Abstracts for Panel being presented at MLA 2016 Austin, TX

10 Years Gone But Change Goes On: Octavia E. Butler’s Public Legacy

While Butler’s work is a familiar source of inquiry in the academy, it has gained momentum among organizers, artists, activists not just for its narrative competencies, but for its paradigmatic efficacy. For instance, Tarshia Stanley, an Associate Professor of English at Spelman College and one of the founders of the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society recently piloted an interdisciplinary course on leadership based on Butler’s work. As the organizer of the panel, Stanley will share an essay titled: “A Road/Star Map to the Future: Butler’s Public Legacy,” based on her research for the course. Stanley examines Octavia’s Brood, a 2014 collection of short speculative stories by social justice advocates who use the ideological tenets of Butler’s work as their muse. The advocates in Octavia’s Brood draw from Butler’s consummate skill of world building and her deep interrogation of humanistic habitude to develop alternate and practical means of community service work. According to the book’s editors, Adrienne Marie Brown and Walidah Imarish, “Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in an exercise of speculative fiction.” It is the “exercise” of speculative fiction as guided by Butler that is at issue in Stanley’s paper as it seeks to identify and critique the role of what the editors term “visionary fiction” and the accompanying praxis that has spawned as a result of emulating Butler’s Weltanschauung.

 

A Ph.D. candidate in English at Duke University, Rebecca Evans’s work examines the ecological impacts of humans on the planet via the work of speculative authors. She has an article forthcoming in Women’s Studies Quarterly entitled “’James Tiptree, Jr.’: The Nature of Gender and the Gender of Nature.” Her paper for this panel explores the texts produced by and about two religious movements that explicitly cite Earthseed as a foundational influence: SolSeed, which draws on Butler’s dual interests in space travel and ecological sustainability; and Terasem, a spiritual framework for technological transhumanism. In “Earthseed Taking Root,” Evans analyzes these movements’ self-articulations as well as their cultural reception, and pays particular attention to how they frame their relationships to Butler’s work. Though Butler’s legacy within SF and Afrofuturist discourse is indisputable, these movements also allow a foregrounding of the unexpected extraliterary impacts of Butler’s writings. Noting the stark differences between SolSeed’s and Terasem’s tenets, Evans examines the three Parables books in order to explore the paradoxes and ambiguities that enabled such distinctive interpretations (and, she suggests, misreadings) of Butler’s work.

 

Joshua Yu Barnett is an Assistant Professor of English at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is currently working on a manuscript entitled My Left Arm, Her Twin Blades: Narratives of Resistance in Black Speculative Fiction. He will present an excerpt titled, “My Left Arm”: Allies and Complicity in Octavia Butler’s Kindred to round out the presentation, He conducts a more traditional textual analysis in order to speculate the real world application of Butler’s work for reframing and reinvigorating social justice allies. Barnett contends that while critics have generally praised Kevin, the white husband of the black protagonist Dana, for embodying the role of the “ally”, these readings ignore darker undercurrents that lead to questions about the viability of the “ally” as a model for antiracist work. Barnett places in conversation his assessment of Kevin and the recent controversies surrounding the behavior and attitudes of “allies” such as Tim Wise, to ask whether or not the white antiracist ally can actually be a meaningful force for social justice, or whether an entirely new model of activism is needed.

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John Muir High School Class of 1965 Essay Contest Winner

CONGRATULATIONS YENDRICK PORRAS 

The OEB Society sponsored an essay contest to mark what would have been Ms. Butler’s 50th high school reunion. The winner is Yendrick Porras. We are grateful to Ms. Eddie Newman, John Muir class of 1965, for coordinating the essay contest at the California high school. Please read a bit about Miss Porras below.Octavia Essay Winner, Yendrick Parros

Group Picture, Octavia

 From Left to Right: John Muir High School Principal, Timothy Sippel, Reunion committee Chair Gilbert Blades, Yendrick Porras and Eddie Newman, Class of

Coming from a low income single parent household, I had to overcome many difficulties that made me independent and grow as a person. Because of our financial situation, we often moved homes which helped me adapt to new surroundings as I became older. When I entered high school I had a goal of maintaining a 4.0 GPA, but when I became homeless during sophomore year I earned many “B’s” instead of “A’s”. Despite being a minority and first in my family to go to college, I am striving towards a higher education to better my life and the life of  my family.

I am apart of the Engineering and Environmental Science Academy at John Muir High School which has exposed me to the field of engineering and various opportunities that are preparing me for college. Because of these opportunities, I was able to take a college freshman engineering course, with a full scholarship, from Johns Hopkins University. Engineering Innovation made me realize my passion for engineering and helping. I plan to purse a PhD in mechanical engineering. Another goal I accomplished was to get an internship. I interned at Muir Ranch, a two-acre organic farm, for three years. This allowed me to gain customer service skills and exposed me to laborious work that pushed me to dream for a better life through education.

In my quest for higher education, I looked towards those whose footsteps I now walk in for inspiration–John Muir alumni. I came across the Octavia E. Butler Society essay contest and felt that I identified with Octavia Butler’s experiences as an adolescent, so I entered. Octavia E. Butler gave me inspiration and is a true inspiration for young girls like me.

Yendrick Porras

JOHN MUIR HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1965 Essay Competition

 

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In honor of the 50th High School graduation of the late writer Octavia E. Butler, the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society and the John Muir class of 1965 are sponsoring an essay competition for current John Muir students in grades 9-12. The first place winner of the competition will receive $100 and the second place winner will receive $50. The essays must discuss one of Butler’s short stories in the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories.

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Emergent Strategies for Social Justice Workshop with Adrienne Maree Brown and Tananarive Due

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As a part of the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism at Spelman College, Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategies Workshop looked at ways to use Butler’s work in the field of social justice. Brown is the co-editor of the forthcoming book Octavia’s Brood: Sci-Fi from Social Movements. It’s scheduled to arrive summer 2014.

 

http://www.octaviasbrood.com/index.php

 

 

 

 

 

PANELISTS: Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism (Spelman College) 4/16/14

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.) 

CONFIRMED PANELISTS:

Nnedi Okorafor 

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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 WitchThe 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 

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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed DrownThe 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

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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 

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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 

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Bree Newsome’s mug shot after her arrest (July, 2013)

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 

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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.