From May 12 to 15, 2016 approximately ninety scholars, activists and artists from far and wide (many from both coasts of Canada, as well as participants from India, South Africa, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US) converged on the Lakehead University Orillia campus to take part in the Media Activism Research Conference (MARC). Funded by a SSHRC Connections Grant held by Sandra Jeppesen in Interdisciplinary Studies, and organized by the Media Action Research Group (MARG) the conference was guided by five pillars: feminism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, queer and trans liberation, and anti-capitalism.
Thursday night MARC opened with a welcoming ceremony by the Orillia Native Women’s Group, who smudged and offered the Strong Sister Song as part of the conference land acknowledgement, before the opening keynote panel. The opening panel featured speakers from Shameless magazine, Black Lives Matter Toronto, and Ricochet.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday featured presentation panels and workshops on topics such as Participatory Journalism, Anti-Colonial Media, and Community Media Best Practices, integrating activist and academic speakers together. The conference further transgressed the traditional academic format by offering streams for participatory workshops, strategizing sessions, and media activist skill-shares such as website design, podcast creation, livestreaming protest, and hacker ethics.
MARC culminated in a pop-up art show on Saturday, May 14th at the Orillia Museum of Art and History, featuring a film screening, First Nations, First Screens, curated by Cinema Politica as well as media projects developed over the course of the weekend. The art show was catered fabulously by local vegan restaurant Shine—the food and presentation were spectacular and both Laura and Alex were on hand to keep the food coming and answer any questions about dietary restrictions.
In addition to the strictly conference oriented sessions, we had a Kidzone for children to participate in (mostly) media related activities; a social evening of stellar music and spoken performances at the Brownstone, with a delicious TexMex feast catered by Rachelle who is feedresistance Peterborough; and four yoga sessions to feed our bodies as well as our minds, including an Acro Yoga class by Cee from Toronto, and three morning classes offered by local yoga instructors Sue Sinclair and Rebecca Bolden from KindLiving.
On Sunday things wrapped up with a collaborative Sunday brunch and plenary session where we synthesized what we learned throughout the weekend, and discussed next steps, including development of multimedia proceedings, and where the next conference might be hosted, all over plates of waffles and fresh fruit with real maple syrup and whipped cream. Vern helped us to close the conference with storytelling, a smudge ceremony, and a Traveling Song to send us on our way in a good frame of mind.
We would like to thank all of the conference presenters, participants, artists, volunteers, caterers, Kidzone organizers, and yoga instructors, as well as Conference Services, Madison County, and Security at Lakehead Orillia, the people form Orillia Native Women’s Group, and the kind community members who billeted presenters to make their participation affordable.
Many of the presentations and workshops were livestreamed, and can be viewed, unedited, on the MARG YouTube channel.
MARC organizers: Sandra Jeppesen, Cassidy Croft, Kamilla Petrick, Toni Hounslow, Sharmeen Khan and Ellen Craig.