Restoring our souls By Shea Howell Week Twelve of the Occupation

Thinking for ourselves

Restoring our souls

By Shea Howell

Week Twelve of the Occupation

June 11, 2013

sheaThe Emergency Manager was compelled by law to hold a public meeting to discuss his Report on the financial condition of Detroit. It turns out the Emergency Version of a public meeting is not much. It means finding a small space, get as many of your hired friends in (by the back door) as you can, set up metal detectors, limit the access to a few dozen people, and give only some of them one minute to say what they think. It is no wonder that the most meaningful comments from Detroiters referred to by the Emergency Manager where those he heard while waiting in line at Popeye’s. Everyone knows it takes more than a minute to order chicken from Popeye’s.

There were some critical moments in the Emergency Manager’s presentation. First was his unfortunate use of imagery about “slitting throats” and leaving “them to bleed out in the gutter.” Then there was his acknowledgement that he is considering leasing Belle Isle. And finally, there was the absence of any real analysis of the financial situation we face, its sources and its solutions.Such sham demonstrations of distorted democracy diminish us all.

That is why it is so important that we embrace and support the authentic democratic practices emerging in our community. This week, one of the most imaginative, creative, and visionary conferences anywhere in the globe will once again convene in Detroit. The 15th Annual Allied Media Conference will happen June 20 to 23.

This gathering evokes what many of us cherish about our city: the realistic recognition of loss, the ability to transform pain to new possibilities, the sense of deep love for what we were, and what we can yet become.

I vividly remember the AMC opening hours after the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. On a quiet stage before a packed crowd, Detroit singer, song-writer, poet, David Blair delivered his stunning tribute to Jackson. Backed by larger than life artists, skyped in from South Africa, Blair spoke of love, loss, and the connections that only art creates among us. Within three years, that same gathering remembered Blair, whose heart exploded, unable to contain the love he felt for his city.

The Allied Media Conference aims to create, connect, and transform our world. It pursues these aims through determinedly democratic, participatory, and imaginative processes.

Organizers say, “The Allied Media Conference advances our visions for a more just and creative world. It is a laboratory for media-based solutions to the problems our communities face. Since our founding in 1999, we have evolved our definition of media, and the role it can play in our lives – from zines to video-blogging to breakdancing, to building radio transmitters and designing open-source software. Each conference builds off the previous one and plants the seeds for the next. Ideas and relationships evolve year-round, incorporating new networks of media-makers, technologists and social justice organizers. We draw strength from our converging movements to face the challenges and opportunities of our current moment. We are ready to create, connect and transform.”

They believe “everyone teaches and everyone learns.” They say, “Through cycles of collaboration, question-asking and experimentation, our networks continue to grow, bringing new analysis, and new tools” to share.

They say, “We develop new leaders and new forms of leadership, design new methods of problem-solving, cultivate the visions of our communities and build our power to make those visions real. Our strategies for transformation don’t begin or end with the three days of the conference. They evolve in our lives and our work throughout the year.”

Imagine the possibilities if these principles shaped the boundaries of our public lives. Restore your soul at the AMC. To find out about this year’s gathering visit their web site at