Growing the Adjacent Possible
What do you draw from your roots? What remedies are you cultivating? What is your vision of our future? These questions were posed at the 3rd Annual Roots & Remedies Conference in Detroit last month. Hundreds came from across the country and beyond to collectively explore these questions and more. Building of the adjacent possible – creating networks, sharing information, reconstructing relationships – with each other and the world around us in the present moment to affect the most massive changes in society, and how to do it with the people in the room was an overarching theme. This conference focused on harnessing the power, information, and talent of each participant then multiplying it exponentially through deliberate opportunities to share.
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which present can reinvent itself… the strange and beautiful truth is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations.” -Steven Johnson
Small group topical break-out sessions at Roots & Remedies 3. Photo credit: Tasneem Penn for Third Eye Lens.
“It is important for organizers, healers, and cultural workers to have a space for reflection, connectivity, and action. Roots & Remedies is one of those spaces, as space that allows us all to make beautiful trouble,” says Beatriz Beckford of Brooklyn representing MXGM, BUGS, and WhyHunger reflecting on her most recent trip to Detroit.
The conference started on Friday, July 18th with tours that grounded participants in Detroit, highlighting examples of spaces that illustrate the community-minded ethic that runs deep in this city. Folks visited places like D-Town Farm, Oakland Avenue, and the Boggs Center and spoke with members, workers, and founders, allowing for a deeper understanding of place and context.
At dusk, the group was welcomed warmly in Paradise Valley Park by Jessica Care Moore, Stephanie Christ’ian, and music by an array of Detroit artists as the sounds mixed with the sweet summer breeze. Against the neon pink banners surrounding the stage, African drummers played and boldly led a procession of everyone in the park through the front door of the Carr Center Gallery. Participants entered into a dinner that encompassed strolling conversation, as tables inside the gallery were set with a team of Detroiters that informed guests of several current realities in the city, while breaking bread.
Every fifteen minutes people were encouraged to switch tables learn about another aspect such as: the youth movements in Detroit, the bankruptcy and emergency management, the fight to protect water as a public utility that serves the people of Detroit, etc. In a large group setting in the upper gallery people from all over the country shared what’s going on in their neck of the woods. The legacy of activist Charity Hicks, specifically her work on water was uplifted in a video tribute and conversation circles at the end of the night.
Roots & Remedies joined voices with thousands from: National Nurses United, Netroots Nation, National Action Network, Netroots Nation, People’s Water Board Coalition, and Robin Hood Tax, demanding water be restored to Detroiters. Photo credit: Bryce Detroit for Detroit Recordings.
Shared Struggle, Shared Strength
Instead of comfortably pontificating or theorizing about issues that currently confront the people of Detroit, Roots & Remedies attendees jumped in the fire. Participants joined forces with the Peoples Water Board Coalition, Netroots Nation, National Nurses United, Robin Hood Tax, local leaders, and concerned citizens for a massive demonstration in downtown Detroit. Over a thousand souls stood in solidarity with the people of Detroit, and affirmed water as a human right and a commons. Because of the physical sharing of this space, information and stories, this demonstration was readily shared through numerous digital networks and lead to trending hashtags demanding international attention.
Sharing as an Act of Resistance
Whenever we share, we connect. Whether sharing information, perspective, or moving something out of the marketplace and into the realm of the gift — we give a piece of ourselves, and both become more human. “I always have a lot of stuff in my car, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a swap,” said Caprice Woods of Detroit, “so I created a little space and opened a free market for conference goers, and so many people brought things out of their bags to swap – books, jewelry – and then folks began to swap their information for future use.”
Miz Corona performs with Urban Stringz, illuminated by a message from the Detroit Light Brigade at the ‘I Do Mind Dying: Live Action Mixtape’ experience at New Center Park.
Connect. Plot. Build. Repeat.
Artists, activists, and concerned citizens will continue to connect and build on the conversations that were started at this conference. Participants are also dedicated to continued sharing in the digital realm. The culminating performance experience “I Do Mind Dying: Live Action Mixtape” is an example of collaboration, a digital continuation of the conversation, and opportunities for media sharing across the network. The closing event, held at New Center Park, included a parade led by the Renaissance HS drumline, an all-star performance lineup, projections by Complex Movements, and interactive participatory live art. Performances by each artist in their entirety from this event will be shared online beginning soon. Check out the trailer below.
Detroit I Do Mind Dying–July 2014, New Center Park from Kate Levy on Vimeo.
Expressions of gratitude abound for the work being done by community, especially for the Praxis Project, Community Justice Network for Youth, Alliance for Educational Justice, and Communities Creating Healthy Environments, for convening and supporting this conference. The dedication to create a space for artists, activists, educators, and policy makers to intersect and grow national and international networks is immeasurably appreciated. #wagelove