One of my favorite moments at this year’s AMC was my radio interview with three bright kids from Detroit who participated in the DiscoTech workshop. It was their first time on the radio and with great enthusiasm they shared their experiences teaching others about science and technology and how the opportunity for leadership at the AMC instilled confidence in them.
My experience at this year's Allied Media Conference was memorable, not so much because of the amazing workshops, but because of the powerful stories I heard while coordinating the AMC’s Live radio station. As one of the radio coordinators for Really Rad Radio, it meant much of my time was spent in the makeshift station on the second floor of McGregor Memorial Hall facilitating programming for our live broadcast of the conference. Though I didn't attend many workshops, I learned so much from the people who came on the air and bravely shared their personal stories of struggle, described the uniqueness of their communities, and highlighted the important work that they are doing to advance our movements. This kind of storytelling is inspiring and informative, but more importantly, it provides a portrait of communities not often represented in the media. Every time we hear these voices, our perceptions change, and we take a step forward in connecting to each other.
I quickly discovered making radio on the fly is challenging. We had lots of technical difficulties, but that's why it’s called the radio station practice space, so we can problem solve, experiment, and work together to make the technology work. The moment we went on the air and got the FM broadcast and Internet streaming to work with the mesh networks was pure magic. SUCCESS! We were using technology to broadcast our message to the world and effectively, occupying the airwaves. For all of us working at the radio station, this was very exciting!
Once we were on the air, our focus shifted to making quality programming. If for just one weekend, we wanted to bring the people of Detroit some radical and transformative messages told by some of the best organizers and media makers from all over the country. Throughout the weekend, conference goers produced 18 amazing shows, some by people who have never done radio before. We imagined listeners from Detroit tuning into our station and wondering, "What the heck is this?" We expected what they heard was new and interesting to them and that it would give them a glimpse into worlds they had not experienced before. Perhaps, it would event generate curiosity about the new voices they heard on the air.
Because there is power in having access to media, I realized how important it is to share our skills with each other to make this possible, especially by empowering women and people of color to become technically savvy. In a field dominated by older white men, it was really exciting to have two young, female Latinas running and operating a radio station in a major US city. This is the exception and not the norm. But the AMC is just that, an exception to the rules, a demonstration what kind of world is possible when we advance women, people of color, and other underrepresented communities to own the power they possess.
Some of the highlights include members of Iraq Veterans Against the War speaking out against homophobia and sexual assault in the military and organizers from All of Us or None talking about the growing prison industrial complex in states like California and Texas and the prison moratorium campaigns they are working on to address these issues. We had the pleasure of hearing from MAG-Net members of Local 782, and also of the band Pop Pistol, talking about the importance of supporting local independent artists. Additionally, Media Mobilizing Project, Migrant Justice and the Vermont Workers Center hosted a show where they shared successes they’ve had with organizing union and farm workers to make media and the impact it has on their political initiatives.
AMC's Really Rad Radio was bilingual. We featured Spanish language programming by Medios Caminantes, a network of independent producers who share media in español that addresses issues faced by Latino immigrants. The women of Indignación, the OWS Spanish-language press, hosted a program that focused on their coverage of the student movement in Mexico. They even featured guests from Mexico who were dialed in via Skype and put on the radio! In keeping with the North American theme, our friends from Toronto hosted a show about media co-ops in Canada and we learned how they do community radio across the border.
Audio clips made during Philly Youth Radio's workshop were also played on the air, as well as clips made during the Digital Storytelling Workshop. Other radical programming included Radio Against Apartheid, a program which sheds light on the pro-liberation struggle in Palestine and This Light: Sounds for Social Change, a show which demonstrates through guests and revolutionary songs, the strong intersection of music and social movements.
As the Prometheus Radio Project embarks on a journey to build a network of hundreds of new community radio stations across the country, I am inspired by last weekend’s demonstrations of people powered media. It’s an example of what's possible when we have access to our own media. It’s also a reminder that making radio is FUN! And hopefully, programmers left the radio station practice space with the satisfaction that someone out there somewhere is listening to their message and connecting to them.
**Special thanks to the Prometheus, OTI and AMP tech crews, Gavin Dahl of KYRS, Sakura Sanders, and the tech director of Really RAD Radio, Ana Martina, for working to put our brains together to Create, Connect, and Transform the media.**
Vanessa Graber is the community radio director for Prometheus Radio Project, Prometheus uses participatory radio as a tool for social justice organizing and a voice for community expression.