All Power to the Imagination! celebrates tenth anniversary
Many students may be unaware that the largest radical leftist conference in the South, and longest standing in the United States, takes place in their very own backyard. All Power to the Imagination!, a conference entirely organized and run by students, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year this weekend, April 21 to April 23. Along with this radical leftist conference, activists will be marching through the streets of downtown Sarasota to stand up for science, the “first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments,” according to the official March for Science’s website.
The power behind All Power to the Imagination!
All Power to the Imagination! began as a conference organization tutorial taught by Professor of Sociology Sarah Hernandez. James Birmingham (‘06) and two other New College students, Kotu Baja and Jackie Wang, approached her after they attended the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR). They were inspired by the conference but wanted to do something regional to the Southeast and Florida. Thus, the students co-founded API! and the first conference was held in 2008.
Thesis student Sophia Schultz and third-year Ava Howard have been involved in organizing API! for the past three years. This year they have seven working groups, part of their consensus-based, decentralized organization process that means there is no majority-rule and no one all-powerful person. The groups are held accountable by each other rather than a president of the club, according to Howard. The working groups this year include orientation, food, community outreach, direct action planning, finance, accessibility and late night events.
The conference will be held from April 21 to April 23. The API! club began planning around January – it takes about a whole semester to prepare for. Attendees and presenters have come from as far as Mexico and Washington State to participate in the conference.
Schultz and Howard are excited for the presenters who are coming to API!, many of whom have talked at the conference before. Clarissa Rogers, who is returning this year, is an anarchist and educator from Philadelphia and received her Master’s degree in radical pedagogy and education. Last year she taught a workshop called “Activism thru Paolo Freire’s Education for Liberation.” There is also a group from Miami who will give a workshop on D.I.Y (Do it Yourself) publishing as a form of empowerment. Schultz also mentioned that different groups will be tabling throughout the weekend, including an anti-fascist group from Savannah.
“It’s just a different method of education,” Howard said of the conference and why students should attend. “We get so much out of our classes but it’s never that radical but this is an active way to supplement what a lot of New College students are already looking into or are curious about and I think that’s why we do the conference is to fill that hole of knowledge and action that people don’t often get training in.”
Schultz added: “It’s really hard to learn a lot of these things so come if you want to learn something that you can’t just easily find online or learn in a class.”
There will be several different events throughout the weekend including an open mic night, a concert and queer safer space dance party at the Green Bean Coffee House, workshops and panels during the day and direct action. They will be marching along with the March for Science on Saturday, April 22 in support of freedom of knowledge, freedom of resource access and access to a good life.
“They’re really open to having other groups be present and apply their own messages to the March for Science because March for Science doesn’t have any actual political leanings or statements besides like support for science but they’re welcoming to other groups who want to help out,” Howard said.
A March for Science
Sarah Scully, a thesis student at New College, was in Washington D.C. when she heard of the March for Science happening.
“I texted my roommate Kayla Evans and was like, ‘Hey this is cool, we should organize a march here’ and was like kind of joking but then she was like, ‘No, this is great’ and ended up emailing a bunch of people and got it started.”
Along with the march in Sarasota, there are 425 satellite marches happening across the world on Earth Day in conjunction with the march in Washington D.C.
Scully and Evans are core organizers of the march, as well as Blaise de Franco and Dr. Steven Shipman, professor of chemistry and gender studies at New College. As with API!, they have also organized working groups for the march including logistics, financial and fundraising, diversity and inclusion, public relations and outreach.
“Science is under attack right now,” Scully said. “There’s no reason that it should be a political issue at all, but it is and so I figured we might as well counteract that and really show that there is support for science in our community and that people will be willing to step up.”
The march will start at Five Points Park at 10:30 a.m. and end at J.D. Hamel Park, where there will be speakers and different organizations tabling. Scully and the other organizers have released the march route and emphasize that anyone can join in the march at any time and wherever they want. There will be water and shade stations along the route.
Having different local organizations at the march was a key point Scully wanted to include after attending and speaking at the Women’s March in Sarasota, in conjunction with the Women’s March in Washington following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
“I think that was one of my biggest disappointments from the Women’s March was that, you know it was great that there were so many people there and they were so energized but there was nothing to do after and not just immediately after but just like no next steps to take,” Scully said. “That’s what we really wanted to emphasize with this march is that there will be local organizations there that will have ways that you can help them and in turn ways that you can help the local community.”
The march, like API!, is open to everyone.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to come to this march,” Scully said. “This is for scientists, science enthusiasts, scientist supporters, things like that. Anyone who wants to come and has been positively affected by science in their daily lives which hint is everyone.”