Last year, I was privileged to attend part of the Moving Social Justice conference in Los Angeles. It was an invigorating experience. For a weekend, humanist activists were able to stop spending time and energy justifying their focus on making a better world for marginalized people and share information on their challenges and successes in doing the work.
To say it was inspiring is to focus on the least of what that conference was. It was deeply intellectual in a way that only grappling with the complicated realities of applying your principles can be. People spoke frankly about power in ways that acknowledged the tension between institutions and committed, self-organizing small groups. There was real, unflinching frankness without appeals to the popularity of particular opinions.
I’ve never been to a conference like that before. I want to go to many more. In particular, I want to attend the successor conference at the end of this January, the Secular Social Justice conference in Houston.
Obviously, I want to attend this conference for my own sake, but I think I have something to add as well. Last year, I was one of very few attendees live-tweeting the conference. I was by far the most active. No surprise there. This is what I do at a conference when I don’t have a bunch of other responsibilities.
I do it because it opens a conference up to people who can’t afford to attend. It gives them a window on the issues people are talking about and access to the perspectives of speakers whose writings aren’t plastered all over the internet. It makes the messages travel faster.
I particularly want to be able to spread the messages that will be shared at this conference. The first conference has already shifted which topics we discuss in this movement and how. This conference will as well, but I want to be able to push. I’m impatient.
The catch, of course, is that I can’t afford to go on my own. I made it to last year’s conference by working remotely the week before so I didn’t have to take time off during travel, having a spare room to stay in (thanks, Amy!), and giving a talk in town that allowed me to make the plane fare a business expense. Not only will all that not work this year, but I have even less financial flexibility than I had then. I simply can’t spend any of my small amount of income on this conference.
But I still want to go, and I still think reporting out is important. I also think that some of you will agree with me about that importance and want to make it happen, so here’s an opportunity.
I’m not really in a position to offer individual rewards to donors, but if you make it possible for me to go, you can follow along as I and my phone and my trusty backup battery tweet the conference. For those not on Twitter, I’ll also produce session reports here based around those tweets and others from attendees, plus comments on ideas that were too complex to be compressed.
I don’t know how much I’ll need to get to the conference and stay. I’m willing to travel cheaply as needed, and I don’t need to stay in the fancy conference hotel, but costs will depend on when I can buy tickets.
If I raise more than is necessary to get me there, my next priority will be helping Josiah Mannion of Biblename Foto get to the conference. He wants to attend for many of the same reasons I do, and his conference photos serve a similar function to my live-tweeting. They make a conference more accessible to those who can’t attend and help speakers spread their word further and with more impact. So if you folks help us both get there, you’ll have conference photos to go with my reports.
On the odd chance that you help me raise more than that, I’ll coordinate with conference organizers on getting scholarships and/or travel grants to others who want to attend but can’t afford it.
If any of that sounds like something you want to support, donations will be gratefully accepted. Even small donations help. Thank you.