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Annika Backstrom 2 months ago
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Title: XOXO 2019
Slug: xoxo-2019
Summary: Another XOXO has come and gone, with an emphasis on Community.
Date: 2019-09-11 00:40
Category: Personal
Tags: xoxo
Status: draft

Another XOXO has come and gone. For those of you who don't know of the XOXO
Festival, it's billed as an "experimental festival for independent artists who
live and work online." I've been fortunate enough to attend each festival since
2015.

One of the features of XOXO is a weekend of talks by creators of all sorts:
podcasters, writers, artists, musicians, videographers, and more, many of whom
blur the lines or defy categorization. Often, speakers choose to talk not of
their successes, but of the challenges they face. As a festival for creators,
many of these challenges are shared by those in the audience, or else are things
we've experienced through the eyes of our friends and peers. The vulnerability
and honesty on display, the kinship we feel, and what it sparks in the attendees
are defining features of the festival.

There is no "theme" for the talks in any given year, but we often see a common
thread winding its way through the consciousness of the speakers and attendees.

This year, the recurring emphasis on Community spoke to me. From [Emma
Kinema][1] describing the ongoing work of [Game Workers Unite][2] across the
globe, to [Mikki Kendall][7] urging us, "for the love of god, get a group chat,"
it's clear that in what for many of us is a time of crisis, community is
essential.

Communities serve many functions. Amelia and [Emily Nagoski][3] inform us of the
ability of human connection to break the cycle of anxiety. As Mikki reminded us,
communities can be your sounding board, your way to say things in a private
space where your friends can check you and tell you when you're wrong. [Harry
"Hbomberguy" Brewis][4] showed us the incredible power of common cause, as a
group tens of thousands strong raised over $300,000 for a charity in support of
trans youths. From the emotional to the physical, our communities strengthen us.

[Lindsay Ellis][5] spoke to their power against harassment. Community can
insulate us from the bad actors that seem to permeate online spaces, deflecting
harm or drowning out hate with love when it's most needed: "We need to build a
culture of mutual protection and be aware of people's humanity." As the negative
forces in the world band together in campaigns of harassment, we too can draw
strength and power from each other.

It's important to remember that strong communities are often bound by ideas and
ideals rather than a specific person. As Brewis found entirely by accident, his
community was ready to be partners in his cause. His charity stream became a
community-driven project literally while he slept, propelled beyond any
expectation by the love and dedication of a passionate group of people: "The
Skeleton Krew turned out to be the best idea I ever had while panicking."

[Get Together][6] teaches a similar lesson: "If you want to maintain your
community's magic, bolster its impact, and broaden its reach while honoring the
potential of committed community members, you have to empower others." We cannot
be satisfied with passive community membership. We must seek them out or create
them ourselves, and work to make them strong and impactful.

I see people every day who feel alone, disconnected, powerless. Many days, I
feel it myself. I don't know what the answer is, but I am certain *we* can
figure it out.

As Emily and Amelia so succinctly put it: "We're not built to do big things
alone. We're built to do things together."

XOXO

[1]: https://twitter.com/EmmaKinema
[2]: https://www.gameworkersunite.org/
[3]: https://www.emilynagoski.com/
[4]: https://twitter.com/Hbomberguy
[5]: https://twitter.com/TheLindsayEllis
[6]: https://gettogetherbook.com/
[7]: https://mobile.twitter.com/karnythia

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