A fabulous meeting of minds and talents is only a month away. The fourth annual Albuquerque Cultural Conference will welcome attendees with a September 28th reception at the Center for Peace and Justice (202 Harvard SE, 4:30 p.m.). Billed as a potluck, La Montanita Co-Op will provide light refreshment and drinks. At 7:30 that evening The Outpost Performance Space will once again be the scene of the poetry reading and concert that in years past so successfully inaugurated the weekend of events. This year’s featured readers are an exciting mix of local and national talent: Anya Achtenberg, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Sasha Pimentel Chacon, Damien Flores, Jessica Helen Lopez, David Martinez, Mary Oishi, Margaret Randall, Luis Rodriguez, Levi Romero, Andrea Serrano, Susan Sherman, Richard Vargas, and Lenore Weiss.
The Albuquerque Cultural Conference is hosted by West End Books, John Crawford’s local independent publishing endeavor with international range. Besides continuing to bring out stunning titles (mostly poetry, by a diversity of authors in a variety of voices), West End has committed itself to putting on the three-day conference since 2007. A committee of community activists now share in the organizing.
Not willing to aim low, the first conference in 2007 called on “organizers, writers, artists, journalists, teachers, architects and dreamers from all cultures to join in planning a new society based on mutual respect, alternative education, and democratic expression.” Artists and activists came from all over the country, and that first event was a learning experience as well as successful in and of itself.
With severe economic crisis upon us the following year, the 2008 Conference “sought to encourage us to further our common work, stressing personal and political forms of empowerment.” Panels looked at the crisis as well as at our history of grassroots organizing, questions of leadership, and the uses of cultural memory and resilience.
There was no conference in 2009. Organizers felt the need to regroup and re-access. A network of participants continued to be in touch with one another, though, and groundwork was laid for future gatherings. In 2010 participants looked more closely at “economic collapse, community impoverishment and joblessness, the educational vacuum, the prison industrial complex, the threatened loss of democratic ideals, the border wars, and the Middle Eastern conflict” among much else.
The 2011 Conference exceeded all expectations. More than 150 participants and attendees proclaimed it the best yet. Reflecting the times, trauma and cultural survival were once again emphasized, and exploration of these themes went deeper with an eye toward possible strategies and solutions. A decision, applauded by everyone present, was that of not scheduling more than one panel per time slot. The diverse contributions were so good, no one want to have to have to choose between them.
This year’s Conference promises to build on its four predecessors. All information, including a complete schedule, list of performers and panelists, admission fees, lodging, food and more, can be found on the Conference web page at: http://albuquerqueculturalconference.org. As in past years, all Saturday and Sunday sessions will be held at The Harwood Art Center (1114 7th Street NW, corner Mountain Rd.). Panels will include: “The Southwest Border,” “Crossing Borders of Our Own,” “Building a Culture of Resistance,” “Can Tucson Happen Here?” “Cosmopolitanism and Self-Definition—Some Existing Cultures,” “Survival is a Form of Resistance,” “Education for Freedom and Justice,” “Community Development and Community Culture,” and “Community Writing 1: Theory and Practice.” “Culture and Community of the Border,” with Sandra Soto, Michelle Otero, Kamala Platt and Luis Rodriguez, promises to be particularly vibrant. As it did last year, “Community Writing II: Albuquerque Slam Tradition” will have an energetic presence. On “Local Cultural Publishing” the editors of Albuquerque’s outstanding literary journals will talk about their ongoing projects.
The Albuquerque Cultural Conference is a hometown event with a national flavor. At least two-dozen well-known poets and performers are expected from across the country. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, Minneapolis, Appalachia, El Paso and other cultural hubs will be represented. The event is an opportunity for local artists, activists, and passionate spectators to hold a meaningful exchange with cultural activists from other parts of the country.
The Conference depends on community support, so I urge those interested in attending to register early. For those who may not make up their minds until the event itself, tickets will be available on site. This is a unique gathering with a whole lot to offer.