I’m sitting in the Student Union at Bowling Green State University, where it is unusually temperate for late June, attending the 7th annual Allied Media Conference. I hear there are over 400 people attending, and it looks to be the most diverse group I’ve seen at this conference yet.
The first session I attended this morning was a great start to the conference that got me thinking critically right off the bat. Titled, “Is This What Democracy Looks Like?” it featured panelists from a nice variety of organizations: Shivaani Selvaraj Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project; Francesca Fiorentini, War Resisters League; Susana Adame, Radical Women of Color Bloggers; Betty Yu, Manhattan Neighborhood Network.
All of the panelists directly addressed the challenges of making media that is responsive and accountable to communities, activists and organizers. There was critical discussion about the relationship of more radically grassroots projects to Indymedia as well as the liberal/progressive mainstream media that is primarily published by and for white middle-class progressives.
Blogger Susana Adama tackled race and gender head-on, challenging the notion that blogging is an inherently free and open medium. Instead, she says that there are standard structures that bloggers and readers expect blogs to adhere to.
Adama said that it took six months to bring together the Radical Women of Color Bloggers, in part because it was difficult for the women just to find each other. But that is just one of the struggles they face, because many white male readers react strongly and negatively to these women taking on race, gender and class is a critical fashion. The bloggers have to deal with a deluge of hate filled email and comments posted to their blogs.
Adama also noted the problem of other progressive blogs which may support the Radical Women of Color, but do not moderate their own comments sections, allowing them to fill up with hateful and racist comments aimed at the Women.
One audience member summed up the situation very clearly, saying, in effect, when you challenge white supremacy then many members of that ruling class is going to feel excluded. But you can’t go on appeasing them. Very simply, she said that it is a privilege in the first place for white people to say that they feel excluded.
I am very glad to have been able to sit in on the stimulating and open conversation that went on during this panel. There were more great ideas and thoughts shared during this panel than I can adequately share or do justice to. But I want to end this post with a final thought that struck me.
Shivaani Selvaraj from Philly IMC said that, in effect, for her project making media is somewhat of a “trojan horse” that brings people to the organization where then they have the opportunity to build relationships and a movement. She poses the questions: “Media for what? Information for what?”