Last March, Spelman College celebrated the life and legacy of Octavia E. Butler with a panel of her friends, teachers and colleagues called the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of the Fantastic Arts. Readers and fans from around the country came to the campus to participate in the historic event. [See the video HERE.]
In 2014–on the 50th anniversary of civil rights milestones–Spelman’s celebration of the science fiction pioneer’s work expands to the realm of social justice with the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts & Activism. This is the Culminating Event of Cosby Chair in the Humanities Tananarive Due, who also organized last year’s event. The Celebration will include a panel, a Black Science Fiction Short Film Festival, and a presentation of papers by Octavia Butler student scholars at Spelman.
All of the panelists both admire Octavia’s work and have embraced roles as artist/activists in different ways. More information about the schedule to come. (Please “like” our Facebook page for updates.)
A leading international voice in black speculative fiction, Nnedi Okorafor is the author of the groundbreaking novel Who Fears Death, a 2011 World Fantasy Award winner that tackles real-world issues such as rape and female genital mutilation. The Nigerian-American author has also published several young adult titles: Akata Witch, The Shadow Speaker and Zahrah the Windseeker, which was awarded the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. She recently published a short story collection, Kabu Kabu. Find her on Twitter @Nnedi.
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He is the cofounder of Voices of Our Nation Workshop.
Dream Hampton is a writer and award winning filmmaker. She’s a senior fellow at Moms Rising. She was an Associate Producer of VH1’s Emmy-award winning “Behind the Music: Notorious B.I.G.” and Co-Producer of “Bigger than Life”, the first feature-length documentary on the rapper, directed by Peter Spier. Her short film “I am Ali” was an entry at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and won “Best Short Film” at Vanity Fair’s Newport Film Festival. She was a Co-Executive Producer of “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”, 2012, Associate Producer of “The Russian Winter”,(2012) Director of the music video “QueenS”, 2012 for SubPop artists TheeSatisfaction! “QueenS”, which NPR named one of the most stylish of 2012. Hampton directed the feature length concert film Black August: A Hip-Hop Documentary Concert, 2010. Hampton has written about music, culture and politics for 20 years. She was a contributor to Vibe for 15 years, beginning with its launch 1993, The Village Voice, and Spin. She is noted as a “pioneering” black female journalist. Other publications her writings have appeared in include The Detroit News, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, Essence, Ebony, etc. Her Essays have also been included in over dozens of anthologies, including Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, 2009 (edited by Michael Eric Dyson) and “Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness”, 2012 (edited by Rebecca Walker). Hampton collaborated with Jay-Z on the New York Times bestselling book, Decoded. She also writes for “BET Honors” and co-produced 2013’s “Black Girls Rock.”
Find her on Twitter: @dreamhampton
Adrienne Maree Brown
Adrienne is a 2013 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow writing science fiction in Detroit, and also received a 2013 Detroit Knight Arts Challenge Award to run a series of Octavia Butler based science fiction writing workshops. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements with Walidah Imarisha (coming 6/2014). Learning from her 15 years of movement facilitation and participation, she approaches Octavia’s work through the lens of emergent strategy – strategies rooted in relationship, adaptability, and embracing change. Adrienne has helped to launch a loose network of Octavia Butler and Emergent Strategy Reading Groups for people interested in reading Octavia’s work from a political and strategic framework, and is building with Octavia E Butler Legacy Network on other ways of extending Butler’s work.
She is on Twitter @adriennemaree.
FEATURED YOUNG ARTIST/ACTIVIST:
Bree Newsome is a North Carolina writer, filmmaker and singer/songwriter and progressive activist who was arrested at a sit-in in July of 2013. She and five other protesters were arrested while protesting changes to North Carolina’s Voter ID law that restrict voting. Her short horror film, WAKE, was featured at last year’s Black Science Fiction Short Film Festival at Spelman.
She graduated from New York University with a B.F.A. in Film & Television. While still in high school, Newsome created an animated short, “The Three Princes of Idea” which earned her a $40,000 scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In October 2004, YM Magazine named Newsome one of the “20 Coolest Teens in America.” While at NYU, she wrote and directed “Your Ballot, Your Voice” a humorous PSA encouraging youth to vote. The PSA went on to win Grand Prize in the Tisch/MTV Rock the Vote PSA Contest. Newsome wrote, produced, directed and edited “Wake”, her final short film as a student at NYU. “Wake” has received numerous awards and honors. It was selected for official competition in NYU’s prestigious First Run Film Festival where it went on to win numerous awards including an Audience Choice Award and craft awards for Producing, Art Direction and Acting. The film was also named as a finalist for the festival’s highest honor, the esteemed Wasserman Award. Newsome is the first African-American to be nominated for this award in the undergraduate category (Spike Lee had previously won the award in the graduate category). As such, she was honored in June 2010 with an invitation to screen her film at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures recognized “Wake” as one of the best student films of 2010 and awarded Newsome a student grant. The film also won the Paul Robeson award for Best Short Narrative at Newark Black Film Festival. Newsome was subsequently invited to screen her film in several other major film festivals including the 63rd Festival de Cannes in France, the New York International Latino Film Festival, the International Black Film Festival of Nashville, Montreal Black Film Festival in Canada and Cucalorous Film Festival in Wilmington, NC. “Wake” concluded its festival run by taking the top prize at BET’s Urbanworld Film Festival in 2011. Newsome was invited in 2011 to serve as the first ever Artist-in-Residence at Saatchi & Saatchi, a global creative communications and advertising company headquartered in New York. In August 2012, Newsome wrote and recorded, “SHAKE IT LIKE AN ETCH-A-SKETCH!”, a song that skewers presidential candidate Mitt Romney and criticizes the Republican Party for policies that promote classism and bigotry. Newsome then directed and edited a music video for the song which she released on YouTube. The video immediately drew attention and praise from political bloggers, including The Huffington Post. Most recently, Bree Newsome has served as a consultant and teacher for the Cinema School in the Bronx, NY. She is the frontwoman for Powerhouse, a Charlotte-based funk and r&b/soul band and she is currently at work writing and recording her first EP. A staunch advocate for civil rights and social reform, Newsome was arrested last year during a sit-in at the North Carolina State Capitol where she spoke out against the state’s recent attack on voting rights. She continues to work as an activist and youth organizer in North Carolina.
Bree is on Twitter @BreeNewsome
Moderator: Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due is serving her second year as the Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College. The American Book Award winner is the author of more than a dozen novels and a civil rights memoir, Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights, which she co-authored with her late mother, Patricia Stephens Due. Octavia Butler said of her novel My Soul to Keep: ““I enjoy reading the kind of novel that seduces me right into it and makes me forget about work or sleep. My Soul to Keep does that beautifully.” She and her husband, science fiction novelist Steven Barnes, recently co-produced and co-wrote a short horror film, “Danger Word.”
Due’s mother, Patricia Stephens Due, spent 49 days in jail after a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1960, arrested while she was a student at Florida A&M University. Her father, civil rights attorney John Due, is still active in the fight against racism.
Due and Spelman College English Department Chair Tarshia Stanley are co-teaching a spring course at Spelman entitled: “Butler’s Daughters: Imagining Leadership in Black Speculative Fiction.”
Due is on Twitter @TananariveDue.