2020 Allied Media Conference focuses on Detroit voices, themes of Black and Indigenous futurism

After a yearlong hiatus, the Allied Media Conference (AMC), now in its 21st year, returns on July 23-26. This year’s event is centered on themes of Black and Indigenous futurism, liberation, and collective care and will all take place digitally.


Hosted by Allied Media Projects, the Detroit-based conference has sought a way to connect creatives in multiple fields from art and dance to radio and technology. Throughout the four days, there will be four plenaries, opening and closing ceremonies, nightlife events, and over 75 sessions for attendees to choose from, all while being held over online platforms Zoom and YouTube Live.


This year, attendees can expect "a place for having conversations and building community around the most pressing ideas of our time,” AMP Executive Director Jenny Lee says.


The theme of this year’s conference was planned since January, according to Lee and AMC Co-Director Nadine Marshall, but in light of the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement and the “new normal” in the midst of a global pandemic, it is one they felt has had increasing relevance to today’s world.


“[The theme]’s been emergent,” Lee said. “We started off thinking about the conference in one way in January, and the whole world has sort of been flipped upside down since then. I think when you look at all the themes … it is about world building, and it is so clear that our world is in a process of transformation, and it is up to our communities to shape what comes next.”


Before the pandemic hit, the AMC was exploring ways to make the conference more accessible while still maintaining a community feel, especially in a semi-virtual setting. Despite moving to a fully online format, the AMC has adapted the experience for its audience.


“I think that a lot of folks will find that the magic of the AMC will still exist online, and by that, I mean the ability to still make connections online and to build relationships online,” Marshall says.


In order to foster those connections and relationships, the AMC has been collaborating with local and national leaders, artists, and musicians like Autumn and Adrienne Maree Brown, Bevlove, Chani Nicholas, Esperanza Spalding, Kesswa, Ora Wise, Supercoolwicked, Toshi Reagon, and Tunde Olaniran to make the bigger AMC events such as the opening ceremony happen.


After 2018’s AMC, Lee and Marshall decided to take a year to reflect on the conference and make the experience more valuable to its attendees. Dubbing it “the year in chrysalis,” the AMC wanted to emerge in 2020 by returning to its roots.


“In 2018, that was the 20th anniversary, and it was an incredible year, our largest yet, but we really felt the ways in which we had grown in size and complexity were away from the origins of an intimate gathering,” Lee says. “We took the year off to basically reflect on the ways we had grown and changed and also think about the ways we wanted to grow moving forward with deeper intentions.”


After the hiatus, the AMC hopes to become more accessible and reduce its carbon footprint, Marshall says.


Rooted in Detroit since 2006, the AMC has always tried to find a way to tie its events and featured voices to the local scene. This year’s theme and previous themes have always matched what Marshall calls “the spirit of Detroit.”


“This theme of post-apocalyptic world building and creating new systems out of the rubble of failed ones, that’s all Detroit,” Lee says. “That’s just learned from the history of movement leaders and revolutionaries here who have done that work, and that’s the lineage in which a lot of the ideas at the AMC come from … it’s always been a priority of the AMC to orient folks coming from outside Detroit to this place and particularly the world building and activists here.”


Registration for the AMC is open and to learn more about the AMP, visit the website.

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Lauren Karmo is a reporting intern for Issue Media Group. A student at Oakland University, she is passionate for creative storytelling and the journalism world. Follow her on all social media @laurenkarmo.