The power of art lies in its capacity to tell a message that spreads across the borders of our own realities.
Art changes, art inspires and art transforms.
I would have never thought in a million years three days in Detroit were all it took for me to change my perspective on life.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got to Allied Media Conference (AMC). Honestly, I wasn’t interested in any of the sessions. I didn’t have any goals for the conference except for getting good footage as part of my internship at Adobe Project 1324. However, the experience I had and what I learned cannot be compared to anything I had been a part of before.
I’ve always considered myself a creative person, but seeing how I can use my creativity to spotlight issues affecting my community and others is the biggest lesson I took away from AMC. My creativity matters and I can use it for social change.
AMC is a conference that brings together a diverse group of people every year in Detroit. With over 300 workshops the city becomes a big collaborative laboratory for those who want to learn and use media for social change. But the most impressive part is the sense of community and acceptance the conference creates. I had never been in a space that felt so safe for minorities or people who don’t fit. As a minority I’m aware of the struggles Latino and immigrant communities face, but learning and sharing with other minority groups showed me how our struggles intersect and the power we have if we work together. Getting the chance to meet people breaking so many barriers through art definitely inspired me to want to create for social change.
Art is more than pretty pictures, good design and harmonious melodies. There is power in art, and its strength is greater than any other medium I’ve worked with.
photo by Andrea Gutierrez
Learning what poetry really is was also life changing. I had no idea what poetry really was or that you could express emotions so accurately through dance. I always thought poetry were just words that rhymed, but after attending an open mic session, I realized it was an incredibly powerful tool for expression. I didn’t even know something like what I saw and heard even existed. In fact, the words of Simone Williams’ poem stuck with me. She talked about what being black meant and the struggles of black people throughout history. When I see another black man has been killed by police, as has happened repeatedly in the past few years, I remember her words and how we all need to keep fighting to end racism. I also experienced rap as a storytelling medium used for critiquing current community issues. This made my love for the genre grow even more.
My biggest takeaway from AMC came from my first session. I attended a dance workshop called “Breaking HIV Stigma Through Dance” presented by Demark Manigo, a dancer from Atlanta, Georgia. I had no idea what to expect or how talking about HIV through dance was even possible, but what I experienced was powerful and meaningful. Demark asked the group “When you think of a person living with HIV, what do you feel?” Their responses: Silent struggle, guilt, fear, loneliness and love. These answers turned into the dance moves that would make the experience so touching and personal. Doubts about HIV were cleared, lessons were learned and emotions were canalized through dance. It was touching to see how the walls and stigma around HIV were dismantled so easily. People who suffer from HIV are confined to intangible prisons because of certain societal misconceptions, and those close to them suffer in silence with them. However, I now believe that opening the discussion for such a complex topic can be successfully done by something as simple as dance. Here are some GIFs illustrating the physical responses to Demark’s workshop questions:
AMC also taught me how important it is to put actual faces and names to statistics. When I thought about police brutality I always thought about the cases media showed, which usually involve male victims. Little did I know there was a movement called Say Her Name and the meaning behind it. Say Her Name is a gender inclusive movement that campaigns for recognition and ending of police brutality and violence against black women. Women are not numbers; they’re daughters, sisters, mothers and someone’s friend. When their stories are told, their memory lives. Art has the power to do this and more.
I went to Detroit with no expectations, and left with a lifetime of knowledge, a new artistic vision and the desire to create for social change. I experienced the meaning of creative impact firsthand and how it can create lasting change. The power of art lies in its capacity to tell a message that spreads across the borders of our own realities.
Lead photo courtesty of 247 Laundry Service.