The Black Lives Matter Movement Convenes at AMC2015
Words by Allied Media Conference
At the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, the Black Lives Matter movement was in full focus and force as organizers convened their first-ever national network gathering on Thursday, June 18, 2015.
Strategy and stories from the #blacklivesmatter movement were woven through many sessions over the course of the conference weekend, and Patrisse Cullors (co-founder of Black Lives Matter) gave a keynote speech to a packed auditorium at the AMC Opening Ceremony. Patrisse called on the AMC community to develop communications strategies and technologies that can fight back against the assault of black life:
After Ferguson, after Los Angeles, after Baltimore, after Florida, after Detroit, how are we going to save black lives?
In a time when it feels like white racists and law enforcement are at war with black people and black bodies, when black folks feel like we are rising up, how are we going to save black lives?
And how will technology save black lives? In a world where surveillance is an everyday reality, when media and technology is used against us to track us, to harm us, and kill us – we have to be present for a technology that saves black lives. It isn’t about fearing technology, it’s about utilizing it and creating it so it works for us.
What began as a beautiful speech ended in something much more powerful – an on-stage celebration as black folks at the AMC were invited on stage to celebrate the premier of “28 Hours” a song of protest against police violence produced by imprisoned hip-hop artist Richie Reseda.
Interview with Damon Turner and Anita Moore, organizers of the BLM Network Gathering
On Thursday, June 18, 2015, over 100 organizers from 26 different BLM chapters from across the U.S. and Canada convened at the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Network Gathering to highlight the work of the various chapters, strategize around direct actions, and engage in healing practices.
BLM Network Gathering participants and organizers Damon Turner and Anita Moore shared with us some of their reflections and takeaways from the network gathering. Read the interview below.
How did you get involved with Black Lives Matter?
Damon Turner: I’ve been involved with BLM since its inception in 2013. I was grateful to be a part of the L.A. chapter when we were fighting for justice for Trayvon Martin. Now I’m a “cultural architect” with BLM, which means a lot of different things but primarily I try to help create spaces for new ideas and conversations that help create cultural understanding with one another.
Anita Moore: Last year I co-founded the Grand Rapids, Michigan BLM chapter, so I had been working with Patrisse Cullors (co-founder of BLM) since October. I ran into her again at the Incite Conference in March 2015 and she asked me to join the national team. Now I’m based in Austin doing chapter coordination, which means connecting all of our chapters and the founders to the work that everyone’s doing on the ground.
Why was it important to host this convening at the AMC?
DT: The AMC has worked so diligently at creating an inclusive space for everyone, and more explicitly our trans community, which was definitely one of the reasons why it was the best platform for this conversation. That’s what BLM is founded on – that all black lives matter and that we should evolve the conversation to include more experiences from queer, incarcerated, and trans folks to make sure their narratives are at the forefront.
AM: The AMC is a unique space for us because we were able to have an intentionally curated space in the network gathering on Thursday, while also offering opportunities throughout the conference weekend for non-BLM folks to come in and meet chapter leads, network and have conversations, and get involved in the movement.
Banner painting in the AMC’s Wage Love Detroit Action Practice Space. Photo by Ara Howrani.
What did you set out to achieve at the Network Gathering?
DT: We wanted to meet the other folks who had been organizing the movement and to begin creating a vehicle where we can share a lot of the practices that we are doing in a more defined way.
A lot of what’s been going on has been siloed because of the varying regions and demographics of the movement, so we wanted to come together as a network and build those connections. We wanted to do this to understand and affirm the work we’ve all been doing across the country and know that it has not been in isolation.
AM: Our plan was to come together and really talk about the future of Black Lives Matter and highlight the work that chapters have been doing, while also strategizing around things they may be struggling with and developing future goals. It turned out to be all of that and more. The Charleston shooting happened the night before the gathering so we made a big emphasis on creating a healing space, which ended up being really powerful and necessary for us to process what happened together.
We have so many different chapters and different levels within our organizing experience – some chapters are very knowledgeable and some are not as experienced. One of our goals was to share and make available those experiences to all of the members of our network. As a part of this we also invited The BlackOut Collective to discuss and share strategies around direct action.
What were some of your takeaways from the network gathering?
DT: For me what stood out most was the component around healing. Self-care can be something as simple as taking a few seconds to stop talking and feel the breath in your body. It is also a reminder that even with the amount of work that we have yet to do, we are all human, we are still alive, and we are still worthy of breathing life into our own bodies. Throughout the day we had built-in reminders to engage in these collective moments of pause and reflection – that level of self-care felt really radical.
Another major takeaway for me is that you can still have fun in this movement! Nothing is monolithic – we are very complex people and to think that there is only one narrative when it comes to protesting and fighting for black liberation is false. We were able to have fun and laugh and love on each other a hell of a lot – and build ideas that aren’t necessarily about the movement. The work has to come with love and laughter and joy as much as indignation and a visceral understanding of the war that we are in. That continued spiritual nourishment has been the quintessential element that has kept us as black folks moving forward.
AM: We are a group of folks who are so passionate about our liberation that we will do the work at all costs, even to ourselves. That’s why self-care is so important and was emphasized at the network gathering. We really need to take time to heal and collect ourselves so we can continue to do this work in the long run – it comes down to sustainability.
The most memorable part of the day was the healing circle where we went outside and started chanting and singing and celebrating each other – it was so invigorating! [watch the video below]. That’s how we closed out our day. We brought in Harriet’s Apothecary, an intergenerational healing group from Brooklyn, to lead us in these exercises.
For me it was also about finally meeting the people who you have been doing this work alongside with. A lot of times this work can feel lonely and alienating, but to know that there’s a whole host of folks all over who will celebrate your victories alongside you – it took things to a whole other level. Now I can say I have family all over the country.