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AFS Review: Notes

Series of Conversations at the AFS/ISFNR Joint Meeting to Bring Together Folklorists and Activists

Friday, October 14, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate
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By Debora Kodish -- 

I wanted to invite people to a series of conversations at AFS that bring together activists and folklorists, opening space for exploring what we can do together to advance movements for change. Some terrific people will be joining us, connected to #BlackLivesMatter, #NoDAPL and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. All have active campaigns relevant to us. Hoping for chances to reflect on theory and practice (and on transformational work) and to become more visible to one another. Email me at if you want additional information: bios of participants, background and links.

Thursday, October 20, 2-4 PM. “Movements begin with the telling of untold stories”: Media-based organizing in Philadelphia and Florida. Media Mobilizing Project, a Philadelphia-based grassroots media organization will screen Groundwork: Justice in the Birthplace of America, a documentary film about what happens when people stop putting up with injustice and start building a movement. The film turns on five people's interwoven transformation narratives: their stories of how they changed through taking a stand against inequalities directly affecting their communities ( The Coalition of Immokalee Workers will show “Food Chains,” their documentary about how an intrepid and highly-lauded group of Florida tomato pickers are revolutionizing farm labor ( Their story is one of hope and promise for the triumph of morality over corporate greed, to ensure a dignified life for farm workers and a more humane, transparent food chain. Dream Defenders will share work from #SquaDD2016, a satirical presidential campaign aimed at elevating and advancing the visionary politic of young Black and Brown people in the context of the 2016 Presidential Election. Mixing political theater, satire and media strategies, #SquaDD 2016 seeks to educate Black and Brown young people about the power of our vote through providing political education about where each of the candidates stand on issues facing our communities through their platforms and past action ( The media clips will be the basis for discussion about topics including: the role of personal narratives (and other genres) in current movements for justice, the idea that "movements begin with the telling of untold stories," theories and practices of transformative organizing, issues around developing and circulating one’s own media, and means of expanding collective vision and power as part of movement-building. Milena Velis (MMP), Carmen Mason and Silvia Perez (CIW), Steven Pargett (Dream Defenders).  

Friday, October 21, 12:15-2 PM. "What’s going on here?" Conversations and brown bag lunch with Miami activists and cultural workers. Hear what is going on in Florida (and beyond) around social justice and community well-being. Learn about the pressing issues impacting local communities. Consider what these struggles have to do with us and how we can support critical movements for justice. Some questions/ prompts for discussion: How do people imagine and build transformative practice, power and a livable future? What do folklore, culture, history, theory and practice look like (and how are they activated) in current movements for change? What counts as good work? (What does excellent, engaged and accountable folklore / cultural practice look like now?) What does solidarity look like? Come with curiosity and willingness to engage. Bring a brown bag lunch. Featuring: • Coalition of Immokalee Workers (Carmen Mason), and another CIW worker: Transforming food systems/food justice: the Wendy’s boycott, and the work CIW is doing around fair food. • Samuel Tommie: Fighting development (oil and gas), environmental racism, and environmental/water issues in the Everglades and Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. • Betty Osceola: Miccosukee environmental activist: Everglades preservation and water safety issues, cultural preservation, and Standing Rock solidarity  • Dream Defenders (Asha Starks): The Vision for Black Lives platform and where we go from here. 

Friday October 21, 2-4 PM: "What does workplace justice have to do with me?" The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, UNITE HERE, Dream Defenders, and other Florida activists are changing the terms of public discourse around workplace equity, building bridges around racial and economic justice, and using folklore for making visible the relationships we all have to food chains, fair (and unfair) labor practices, livable futures—and one another. This session aims to create opportunities to meet and talk with people involved with important campaigns in Florida (and nationally), to build relationships, and to change how we see ourselves in relation to one another. Questions include: What do the issues of agricultural, hotel, and low-wage workers have to do with all of us (and with the state of occupational folklore, labor, and organizing today?) What are the key issues for which working people are currently fighting? How are organizers working intentionally and intersectionality: linking economic, racial and other issues to build a progressive movement? What are successful principles, strategies, practices? What does it mean to boycott, take action, and be in solidarity? How are activists trying to change culture? Participants (incomplete): Carmen Elida Mason, Silvia Perez and Priscilla Velez (CIW), Mike Hill and Shantol MItchell (UNITE HERE); Bob McCarl (retired), George Gonos and Ali Bustamante (Florida International University, Center for Labor Research and Studies), Milena Velis (MMP). 

Friday October 21, 4-5:30 PM: Take action: Support CIW boycott of Wendy’s by marching to a Wendy’s ½ mile from the hotel. Be part of a letter delegation (presenting a letter to the manager), or stand outside with signs and banners.


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