Not Your Normal Conference: COIP Digital Conference
Updated: Jul 14
Every noteworthy and memorable event produced was due to the creator’s belief that the world needed to see and experience a specific truth. The Children of Incarcerated Parents: Resilience, Success, & Triumphs Digital Conference was no different. Our truth is that children of incarcerated parents (COIP) are leaders, entrepreneurs, actionists, and most importantly human. They are more than just negative statistics and it is time to center what makes them truly remarkable--their resiliency.
We curated an intentional space where we could be critical about scholarship on COIPs and uplift those that are directly impacted. Typically, conferences are executed in order to disseminate research findings and do not include participants that were studied. Conferences do not make the directly impacted a part of the process and researchers are representatives to the academic community by showing powerpoints or videos of their testimonies. We created a way to include their voices but also integrate our research findings. The goal was to bridge the gap between the community and the ivory towers by partnering with COIP and making our conference accessible to the public.
For months, we were working behind the scenes to ensure that the three days were executed in a way that our message and purpose was clear. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our in person conference had to pivot to a digital platform. All organizations have had to adapt to virtual gatherings and postponement of in person meetings, and like others we had a steep learning curve. The intregices of zoom webinars, websites, youtube, advertising materials, and eventbrite are tough to navigate by an organization, let alone a three person team. Virtual conferences have different considerations that we needed to be cognizant of and troubleshooting was a consistent reality.
During the broadcast of our event (as the tech go-to person), the digital platform provided multiple challenges and creative maneuvering when technology seemed to be failing us. The execution of the conference was a new and innovative experience for the team and it showed our resilience and successes along with the COIP. As an academic, I have attended dozens of conferences, however the camaraderie and support which attendees, panelists, and speakers had for each other was unlike any in person conference I attended. It gave the opportunity to have real time reactions from the audience and the chat box reflected that because it was filled with well wishes, support, and words of agreement.
As Black researchers in a time of increasing political unrest and attacks on Black bodies (even more than before), every action we do becomes political. This conference was a political statement as well as an academic one. We want to see a shift in the research that does not see COIP as criminals or assumes that they will have negative outcomes. We want to humanize and uplift a group that the world tries to silence and dismiss. We wanted to show that research can be innovative and center marginalized groups without detracting from the research and theory--it does not have to be mutually exclusive. I believe we accomplished this feat and moving forward, I hope more criminologists and researchers give the respect that is due to this population for the successes and resiliency they possess.
Dr. Britany Gatewood
Twitter and IG: @drbjgate