Post-Labels: The Futures of Identity, Borders & Activism
In this series on The Renaissance of Utopias, we’re recapping IAM Weekend 17 and bringing you everything we learned and explored in one place.
At the upcoming IAM Weekend 18 (April 27–29, 2018) we’ll be discussing ‘The Subversion of Paradoxes’ looking at the contradictions, collisions and coexistence of realities, in the next 7 years. Join us!
“Who are you?”
“Where are you from?”
Everyday we use these apparently simple questions to label the people we meet both online and IRL. As we get deeper into the Internet Age and keep connecting and travelling more (thanks low cost airlines!) 😉, the answers to these questions become more and more complex, reflecting a fundamental yet often ignored idea: the only true answer to the questions “where is home?” and “where we belong?” is pretty simple: Planet Earth.
During the Post-Labels session of IAM Weekend 17, we heard about the power of the internet in challenging cultural stereotypes and embracing a more sustainable, planetary thinking. Because not only can it help us break down barriers across borders, identities and generations, but it can also help us celebrate our differences.
We started with a big question: How can we break down the algorithmic, mental and physical ‘Berlin walls’ that are keeping us apart? And the stories that Eliza, Xavi, Per, Vanessa and Amani shared in Barcelona helped us believe that, with a critically optimistic outlook, we can imagine and create a world where all voices are represented; where diversity means we’re all different.
Eliza Anyangwe : The Nzinga Effect
Eliza began by asking the audience a simple question:
“Do you decide your labels, or did someone decide them for you?”
How we’re defined, both by ourselves and by others, shapes our lives and behaviours, and to have ownership over those descriptions, marginalised voices need to be given the opportunity to tell their own stories.
Having fought to change this narrative in her previous job at The Guardian, Eliza set up The Nzinga Effect, believing that stepping outside the mainstream, the dominant system, was essential to creating a truly empowering and representative platform.
The Nzinga Effect is also exploring how to reflect this approach as an organisation, asking how it can be a collaborative, feminist, intersectional organisation that both identifies Africa as a continent while also recognising the diversity of African cultures.
To close, Eliza affirmed how diversity just means that all of us are “other”, not that there’s a dominant group and a non-dominant group. When we acknowledge this and create the space for people to tell their own stories, as The Nzinga Effect is doing, we can each decide our own labels.
Xavi Rosiñol : Casa Nostra Casa Vostra
Next up we heard from Xavi Rosiñol, journalist and co-founding member of Casa Nostra Casa Vostra, a campaign created by him together with Lara Costafreda and Ruben Wagensberg, an illustrator and a teacher who had volunteered at refugee camps in Greece, to welcome refugees and encourage the government of Spain (and Europe) to change border policies.
Xavi told the stories of Ahmed and Teresa. Ahmed, a Syrian refugee who had fled Aleppo at the beginning of the war and had managed to make it to Germany to live and work there, but who had a family stuck in a refugee camp in Greece. He was able to visit them, but just for 4 days, and then had to leave them in their tent at the camp.
Teresa, a volunteer nurse, had also gone to work in a hospital that was underfunded, understaffed and under-resourced. To cope with demand, all babies had to be delivered by C-section, with the women sent ‘home’ within 24 hours. Likewise, without chairs in their tents, women were taught how to breastfeed lying on the ground.
With this tragedy happening on our doorstep in 2017(!) Xavi, Lara and Ruben joined forces to gather dozens of NGOS and media partners for the Casa Nostra Casa Vostra platform which created a number of events, including the largest ‘refugees-welcome’ march in Europe.
With this kind of civic initiatives, and by believing in how things could be different, a journalist, an illustrator and a teacher, successfully connected more than 500,000 citizens bringing the crisis back into the media and putting pressure on governments to change their policies.
Per Christiansen : momondo
“Why was a travel search engine invited to a Post-Labels session?” you may ask. When Per Christiansen, head of global marketing at momondo jumped on the stage with 6 packs of DNA tests and shared their viral campaign ‘The DNA Journey” the answer was clear: because in a way, we all are cousins.
momondo’s purpose-driven value promise is simple: if they make easier and cheaper to travel, more people will have an open mind transforming travel into a source of inspiration and development, a force against intolerance and prejudice.
The young Copenhagen-based startup, recently acquired by The Priceline Group — owners of KAYAK and other travel brands, realised that DNA is what all humans have in common and used a DNA test-based campaign to prove it.
Per also shared other initiatives they are supporting as their collaboration with CISV International, a non-profit global organisation dedicated to educating and inspiring action for peace. momondo is funding a CISV Village in Brazil where children from all around the world come together, learn about their cultural differences and make friendships across borders, promoting a forgotten yet powerful idea: global friendship.
Before leaving the stage, Per did a symbolic act during the DNA test kits giveaway. Before throwing them randomly to the audience he gave a simple instruction: if you get the pack, you must give it to the person sitting next to you. 💙
Vanessa Wruble : Women’s March
Last January more than 500,000 people marched in Washington D.C. also joined by other 5,000,000 people around the world to protest against the toxic narrative and legislation the new President of the United States has been promoting since his campaign days.
The Women’s March became the largest single-day protest in the history of US and we were lucky enough to have one the founders, Vanessa Wruble on stage, who played a significant role as Head of Campaign operations and shared her very personal journey as an activist with us.
When we first invited Vanessa, we asked to share the story and vision of her other main project: Okayafrica, a project she started with Questlove (of The Roots) and business partner Ginny Suss, which is now the largest media company focusing on a forward-thinking, nuanced view of Africa today. But just a few months before IAM Weekend 17 and with the election of Trump disrupting everything, her priorities shifted and she ended up fighting on behalf of all marginalized people, and ensure the end of structural patriarchy.
Activism can also be post-labeled. Women’s March is not only about women’s rights. They are also advocating legislation and policies regarding human rights and issues as immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights.
Vanessa is now leading the next step of the momentum created by Women’s March and with the resistance movement: March On, to take “concrete, coordinated actions at the federal, state, and local level.”
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh : Muslim Girl
Closing the session was Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a young media activist and founder of MuslimGirl.com, a media outlet created to normalise the word ‘muslim’ for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike and challenge the narratives and stereotypes built around muslim women.
MuslimGirl.com seeks not only to publish muslim women writers but also to represent the diversity of the female muslim experience. The more informed we are, the less our decisions and actions, as individuals, collectives and countries, will be defined by out of date prejudices. As Amani says
“the personal is political.”
The community she has created has since gone from strength to strength, harnessing the borderless, democratic and sometimes anonymous wave of power that social media has created to authentically portray female muslim experiences.
MuslimGirl.com’s rise has also led to launching other projects like Muslim Women’s Day and a partnership with Getty images to create a new stock photo collection showcasing a broad range of muslim women just doing things that they’d normally do. When media organisations use these images, they can directly shift their typical a dark narrative into one of light.
To that end, MuslimGirl.com, and the use of social media, has allowed muslim women, step by step, to reclaim the labels that political powers have imposed on them for years. In doing so, Amani has shown that representation is not just a matter of convenience, but of humanity.
To build better futures, we must ensure that a diverse range of voices is always represented, but it’s also crucial to recognise that we can’t just group different voices together. The diversity within each group is just as important. When we promote this, we can highlight injustices and break down barriers.
We have to go beyond thinking about the future as a single destination and instead think about Futures in plural. Every one of our futures will be different, and as we seek to invent better alternatives for those futures, celebrating that difference, embedding it into the media narrative and supporting those perspectives less represented is critical.
Now ask yourself again…. where are you from?