2023 Call for Proposals

Conference on Community Writing™ 2023
“Activating Radical Imagination”

Call for Proposals

Keynote Address and Game with Ozy Aloziem and Bobby LeFebre
Keynote Conversation with Christina Cedillo, Ersula Ore, and Kimberly Wieser

Denver, CO
October 12-14, 2023
Hosted by the University of Denver

Deadline for proposal submissions: Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Coalition for Community Writing invites you to co-create with us in community, to explore collaborations, and to activate radical imagination at the fifth biennial Conference on Community Writing. The conference brings together community residents, organizers, nonprofit leaders, writers, artists, journalists, digital storytellers, mindfulness teachers, school teachers, students, scholars and more, who all theorize, enact, and write the stories of community change. CCW focuses on community writing, capaciously defined, as a framework to explore how change happens. In the work of social change, community writing is necessary, contemplative, therapeutic, coalition-building, and action-based. People coordinate strategies, design courses and curricula, preserve stories of the past, make public art, contest local histories, compose grant proposals, perform community theater, create protest signs, and much, much more.

In 2023, the Conference on Community Writing will be held in person and online and will engage the theme “Activating Radical Imagination.” Building on multiple lineages of activists, Denver-based social work professor and social justice imagineer Ozy Aloziem invites us to use radical imagination as a tool for joyful practice and “imagining a world that doesn’t exist” (1) in order to construct more just worlds in the present. Given the entrenched and interconnected violences that structure our worlds, this work can feel impossible, especially in the midst of grief and anger.

While we make inroads and build coalitions through hundreds of projects in our neighborhoods and across the world, unless these structures of oppression are tackled “radically,” from the Latin “root,” systems will not change. Radical imagination is both influenced by and influences longstanding traditions such as Black feminist thought, disability justice, trans liberation, queer of color critique, Indigenous sovereignty and efforts to repatriate stolen land, and many more movements that not only foundationally center community flourishing but also direct us toward transformative, life-affirming social change.

At its core, all of this root work requires imagination. As Aloziem explains,“Crisis blows open the door to what is possible,” urging creativity and wonder over fear and despair. Radical imagination, then, can serve as a spark for what Carmen Kynard calls “doing the work” (2) toward disrupting the violences perpetuated by universities and other institutions. So too must our community work of envisioning and co-creating more just worlds be collectively guided by and called into being through a joyful practice rooted in what bell hooks called “a love ethic” or “love as a practice” (3). Only through such an ethic of collective care and reciprocal support can these possibilities be realized.

Similarly, radical imagination is a collective practice and a process. In The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity, Khasnabish and Haiven explain, “The radical imagination is not just about dreaming of different futures. It’s about bringing those possibilities back from the future to work on the present, to inspire action and new forms of solidarity today.” In Freedom Dreams: Black Radical Imagination, Robin Kelley asks: “How do we produce a vision that enables us to see beyond our immediate ordeals? How do we transcend bitterness and cynicism and embrace love, hope, and an all-encompassing dream of freedom?” Coming together to practice radical imagination we hope to, to paraphrase Mariame Kaba (4), let this moment radicalize us, rather than lead us to despair. The conference will center BIPOC voices and theoretical frameworks in discussions of and actions toward the “radical transformation” of institutions that Ersula Ore, Kimberly Wieser, and Christina Cedillo call for in their four journal special issues (5) published in the last year in the fields of rhetoric and writing studies. Radical imagination offers a framework, a tool, and a process for radical transformation that allows people to imagine a more just world than currently exists and to begin to collaboratively work that world into being.

Our Invitation to You

In October, 2023, the Coalition for Community Writing (CCW) and the University of Denver call together people involved or interested in community writing to convene in Denver, Colorado to collectively activate radical imagination in order to create a space for coalition building, idea sharing, action, and celebration. When we come together in Denver, we will use and act in radical imagination as a tool and as a process for community writing as we reflect, connect, and organize together toward more just and joyful communities and institutions, toward radical transformation. We will meet in a different area of the city each day, highlighting some of the activist, civic, and academic spaces where community writing comes to life, from the historically Black and culturally vibrant Five Points neighborhood, to the bustling downtown city center, to the University of Denver campus. 

Example Questions and Topics to Consider

We invite proposals that may consider questions and topics such as:

 

  • What work does the current historical moment call forth in us, and what models, methodologies, case studies, and theories can you share to help others collaboratively activate radical imagination?   
  • What models exist for significant institutional transformations, and what models do we need to create?  How can we use radical imagination to do that work?  
  • How do community writers use genres such as blogs, podcasts, games, manifestos, graffiti, mural art, social media, theater, and more to tell stories of community?
  • How might using and acting in radical imagination impact courses, curricula, and programs?
  • How does community writing address systemic racism; cisheteropatriarchy; ableism; environmental and health injustice; economic injustice; and barriers to civil rights and equity for all people?
  • Who activates resistance in and for communities through community writing and radical imagination? 
  • How do people write through trauma and pain, and how does community writing support them in this work? How do communities create room for self-care, meditation, healing, and thriving? How do they write through joy, love, and collective care?
  • How do policies that affect communities get written? Whose narratives are those policies based on? Who is seen and not seen? How do communities build power to affect those policies?
  • How does the frame of radical imagination help build reciprocity and the sharing and celebrating of multiple forms of knowledge across academic and non-academic community spaces? 

