Burning Man Global Leadership Summit #bmglc14 happened April 3rd-6th in San Francisco and could not be contained a single space. It was in three large buildings with 300+ attendees with a mass of workshops and meeting spaces. This includes Burning Man HQ and the infamous CELL Space.
My name is Toaster and though it is my policy (with the exception of 3 previous posts) not to make posts in the first person; so apologies by a slightly more personalized position of this particular trip report. I am hoping that Gloria and Bobby will also give in depth reports from their perspective.
Day 1: April 4
I skipped the pre-conference schtuff at the BMHQ for a variety of reasons mostly due to the fact I had to go to work after the daily meetings and wanted to minimize the stress on my weekend. So, I opted to come in Friday and had a rather interesting day.
After meeting some queer community partners like Bobby, Jim from Atlanta and more, I dug in to listen and hear about all the changes happening at Burning Man and the welcoming of so many leaders from all over of the world.
- Larry Harvey & Micheal Mikel are effectually retired.
- Marian Goodell is the Burning Man CEO
- Burning Man is almost completely transferred over to Burning Man Project; a non-profit
Day 2: April 5
We got a great sneak peek of the temple and a variety of other art projects, community regionals events and more being produced all around the world. There were many workshops, deeper conversations, and a party later that evening. But, Larry and Marian talked to the crowd, too.
Day 3: April 6
The wrapping up… the slow cumbersome completion of the event that some people had to flee in the middle of in order to catch flights all over.
Is that it? No…
Starting off, this is my 3rd Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (2011, 2012) and each year has been vastly different. This year cam with some baggage so note or ignore the items in italics. Having skipped 2013 and just came out of the Queer Burner Leadership Summit a week ago I came with something of an agenda to help positively promote the Gayborhood and other queer camps.
Side Note: I was also dealing with some real issues still pending with the Regional Network of Burning Man where there have been a number of challenges. Seeing Meghan R, Marian and others have been a challenge.
There always seems to be some vein of topics people want to know more about each year and come up at these events. This is beside the normal topics of discussion like getting people motivated and whatever ticket drama is going on.
Conflict / Physical & Sexual Assault: There were two sessions on this subject. I attended the second and ease dropped on the first one for a bit. Part 1 seemed to be filled with a lot of emotion while the second was more focused on processes and mechanisms in place combating this issue.
- Transformus: North Carolina Burners have an acculturated process already in place for their Regional Event; it has virtually eliminated these problems and given them the mechanism to confront these issues quickly as a community. (web site)
- Secure Sanctuary: New project looking for people to start jumping on board. It seeks to add a new layer of acculturation for camps to provide a very temporary safe space for people in trouble while on the playa and speed them into whatever services they need: EMS, Rangers, Etc… (Facebook front page / Facebook group work project page)
There is some genuine concern on this issue and it seems that the Boston and N.C. community have made huge strides into this subject on their own local levels.
Secure Sanctuary is a bit of shameless self promotion as it is something that a group of us started to visualize out of a recent burner meetup. Although I have been the loud voice on it so far I am hoping to see this get wings.
Getting the Burning Man Project Word Out
The word of the day is Art and Community. If someone were counting the repetition of words out there those two might have seen themselves more than any.
According to Harley K. DuBois, Burning Man is coming to the fruition of many changes this year and is almost fully migrated to the Burning Man Project as a Non-Profit. Her core expression was about the Community of Burning Man. This project will help promote art in every way possible.
While Harley spoke about Community “…in any form…” we are still missing something important to this writer; an acknowledgement of LGBTQ++ needs and the realization that part of the physical threat on playa includes homophobia.
This is a capital concern for me and something the Regional Network does not seem to be able to wrap their heads around. They refuse to deal with the LGBTQ community stating our needs are really the same as any member of the community and are not special; that from a group of stright white people.
The Regional Network, with all it’s flaws and successes, falls under that new non-profit. Regional Contacts (R.C.’s) are all volunteer liaisons to their communities and guardians of the Burning Man brand.
Jim “Ron John” Graham – Burning Man PR Guru –
“Larry Harvey is interested in community and all the manifestations that it brings…”
Burning Man Regional Network
There are some new and old faces at the wheel for the this part of Burning Man that is an active doorway to the Burning Man communities. They have official representatives called Regional Contacts and they represent geographical locations and 1 cyberspace location of Burners.
For most of my engagement with the Regional Network there has been this passive denial of right to exist from the Regional Network for the LGBTQ community within Burning Man like the one created with Queer Burners. It has been quite frustrating as their occasional support would be helpful in the building of this community. Network Guru: Sauce spent a lot of time with me at the GLS promising to renew this relationship in a positive way and let see what happens.
While Marian Goodell is now CEO it seems like the Regional Network has become the project for Meghan Rutigiano (aka Megs). Since she is is the remaining voice of the network since Marian and Andie Grace moved on (another story) it comes with a lot of hope that the future will be brighter.
What could the Regional Network offer that is important? There are a number of things including resources and support that are generally helpful in building community. Tools for leadership and the occasional voice of reason.
- An LGBTQ set of regionals? Why not?
- A channel into their closed off network?
Our own Kitten has been a voice for me more often than I can count. He is of the feeling that we really do not need the Regional Network anyway. I feel that this community is a self evolved and important service to LGBTQ++ people. We do not deserve anything. We do, however, deserve the same respect as the other communities in the Burning Man culture and not to be discounted just because LGBTQ++ is attached to the name.
This network also helps keep community leaders above board with Regional Events like Lakes of Fire, Element-11, Apogea, and Forgotten City. Check these out on your own.
Along with the new Burning Man (Project) there is still a lot of the old Burning Man people still around. Harley spoke of those so in love with their roles that they refuse to leave and it makes the flow of growth stagnant. Some people have been pushed along while some remain steadfast in their places.
We cannot so easily brush off the dust and cast out the ghosts. There are A LOT OF Burning Man Regional Contacts who hang on the network and get the perks but do nothing to advance it.
Change has made an impact on the Burning Man culture, but the many of the same people at the GLS were the same people from 2 and 3 years ago in the same outfits, same hair, same ideals. Many are in the same clicks with all their fame wrapped up in their burner personality. How creative is that?
We cannot evolve without change. Burning Man itself is radically evolving right now and faced with having to be more commercial and maintaining their identity and commitment to the 10 Principles. The Org (Burning Man Organization) is doing a pretty good job overall. The GLS and local leadership events springing up all over the world are proof of that. However, we have to get them to be more sensitive to people needs even if they do not fit perfectly into a utopian dream where we all are one loving culture. Because, there is homophobia and hate out there and some come to Burning Man.
I arrived at the GLS and kept largely to myself burdened with a feeling of being spurned largely by the community because I want LGBTQ++ needs heard. Safety is important. Plus, I personally want the community at large to know the Gayborhood has an important role for people. There have been a few incidents where leadership withing Burning Man has been disparaging of LGBTQ people and derogatory about the Gayborhood and the people in it. Making them understand it is a place of safety and a part of the city the really dives back is important. If not to quell snide remarks by calling it the Gay Ghetto, but to be just a bright part of the city with neon flags at the center of it all.