundraising to get to the AMC. Well, I raised all the funds I needed (minus some unexpected baggage fees for the airline; something to remember for fundraising in the future)! Fundraising was extra scary but also very humbling. I realized how much people in our community support and love me and sometimes asking for help is a gift we give other people, not just ourselves.

Planning to depart for Detroit, where the AMC is held, was the easy part. It was actually getting there that was frustrating! There was a huge storm earlier in the day. The kind of rain that makes folks who are wearing dark colors STILL look wet. Our plane was delayed for 4 hours, which means instead of us arriving at 8pm we arrived after midnight! We were also sharing a departure gate with three other departures that were also delayed and it was a chaotic experience. Good thing Detroit is less than two hours away!

I had traveled with a friend and we split a cab to the on-campus housing at Wayne State University where the AMC is held (a cab ride from the airport there will cost you about $50). We shared a four-bedroom suite where the lounge area and bathroom were shared but we each had our own bedrooms. We were able to request up to 3 roommates and the 3 I selected I was roomed with. It was like the residence hall was our clubhouse. Almost everybody we knew at the AMC who had traveled was staying there or somewhere nearby.

The first day of the conference started at 9am. Registration opened at 8am and because I wanted to attend one of the first sessions I got in line around 8:45am. It was super busy and crowded with folks who were arriving for the first time and registering. The registration went by fairly quickly and the three buildings the conference was set in were very close to one another and completely accessible. A continental breakfast was offered along with vegan options, coffee, teas, water, and juice. The water and juice/soda was also provided throughout the day. Food for lunch and dinner were not offered with registration but for the first time folks could purchase a lunch when they registered for $8 and there were places in the area to eat such as a diner, pizza spot, and some fast food options.

The conference had 19 tracks and an amazing listing of sessions for folks to attend. There were workshops, trainings, caucuses, evening events, and opening and closing ceremonies. There was so much to do that I quickly became overwhelmed. I plotted out the sessions I wanted to attend over the three days so that I could enjoy myself and have a good time without worrying about logistics. I’ll share what sessions I attended in Part 2.

The AMC is one of those places where the folks you meet and build community with virtually you see in 3D. This was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had at a conference! I met so many of the folks who have become chosen family, mentors, and friends over the years for the first time; and I was not the only one. Many of the folks I knew from NYC had the same experiences of meeting folks for the first time. It was really an amazing and affirming experience to know that someone who you communicate with on a regular basis is really who they say they are

For the first time ever, the AMC offered a Healing Justice Practice Space. This is place for activists and folks at the AMC to sign up to receive some form of healing. The healing that was offered came from volunteers, like myself, who have a skill or healing background to share. I offered my art therapy for folks and also included massage, reiki, energy work, community acupuncture, community yoga, listening sessions, nutrition and herb advice, and basic health EMT services. The reason for incorporating this space into the AMC is because often we as activists forget or don’t make healing and caring for ourselves a priority. Here the AMC offered this space so that we could have that experience and share it collectively to know that we are all in need of healing and care at some points in our lives. I’ll share more about my experience doing my art workshop in this space in Part 2 next week.

One of the most amazing parts of the AMC was that there were so many queer youth of Color! I knew to expect a large contingent of youth represented but it never occurred to me that so many would be present, sharing sessions, creating media, building community, mentoring one another and others. It was such a fantastic space that I began to wonder how different my life could/may have been as an activist had I came to the AMC in my late teens, early 20s instead of my mid-30s. If you are reading this you MUST GO to the AMC in 2012! There is no way around it, if media and media making is of value and interest and importance to you this is where you need to be!

I spent some time thinking of all the folks in my community who were not physically present who I knew would benefit and find so much in the AMC. There are so many folks I wanted to have experience what I was witnessing and be inspired and encouraged to continue their work, which is why I’m sharing this piece with you all now. I knew the AMC would be amazing, but I didn’t ever think it could be as transformative as it was. From having meals with amazing people (even when my introverted self needed space) to being offered rides to the airport by friends I had just met and waking up to the beautiful souls I stayed with while there, my travels and experience to the AMC were spectacular!

My perspective of myself as a media maker, my power to contribute to something larger and to make change in the ways I think are important have been challenged and solidified. I have a new vision for the work I want to do, a new set of tools, and a new agenda for social justice that excites me and reminds me I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right thing for myself. I feel myself glowing it’s that amazing. This is an experience I wish each of you can one day enjoy as well! Thanks for witnessing it with me.