Here’s the most engaging thing I saw at #2016DML

“My iPhone has more migrant rights than I do.”

So said journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas at the Digital Media and Learning conference this past weekend in Irvine, California. Joined by Professor Henry Jenkins from the University of Southern California, this keynote ranked — for me — as the most engaging in a standout conference.

Both men have personal histories with systemic bias and racism in the United States. Vargas is an undocumented immigrant who moved to the United States at the age of twelve with his family from the Philippines; Jenkins grew up attending segregated schools in Atlanta and, as he says, some of his classmates went on to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center while others joined the Klan. Both men count these experiences as formative to their distinguished careers.

I particularly love the unique ways in which Vargas connects the Dreamer movement to Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ and women’s rights movements, and how media and technology have been integral in changing the culture around these dialogues which result in real-world change for communities. He also connects that the immigration boom in the United States is largely taking place in the South, so the region that has “never really figured out the Black and White thing is now having to grapple with the Latino and Asian thing too.”

(Coincidentally, the keynote is briefly interrupted around 52:23, when Black Lives Matter activists can be heard protesting a nearby speech from the Los Angeles Chief of Police.)

My big takeaway was that the story of this country has always been an immigrant story, and through digital means, we are getting to see that story more prominently, as well as the backlash against those who feel that immigrants threaten “their America.” Through digital and social media, we can get uncomfortable/explore matters that will push us closer to correcting the mistakes of this country. The video is a little lengthy but well worth your time. The conversation really gets going right around the 16:00 mark.

What was your favorite presentation in this year’s DML conference? Tell us in the comments below!


Originally published at thelamp.org on October 10, 2016.