The Albuquerque Cultural Conference began as a two-day slate of panels and workshops focused on culture as practiced today, and on developing a vision of a more human, collective, supportive culture for the future. The first four conferences, held over Labor Day in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011, have been preceded by a Friday night poetry reading composed of authors published by West End Press along with local performance poets and regional artists of the Southwest. Many of these performers have also served on panels over the weekend.
Beginning with the idea that culture is more than entertainment, we look at the social, economic, and cultural crisis of the present in the context of the history of cultural struggles, current forms of grassroots organizing, and the uses of cultural memory and resilience.
We need to start with the people themselves, not as their teachers and shapers but as their listeners and interpreters. Working with community, academic, and labor-related organizers, we ask how we, as writers and artists, confront the world, and how we can produce and proclaim cultural work relevant to our needs.
Performance is essential to what we do. Every meeting we have includes performance events, such as poetry readings, musical performances, art exhibits, with the possibility of drama or film events or workshops. We are in the process of adapting to social media and networking with other cultural activists with similar broadly based programs around the country.
At the 2010 conference several panels addressed questions of shock and trauma, not only among combatants at war but within the general population. In this area of inquiry, the personal and political are truly joined. What effect has trauma had on our general population, particularly those who are also concerned with bringing about social change? How do trauma studies broaden and deepen our understanding of the social and political tasks we must face in our society?
The 2011 conference focused on issues of political and cultural unity in the Southwestern region.
Organizers and cultural workers from Los Angeles, Oakland, South Texas and Tucson presented stories of culture in crisis and new creations rising to reflect new issues. The 2012 conference, now in planning, will specifically deal with border issues and the role of poets and activists in combating cultural repression. For more information, please see our conference web site, www.albuquerqueculturalconference.org.