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Award-winning writers, activists artists at Spelman for Octavia Butler Celebration | Arts & Culture

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Award-winning writers, activists artists at Spelman for Octavia Butler Celebration
Award-winning writers, activists artists at Spelman for Octavia Butler Celebration

ATLANTA -- An accomplished group of writers, activists and artists from the speculative fiction and film communities will converge at Spelman College, April 16-17, for the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism.

Presented by Tananarive Due, William and Camille Hanks Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman, the celebration will explore the intersection of Afrofuturism and social justice and lift up the legacy of the late science fiction writer Octavia Butler.

“Fifty years after landmark civil rights battles in the 1960s, Afrofuturism and the work of Octavia E. Butler have emerged as powerful tools with the potential to create social change,” said Due, who is the daughter of civil rights attorney John Due and the late activist Patricia Stephens Due.  

“Afrofuturism is an increasingly popular literary and cultural movement that gives visibility to individuals of color in the future and connects with a social justice message,” said Due, an American Book Award winner, NAACP Image Award winner and author of 12 novels and a civil rights memoir. “We want to discuss the different ways artists who love Octavia’s work confront the challenge of creating change, whether it’s in their art or on the streets—or both.”

During the Octavia E. Butler Celebration, attendees will explore ways in which the connection between Afrofuturism and social justice correlate with present-day issues facing people of color, such as poverty, voting rights and mass incarceration.

The celebration, free and open to the public, is the culminating event of Due’s second consecutive year as Cosby Chair. As chair, Due has expanded the College’s curricular offerings with an emphasis on creative writing, screenwriting and speculative fiction—particularly the works of Octavia E. Butler. Butler, a pioneer in the science fiction genre, was the recipient of Hugo and Nebula Awards and a MacArthur Genius Grant.
With each of her Cosby Chair culminating events, Due aims to help preserve Butler’s legacy—first with 2013’s Octavia E. Butler Celebration of the Fantastic Arts and now with the 2014 Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism.
“It’s especially important for HBCUs to help preserve the legacy of our greatest black artists,” said Due. “Octavia Butler was a giant, but there is always more work to be done to cement her place in the literary canon both nationally and internationally. Too many scholars and readers don’t know her work. When students are introduced to Butler, her visionary imagination has a great impact on them.”

Spelman College is the founding home of the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society, spearheaded in 2013 by Tarshia Stanley, Ph.D., chair of Spelman’s English Department. Stanley is also the society president.  This spring semester, Due and Dr. Stanley are co-teaching a literature course entitled “Butler’s Daughters: Imagining Leadership in Black Speculative Fiction,” designed to expose students to models for leadership in contemporary Black women’s science fiction, fantasy and horror.  As a part of the course, students contribute to the official Octavia E. Butler Literary Society blog and will present papers about their research at the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism.  

LIVE EVENT: Spelman will live stream the panel discusson on April 16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism will include:
DAY ONE: April 16, 2014

·    Black Science Fiction Short Film Showcase which will highlight select science fiction films made for and about people of color (12 p.m.-2 p.m. - Cosby Auditorium)
·    Art showcase by John Jennings   (Throughout the day, starting at 12 p.m. - Cosby Lobby)
·    Reading with Tananarive Due and Nnedi Okorafor (2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. - Spelman Museum of Fine Art)
·    Panel discussion with Tananarive Due, Cosby Chair; World Fantasy Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor, “Who Fears Death”; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”; writer, producer and activist  dream hampton, BET’s “Black Girls Rock”; writer and facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown, co-editor, “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements”; filmmaker and singer/songwriter Bree Newsome, “Wake”; and graphic artist John Jennings, “Kindred” graphic novel artist, based on the novel by Octavia E. Butler (5 p.m.-7 p.m. - Cosby Auditorium)
·    Book signing with Tananarive Due, Nnedi Okorafor, Junot Díaz, dream hampton, Adrienne Maree Brown, Bree Newsome, John Jennings and local authors (7 p.m.-8 p.m. - Cosby Lobby)
·    Book bazaar with authors/artists Braxton Cosby, Milton Davis, Bill Campbell,  Balogun Ojetade, Chesya Burke, Valjeanne Jeffers and Joseph Wheeler III (ONYXCON founder) (7 p.m.-8 p.m. - Cosby Lobby)

DAY TWO: April 17, 2014
·    Talk-back with Adrienne Maree Brown: “Emergent Strategies for Social Justice” (12 p.m.-2 p.m. - Ennis Cosby Reading Room)
·    Speculative fiction writing workshop:  Opening remarks by Tananarive Due. Panelists: Milton Davis, Balogun Ojetade, Chesya Burke and Valjeanne Jeffers (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. - Room LL29)  

All events will take place in the Cosby Academic Center. For more information, visit Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism and the event’s Facebook page.