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Five Artists with a Cultural Strategy for Change


"As an artist committed to racial and economic justice, it can be difficult to navigate the arts and activism worlds. They can range from a pressure to abandon history and have beauty be “apolitical” to a pressure to be outright, literal and dogmatic at all times. There’s few pathways laid out for those of us trying to navigate that space in between. 

For me, the role of artists in social change movements is not to just provide visuals for activists’ communication strategies and immediate needs, but rather to develop what artist Favianna Rodriguez calls a “cultural strategy” to help shift the way people think about the world. It’s our job to imagine the possibilities, shift the thinking on individuals and situations through our representations of them, to explore the grey areas that make humans complicated and interesting, and to uplift the hope and resilience of communities we are a part of to sustain them. 

Here’s a list of five artists who are people I look to as models of how to do this kind of cultural work. Each of them is creating work within their discipline to initiate the conversation with their audiences of what it would look like if everyone’s humanity was truly recognized. (There’s many others out there as well--these are just a few whose work has informed my own recently.) 

Octavia’s Brood (Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown)


Octavia's Brood
Octavia's Brood

Octavia’s Brood is an anthology of science fiction, inspired by writer Octavia Butler’s collection of stories Lilith’s Brood. The book’s editors Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown offer a series of workshops bridging the worlds for speculative fiction writers and activists, showing how these stories can offer visions for social justice movements. “Any time we try to envision a different world—without poverty, prisons, capitalism, war—we are engaging in science fiction.” Says Walidah in an interview in The Nation. “When we can dream those realities together, that’s when we can begin to build them right here and now.” 

read the rest here:


Rickycodes Review of Octavia's BroodS

"Walidah talked about how we often write out a 5-year strategic plan and feel really good about laying out specific, measurable, “achievable” objectives. But we need a 100-year plan, a 500-year plan. What do we want the world to look like for generations to come?

This is what visionary scifi does for us."

Read the full post here

Walidah Imarisha with Chauncey deVega

"Walidah's work is so exciting because she exposes that important "hidden history", while also using it to discuss the realities of white supremacy and racism in supposedly white "liberal" communities today.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Walidah and Chauncey talk about race, history, and migration; have some ghetto nerd sci-fi mind meld moments; laugh about "Black Peoples Employment Month", and reflect on Imarisha's various experiences with presenting the truth and reality of so-called white liberal America at museums, schools, and other venues.

Walidah Imarish is the real deal--smart, quick, funny, and insightful. This was a fun and rich conversation at the virtual bar known as The Chauncey DeVega Show."


Direct Action and Speculative Fiction - GritTV interviews Morrigan Philips

Morrigan Philips designed the incredible Direct Action and Sci-Fi workshop that Octavia's Brood has been touring in this year of incredible actions that open the way for alternate futures. Her story in the anthology focuses on the beginning of a hunger strike, a fantastical examination of the oppression of places like Guantanamo Bay. Here, Morrigan speaks on the connections between direct action and science fiction.


Walidah Imarisha's Keynote Speech at Moore College of Art and Design

Walidah Imarisha shares about time travel and speculative fiction in relationship to community organizing. Imarisha was the keynote presenter for IN/OUT: TIME, PACING AND PERSPECTIVE IN SOCIALLY-ENGAGED ART Friday, July 31st – Saturday, August 1st, 2015. Presented by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Moore College of Art & Design’s Graduate Social & Studio Practices program. Introduced by Paul Farber and Debbie Gibson.

Watch the full speech here!

Rolling Stone Highlights Brooder Tunde Olaniran

Tunde Olaniran’s full-length debut, Transgressor, is only the tipping point for a self-sustaining multi-disciplinary force that can sing empowerment anthems with passion, spin party raps with confidence and humor, and produce his own dance tracks. He also choreographs his performances, which often involve costumed dancers moving in unison to the beat. Offstage, his writing recently appeared in the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements

Read the full piece here!

Seattle Public Library's Octavia's Brood Reading List

Love Octavia Butler and the writers of Octavia's Brood? Check out the books, films and music on this resource list for further reading, watching and listening. This list was created in conjunction with "Pop-Up on the Plaza: An Evening with Octavia's Brood," which took place on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015, 5 - 8:30 pm.

Aya de Leon on Hugo Awards (Octavia's Brood Shout Out!)

"Meanwhile, it makes sense that the traditional white male core audience of SFF from decades past wouldn’t have a massive activist agenda in the world, because the structures of the society generally supported their well-being. However, with an influx of people of color, queer folks, and women into the genre—people who find themselves targets of institutional oppression in the society—visions of the future would necessarily include grappling with these issues. One of the biggest social justice coups of the year was the groundbreaking anthologyOctavias Brood by veteran SFF lovers and WOC activists Adrienne Brown and Walidah Imarisha. They began with the hypothesis that all social justice work is SFF because it’s about envisioning a different future."

