As we prepare for our 2022 Annual Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we are resolved to gather and make space for the needs of our members, showing up for the field and for the communities that we partner with, even as national political issues once again overwhelm us with the threat of division and domination.
We’re always eager to meet, given that our annual meeting creates the space for the conversations that challenge and sustain us throughout the year, especially when so many of us feel professionally vulnerable or overwhelmed. This year, we look forward to convening for the first fully in-person meeting in three years, after two additional years of deferred planning. The plans and local partnerships begun in advance of the 2020 meeting have continued to develop and grow in the intervening years, providing an inspiring model of what longer-term local engagement can achieve, both for programs and for relationships.
We are even more eager to meet in Tulsa now, when the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs Ruling overturning Roe v Wade has sparked anger, sadness, outrage, and action across the nation. We know that many of our members are joining in the nation-wide calls to action as trigger laws that limit or deny abortion rights are taking effect in numerous states, including Oklahoma.
Shortly after Oklahoma’s abortion ban was announced in April, AFS staff, members of the local committee and partner organizations, Local Learning, and the Cultural Diversity Committee held a regularly-scheduled planning meeting in Tulsa and weighed concerns about meeting in light of the new reality. They agreed that AFS should maintain current plans as well as hold space at the meeting to work together toward their multiple advocacy goals. Oklahoma’s abortion ban joins the list of the persistent concerns that communities in Oklahoma continue to address, including issues of systemic racism, Indigenous rights, and political and social intransigency. We want to meet where we can have an impact, as well as learn from and work in collaboration with our local partners. Indeed, the annual meeting provides the infrastructure for the conversations that build, support, and grow our field in ways that allow us to more effectively and compassionately advocate within our own communities and those with which we work.
In coordination with the local committee and Tulsa collaborators, we are planning a series of events and activities that will provide space for all attendees to reflect upon and discuss these persistent concerns and to act in solidarity with those who are most impacted by them. The annual meeting can be a space to voice our opinions about social issues, to share our wide-ranging knowledge and various experiences, to come together to strategize individual and group responses, and to coordinate action with our collaborators on the ground. These opportunities include a forum on “Oklahoma Politics and Women’s Rights,” a forum on “2SLGBTQ+ History and Activism in Oklahoma,” a panel and a plenary lecture about the history and impact of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a forum about land sovereignty in Oklahoma, a forum about #Metoo and how folklorists can respond, an event focused on food security, and a forum addressing the war in Ukraine and how we can support colleagues experiencing the trauma of war. There will also be a 3-part “un-conference” series focused on activism in our communities, advocacy for our professional spaces, and the sustainability of the field of folklore at an uncertain time. We are also scheduling time for decompression after sessions that engage in potentially traumatic topics. You can find more information about these events and more in the preliminary program.
We encourage you to reach out to our staff to share additional resources or plans to coordinate gatherings that are open to annual meeting attendees. Our goal is to create activities and spaces that will provide opportunities for AFS members to define their needs and enact their values at the annual meeting. Contact us at [email protected].
Dr. Marilyn M. White, AFS President
Dr. Jessica A. Turner, Executive Director
AFS Executive Board