Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I do not get out much-building community

It was even more evident when I spent Sunday ill from the smells of autumn and the proximity of people. Within the week I was truly miserable. I knew this would be the likely outcome if I spent Saturday Nov 7th at the Conference and ACM-NE 12th Annual Videofestival.

Reflecting on what else I experienced and why I attended given the health risks follows: It was an historic day. An ACM event had not been hosted in CT since around 1995 when State Cable Law was initially overhauled prior to 2007 with Public Act 07-253
I was optimistic that folks interested in Community Access in CT would be represented at this event in numbers. I had my council authorize a subsidy for 49 participants valued at $980 and only $140 will be expended. The response to the resource and networking opportunity was sadly abysmal but unfortunately not surprising. We have been divided in CT by 2007 law and finding consensus in the community is a major challenge.

As I always do when attending ACM event - I make note of what I call participant tiers. Those who have some income related tie to community access and those who have been tirelessly involved as volunteers for years often decades – once my category; now changed not because I make a related income but because I no longer feel I can remain tireless.

I saw exhaustion in the faces and voices of committed individuals I am coming to know with baby steps. While the exhaustion must have felt like a marathon to the event coordinators and their families I know that in this area of service it was merely a

I have been a volunteer involved with community access for 25 years of which I have had very few hours set aside to enjoy making a video products. I promised myself that I would re-energize every few years with artsy project in the scarcity of hours that are not dedicated to the administrative challenges of service. This year I had the pleasure of producing a 90 minute video during an intense 3 days. I was actually craving for it to be a success because I was needing a win somewhere in life. I was confident in the product for several reasons: advanced use of the technology available to create a unique product, localism in the inspiration and members of the creative team and phenomenal content that inspired me who watched and listened several times in production and never tired of it.

I submitted to ACM-NE in the Arts -Theater category. The content was developed 100% by local talent:– the play, music, acting and video graphic support. The project was the very essence of narrative storytelling. I think I failed to represent the local-ism well enough in the submission paperwork.

I also failed to represent a nominee for an ACM leadership award well enough. If I knew it was an insider award I would not have attempted to get a marathon running volunteer recognized. I submitted the nomination on behalf of a grateful community that found the nominees accomplishments and
commitment to be extremely significant; always going above and beyond the call in service to the mission and goals of preservation and growth of community media. Absent a local ACM presence in CT this individual ensured that her community was an ACM organization member. I do not think those outside CT understand just how challenging it has been to keep the idea of community access alive here.

I knew that the award was targeted for ACM leadership but in the absence of proven CT leadership I was hoping that if a CT person was to be recognized this award could could have been used to rejuvenate communities that have been struggling. Taking nothing away from the actual 2009 honoree - whom would have gotten my nomination in 2010 if the efforts of this year continue to materialize a foundation for a solid ACM presence in CT - I foolishly hoped for a broader context of leadership. I hoped that someone whose day job is not at a PEG facility nor a paid advocacy position could be recognized. I hoped that someone whose leadership was not of a political nature - but was reliable and successful would be able to speak to the drought since 1995 and the lessons still to be learned from 2007...
and it just seems awkward that the award nomination is made by the person for whom the award is made.

I learned that the resources of the West Hartford Community are bountiful and I thought often throughout the day how nice that would have been to know – a few years back when I invested several days researching possible conference accommodations in CT. That year, my employer changed its facility use policy and no longer allowed outside agencies to use its facilities for weekend events. This gave me one less asset to leverage and made planning to host ACM an unattainable goal give everything-else happening or not happening in my community.

I marveled at the luxury of a real Board of Directors and local community support for West Hartford Community TV. I really marveled. I am trying to nurture a community station whose town leadership wants to put the public face of access out-of-business and underwrites government TV production with more than 2 x the budget of the non-profit public channel in recent days this has become even more challenging. Maybe another blog entry.

In summary some said sometimes efforts are not even grassroots they are just sowing seeds. Seeds need much to take root.... I wonder if there is a building community that will nurture the seeds. I am not even certain of my own resolve.

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