The All Power to the Imagination! (API!) Conference was described by co-founder and alumnus James Birmingham (‘06) as the longest running student-organized radical left conference in the United States. This spring marks the first time since 2008 that API! will not be returning to campus.
API! was born out of a Conference Organizing tutorial in 2007, sponsored by Professor of Sociology Sarah Hernandez. Birmingham, along with Jackie Wang and Kotu Bajaj, created the tutorial after attending the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR). Noting a lack of radically left conferences in the South, they decided to make something happen at New College.
“I don’t think any of us thought this was going to be an annual thing,” Birmingham said in an email interview. “I wasn’t even really involved in organizing it the second year.”
The first conference only had three organizers, who stuck with what Birmingham called a “more traditional” conference format than latter API! conferences did. The keynote speaker brought in by the organizers was Ashanti Alston, a former Black Panther member turned anarchist who used to write the Anarchist Panther zine.
As API! grew, it began to attract a wide variety of interested presenters. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers came every year for 11 years. Earth First! presented a number of times, including facilitating a tree climbing workshop. Performance and workshops of all kinds abounded, from oyster cultivation to musical improvisation. API! represented the intersection of radical left organizers not just in the South but from around the world. Moreover, the conference had a huge effect on the students involved.
“It was the only conference at NCF organized by primarily students and I know it prepared a lot of API! organizers for conferences in both graduate school and on-the-ground activism,” Birmingham said. “We hosted speakers from all over the world and exposed students to educational experiences that rarely happen in the classroom.”
API! attempted to bridge the gap between radical theory and practice. The presentations, discussions and workshops held over the years were all intended to bring together academia and activism.
“API will be an opportunity to discuss how theory and practice can work together to create stronger, more successful social movements,” reads the conference website. “It operates on the principle that anyone interested in positive action can contribute to and learn from the discourse, experiences and methodologies of those actively engaged in efforts to change the world in a positive way”
The current organizers of API! could not be reached for comment.
Information for this article was gathered from allpowertotheimagination.com