UW News

March 4, 2015

Women Who Rock host fifth annual (un)conference on Saturday

News and Information

The power of social media in fueling movements such as Black Lives Matter, the racial justice campaign sprung from last year’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri, has become increasingly evident in recent years.

Recognition of those grassroots efforts is the focus of the fifth annual Women Who Rock “unconference” event, to be held Saturday, March 7, at Rainier Valley Cultural Center in South Seattle. The event’s theme, Rocking Media Justice, celebrates the use of social media to document the realities of marginalized communities.

wwr_poster_2015_rocking_media_justice“The organizing committee was really inspired by Black Lives Matter and how social media was used to create a different conversation than the one that the mainstream media allowed,” said event co-founder Michelle Habell-Pallán, a UW associate professor in gender, women and sexuality studies.

The free event is organized by the Women Who Rock: Building Scenes, Making Communities project, a collaboration involving University of Washington faculty and students, community organizers and scholars. The project aims to explore the role of women and music in shaping social justice movements and includes feminist curriculum and mentoring at the UW, the annual “unconference” and a digital oral history archive that documents the work of local women musicians, producers, journalists and others.

Saturday’s event kicks off at 11 a.m. with a march to celebrate International Women’s Day. The march starts at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Dawson Street, and participants are encouraged to bring musical instruments and noisemakers — spoons, bowls, whatever is handy — for a clamorous march to the cultural center, the site of the main event.

A roundtable at 1 p.m. will feature women speakers who have been involved in community organizing in Seattle. From 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., smaller group discussions will focus on media justice issues and tactics, while a “skill swap” downstairs will provide a place for attendees to connect and share expertise.

From 6 to 8 p.m., there will be a celebration with cake to mark Women Who Rock’s fifth anniversary. There’s no cost for any of the day’s activities, and children and families are welcome.

Habell-Pallán said as the event has evolved, it has built bridges to the university with people who might otherwise have not envisioned themselves there. She mentions one young woman who performed at the inaugural Women Who Rock event, was encouraged by graduate students she met there to enroll at UW, and recently finished a graduate degree in cultural studies at the UW’s Bothell campus.

“She really had never seen herself at the University of Washington,” Habell-Pallán said. “We’re creating access to a public university whose mission is to educate many populations.”