What Do Disability, Embodiment & Intersectional Identities have to do with Media?

by Leroy F. Moore Jr.Well, a whole lot, as I found out at the eleventh annual Allied Media Conference, which took place in July in the heart of Detroit MI on the campus of Wayne State University.The Allied Media Conference (AMC) has a long history of gathering like-minds from all over the country – artists, activists and media makers – to cultivate strategies for shaping a more just and creative world. The AMC comes together yearly to share tools and tactics for transforming our communities through media-based organizing.From the AMC’s website, we got a broad overview of what to expect - workshops on grassroots media and social justice community organizing led by activists from collectives and non-profits, as well as by individuals of many intersecting identities – members of LGBTQI communities, people of color, people with disabilities, sex workers and more.Although this was the first year that representatives of Sins Invalid attended the AMC, we knew many of the folks in attendance, including Stacey Milbern who did great work with the AMC around women of color with disabilities in a social justice framework!Arriving at Wayne State University, I remembered that my Dad, who lives in Michigan, attended the University recently to get more teaching credentials. I also felt in Detroit’s cement the rich history of grassroots activism and artistic expression. Staying in the dorms brought me back to my college days. I was a day early for the conference, and the weather was gray and overcast. I was shocked, because I packed a lot of shorts, forgetting that Detroit summer weather is not like New York where I grew up. My cousin in Detroit told me that I had just missed the heat!  I felt like I was the only one in the whole resident hall while I waited for other conference folks to arrive, but that gave me time to organize my carry-around bag with Sins Invalid postcards, press folders, business cards, etc.On the first day of the conference, I felt like I was back in the Bay Area, because there were so many people from the Bay Area in attendance. Registration was smooth, and Stacey Milbern was in the mix, helping out. It was great to be greeted by a cool activist with a disability. As a person with a disability who attends a lot of grassroots level conferences, I was surprised to see how diverse the AMC was. It was great to hear about Stacey’s history with the conference and how the AMC has been very open to having people with disabilities be presenters. With the understanding that accessibility looks different to different people, I must say that as a person with a mobility impairment, the AMC met my needs by being located in one building that had a working elevator and big rooms. The conference had a van with a wheelchair lift that Stacey, me and many other AMC attendees with disabilities used to attend off campus activities at night. One of the coordinators even used the van to pick people up from the airport. Now, that is what I call community!At the conference, Vanessa Huang, a Sins Invalid Artistic Core member, and I picked workshops that would best help us pursue Sins Invalid’s mission and vision, with an emphasis on disability, queerness and race. We attended all of the disability focused caucuses and workshops. One that stuck out for me was the Women of Color with Disabilities caucus.  Another standout was a workshop led by a kick ass queer disabled woman of color, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Ms. Cherry Galette, both from Mangos With Chili, North America’s only annual touring road show of queer and trans people of color performance artists. Leah and Cherry spoke about being in a traveling road show, including everything from contracts to finding health food on the road. Leah also talked about her struggles in making the tours, performance spots and accommodations accessible, not only physically but also chemically and mentally (i.e. keeping the stress level to a minimum).The feeling of the AMC is one of inclusiveness. Vanessa and I spread the Sins Invalid vibe and love around, and many people were very interested in having Sins Invalid be a part of the 2010 Allied Media Conference. We left the conference with a vision of collaborating next year with all of the attendees with disabilities who are also queer and/or people of color. After the conference, I had a chance to attend the 94th birthday of a local activist, Grace Lee Boggs, which topped it off for me.Sins Invalid is looking forward to staying connected with all the people we met at the conference, as well as the coordinators of the AMC throughout the coming year. Detroit will be rocking again in 2010 with the 12th annual Allied Media Conference and the US Social Forum back to back.For more information on the AMC, visit their websiteFor more information on the United States Social Forum, visit their website