We welcome proposals that engage, demonstrate, theorize, and offer methodologies related to community writing and activating radical imagination in any number of creative and collaborative ways.  

Propose a Speaking or Creative Role

Concurrent Interactive Workshops (90-minute sessions)

Workshop sessions center highly interactive presentation and collaborative work with audiences who are both academic and non-academic stakeholders for community writing. Successful workshop proposals will provide a brief theoretical background and/or a discussion of community context, a presentation of fruitful collaboration, and practical tasks for the audience that the workshop panel might facilitate. These interactive sessions help attendees learn new skills and processes that they can apply in their own lives, neighborhoods, or places of work. Past workshops have focused on fundraising and grant writing for nonprofits, community organizing and activism, building relationships between colleges and community organizations, among many other topics. 

Concurrent Session Formats (60-minute sessions)

While we ask presenters to provide access copies to make stretches of talk more accessible, we are hoping to break free of the common “read dense paper + Q&A” and strongly encourage talks that are more interactive and dynamic. Please specify in your proposal how to plan to generate interaction with attendees.

Question-Posing Session

For question-posing sessions, an applicant or a group of applicants will propose a question of shared interest/concern that is relevant to community writing and radical imagination. Attendees can choose to join in a 60-minute conversation about the issue the question raises, facilitated by the applicant(s). In a proposal, please explain the relevance and importance of the question to conference-goers as well as a format for facilitating engagement around the question.

Group and Individual Panel Presentation Session 

A 60-minute full panel session typically consists of 3-4 speakers/facilitators leading for about 10-15 minutes each, offering plenty of time for shared Q&A. A group of speakers may propose a plan for a full 60-minute panel, or individuals may propose a 10-15 minute dynamic presentation that will be combined with others by the Conference Planning Committee. 

For full panels where group members will segment the time, please be sure to specify each individual presentation title and professional affiliation for each speaker, if applicable. Please also indicate who will serve as panel chair. 

Roundtable Discussion Session

In a 60-minute roundtable, participants will engage in a focused discussion on a specific theme with one or more facilitators guiding or moderating the dialogue. Roundtables should be proposed as full panels, but with the full time used for discussion among presenters and audience members. Roundtable discussion proposals should include a list of talking points, discussion questions attendees may be asked to consider, relationship between the speakers, and an explanation of the practical relevance of the discussion. Please be sure to specify the individual talk titles and professional affiliations for each speaker in the application, if applicable. Please also indicate who will serve as roundtable chair. 

Guided Contemplative Practice Session

In a 60-minute Guided Contemplative Practice Session, facilitators will lead participants through a guided contemplative or meditation practice. If your session requires movement, please put this into the description for attendees’ accessibility considerations.

Shared Text Session

For shared text sessions, applicants can propose a short text—an article, book chapter, video, art, game, object, etc.—for participants to collectively engage with during a 60-minute session. Facilitators must circulate their text of choice in advance of the conference, and participants should arrive ready to discuss, create, or play. All shared text sessions should feature texts that are relevant to community writing and the 2023 CCW conference theme. 

Work-in-Progress Session 

In small groups arranged by the conference planning committee, participants at any level of experience and expertise will each share a brief description of a work-in-progress related to community writing or the conference’s shared concerns and solicit either general feedback or guidance based on specific questions the participant has about their project. 

Graduate Research Forum (Double Session)

The graduate research forum is a space for graduate students to collaboratively think through issues in their current or planned research projects related to community writing or the conference’s shared concerns. Proposals to participate in the forum should include a brief sketch of the research project along with particular questions the researcher hopes to work through with peers and mentors. Selected participants will be expected to share an updated sketch and questions prior to the conference.

Additional Virtual Options (We are exploring possibilities for hybrid options at the moment with more information coming in early spring)

 

Creative Display 

Artistic and/or performative expressions including digital storytelling, digital poster, visual, audio, podcast, photography, interview, and kinetic ideas of community and change. Please include in your proposal the time requirements for the proposed creative display with a 12-minute limit. These will be pre recorded and shared with participants in the conference’s online space as well as the physical space of the conference. Attendees will be able to post comments and questions asynchronously. 

Submission Details

Proposals for all formats should be 250-500 words. The proposal portal will open in December 2022. Submission deadline is Sunday, February 5, 2023. To access the proposal portal or to find conference information, visit the conference website: www.communitywriting.org. Check back regularly for updates. To ensure that you receive all conference information, we recommend that you subscribe to the Coalition for Community Writing listserv.

With gratitude, we ask that all in person and virtual presenters be Coalition for Community Writing members at the time of the conference and plan to register for the conference at an early bird rate between May-July 2023, if at all possible. This helps the host committee to plan and to create the best experience for you. Membership is not required to submit a proposal, though we sure do appreciate the support if you’re able. 

We ask all presenters, in-person and virtual, to please peruse our Presentation Accessibility Guide, developed by CCW Board member, Ada Hubrig. We will make it available on the CCW website in early 2023.

Footnotes

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