Friday, June 18, 2010

the basics

June 18th 2010
Miki & Aaron's house
Ann Arbor

First day of the AMC done and resting. It appears I'm having a relapse of the intestinal troubles I had for two months earlier this year. Of course I'm worried that this is primarily being caused by stress rather than any dietary overstepping. The AMC folks claim that there's a relaxation room on the premises with acupuncturists on hand to do their magic. I'm gonna hunt them down tomorrow. This shit needs to end now or I'll be having two very miserable weeks.

Had a difficult time concentrating in the workshops I attended today. Mind is sifting through all the work I need to get done. I rested most of the afternoon and got to have a spontaneous hour-long chat with someone who had just arrived and was planning to stay in the crash space with her son for the next 10 days (with no place to shower, of course). That was probably the highlight. Claudia and Linda like the conference a lot, but all of us were more than eager to head back to Ann Arbor after the day's events. We missed a night of bowling and karaoke in D-Town, but then again, bowling and karaoke will always be there (I assume).

I figure this post would be good for explaining just exactly what I'm up to over the next two months, for those who've been confused; it is a lot of stuff and it doesn't exactly sync up either. Also, there's a slight chance that writing this all down will smooth my thoughts out a little and actually decrease my stress levels. We'll see.

  • What I'm up to now is attending the Allied Media Conference in Detroit (June 18-20). Mostly I'm doing this cuz I attended last year, enjoyed it, and Claudia and Linda wanted to check it out and I decided it'd be fun to road-trip out there with them. It's a relatively short affair - just two and a half days - and about 200-300 people. It's very definitely a conference; there are workshops, activities, people tabling from all over the country, lots of mixing things up and learning going on. Perhaps what distinguishes it from other conferences - and this can be both intriguing and frustrating - is how much it avoids academia and academic jargon. No one presents papers, no one holds heavily theoretical presentations or discussions. It's meant to be very hands-on and relatable, generating tangible skills and tools for use in movements for media justice and intersections with other movements. Not to suggest that the theoretical heavy-lifters and trailblazers out there sit this one out: Critical Resistance, INCITE!, Grace Lee Boggs and the Boggs Center, all of them are out in droves. It's a genuinely inspiring convergence as well as a great introduction to current struggles in Detroit. I'm doing book promotion here but it's on the sly.
  • A few days break, Claudia heads back on a solo road trip to the Twin Cities, and Linda and I stay for the United States Social Forum (June 22-26). The USSF is not a conference or a summit. "Forum" is not entirely accurate either. The best way I can describe it is as a 'space,' specifically a space developed and built over many years to encourage the maximum number of encounters, dialogues, connections, and amplifications possible in a short timeframe and small convergence area. Put another way, the USSF intends to catalyze and strengthen movement-building at a rate that is much faster than organizations and organizers are used to. This isn't to say there aren't workshops, activities, and plenaries like at any other conference (there are over 1000 workshops for this USSF). But what makes the USSF unique - and very unpredictable - is the fact that, in just a five-day span of time, there is a space so open and usable that people end up using it for all kinds of spontaneous, surprising, and powerful things. The last USSF was in 2007. I burnt out after just a day; I couldn't see any of the workshops because 10,000 other people were trying to see them too. But all around me was this vibrant activity that was definitely not listed in the program guide: ad hoc gatherings, spillover discussion groups, assemblies and alliances formed on the spot, creative ventures, direct actions, and levelled critiques of the whole process from start to finish. Oh yes, the shit is overwhelming. But it's unlike anything I've ever been to, and that's saying something. Uses of a Whirlwind will be released at the USSF, and there will be a big release party on Friday the 25th. Our collective is also organizing three workshops/panels, and I'll be presenting or facilitating for all of them. I'll be relocating to a hotel in Detroit with them. To top it off, I'll also be reuniting with my antiracist peeps from New Orleans, and exploring radical Asian America through several caucuses, assemblies, and gatherings for APIA folks. Somewhere in there I think I get to sleep.
  • After all that, my collective, Team Colors, hits the road for a tour (June 26-August). We're a militant research collective that inquires into struggles and everyday resistance in the United States. We cast a wide net, but our general focus is on class struggle, class composition and decomposition, mechanisms of control and capture by state and capital, the commons and enclosures, precarious labor, social reproduction, and processes of 'becoming' in everyday life. A lot of people go "Huh?" at this stuff, but there's a certain significant contingent out there that loves this shit. We love it, I think, because we feel these inquiries are incredibly necessary in order to combat anti-intellectualism in movements, steer away from the fetishization of activist-identities and into radical community organizing, and centralize the political as found in the mundane, the everyday, the basic needs and practices of life and living in common. Our book is just the latest of many ventures we've been on, but since this is a great opportunity to inquire into more organizing around the country and spur important discussions, we'll be holding lots of events throughout the summer and fall. I for one will be working events in Bloomington Indiana, Chicago, Madison, the Twin Cities, New York, Philadelphia, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Oakland, and Gainesville Florida. There will likely be other events in the South and Southeast that I'm trying to set up right now. Even more events will take place throughout the fall, but by that time...
  • I'll be in grad school at UNC-Chapel Hill starting August 24th, for a doctorate in geography. Geography is not just about maps and capital cities; it's the intersection of many knowledges - history, politics, environment, society - that intends to understand and explore 'space' as it exists on the surface of the earth. It's also well-known for taking increasingly radical turns of late, due to its openness, its reckoning with its own very colonial history, and its challenges and critiques that problematize so much about the world we're in while also finding excitement in resistance and change, whether organized or unanticipated. I told them I want to study radical Asian America post-1965, but we'll have to see if that will hold.
OK, gotta head to be - way too late and I need to be up early again for the second day of the AMC. And I have a red bean cake here with my name on it.

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