Read the full (and brilliant) analysis here!

All of Shoreline Community College Reading Octavia's Brood!

Octavia's Brood has been chosen for Shoreline Community College's 2015/2016 Campus Book read - which means everyone on campus will be reading the book!

"Shoreline Community College has adopted Octavia’s Brood as it’s community read for 2015-2016 and is developing events and programming to generate conversation and action around the themes explored in its pages. The entire campus community—staff, administrators, students, and faculty—will be invited to read and discuss the stories inside Octavia’s Brood during winter quarter, and faculty are being encouraged to incorporate some of its stories into their classes in the coming year."




Walidah Imarisha on Prisons of the Future (podcast)

'What if “life in prison” could mean 100 or 200 or 400 years? Does that change the way that sentences are doled out? What happens when a person gets out of prison?

For all of you who’ve written in asking me to do an episode about longevity, this episode is for you. But instead of looking at the usual living forever stuff, we’re specifically going to talk about what happens when it gets applied to the prison system.

It turns out that there is a philosopher who thinks about exactly this. Rebecca Roache, a professor at Royal Holloway University, is heading up a team of scholars who are researching how future technology might change punishment. In this episode we also talk to Walidah Imarisha, a historian, writer and organizer, and one of the editors of Octavia’s Brood, an anthology of science fiction written by activists.'


Read the Follow Up to 22xx!

'In their debut appearance in Octavia’s Brood, Sasha, Herb, and Professor Tsai narrowly avoided capture by the military by stealing a shuttle and escaping Mars’ moon, Phobos. As it turns out, getting off-world was the easy part for our pair of teenage rebel scientists and their nanotech professor.

The way to Europa is a cold and dangerous. It would seem that every road does indeed have its toll, even in space. This excerpted portion of 22XX: Escape Velocityrepresents roughly a quarter of Sasha and company’s next adventure. More soon on when and how the complete story will appear.'

Read/download here:


Truth-Out Interview with Walidah Imarisha

'Before we began working on Octavia's Brood, adrienne [maree brown] was doing Octavia Butler emergent strategy sessions (you can read the very early strategic reader she and our Octavia's Brood contributor Alexis Pauline Gumbs created here). The idea behind the sessions was to collectively read one of Butler's books and then pull lessons that can help current movements for social change. At the same time, I was doing work around visionary fiction - the idea of fantastical fiction that can help us challenge existing power dynamics, and build new just worlds (I edited a special issue of Left Turn Magazine).

When adrienne and I got together, we realized that the principles of visionary fiction - centering those who have been marginalized; operating and imagining within a history of resistance; seeing identity and especially intersecting identities; highlighting change from the bottom up not the top down; exploring change that is collective, decentralized - were embodied so powerfully in Butler's books, and is in fact the first place in science fiction many of us saw these principles in practice. So we named the collection in honor of her, as we feel by having an anthology of sci-fi and speculative fiction written by organizers, activists and change-makers, we are continuing the lineage of visionary change of which Octavia is very much a part.'



Truth-Out Excerpts Octavia's Brood

What do activists and organizers have in common with science fiction writers? The remarkable anthology Octavia's Brood starts from the premise that both are engaged in the process of imagining a better world. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have collected short pieces of "visionary fiction" that include fantasy and sci-fi, comedy and horror, united by a desire to explore new ways of understanding ourselves and our world. Click here to order the book from Truthout today!

In "Kafka's Last Laugh," Puerto Rican independence activist, artist and filmmaker Vagabond imagines the next stage in the fusion of capitalism, state repression and the punitive legal system - and what could disrupt it.


Cincinnati Library has Octavia's Brood and you can too!

Cincinnati Library is now carrying Octavia's Brood!!

Make sure to request it at your local library.

If you're in Cincinnati, check it out here : http://catalog.cincinnatilibrary.org/iii/encore/record/C__Rb3052494?lang=eng&suite=cobalt

Briarpatch Review of Octavia's Brood

More than merely a “best of” collection, the anthology is a manual for organizing and resisting colonization – territorial occupation as well as what anti-colonial theorist Frantz Fanon described as internal colonization “created by the death and burial of … local cultural originality.” Fanon’s response, in 1952, was to determine his own potential rather than seek recognition from the colonial state: “I am not a prisoner of history,” he wrote in Black Skin, White Masks. “I shall not seek there for the meaning of my destiny.” Twenty years later, Octavia Butler sought not only meaning but also a sense of futurity in sci-fi. And Imarisha, in turn, hopes to achieve this futurity by “decolonizing the imagination.” She and brown explicitly avoid neutrality in this collection, while tacitly refusing recognition from the Western canon with the same determination that drives the characters in Octavia’s Brood. Notably, brown’s “Outro” also encourages us to “bring the work off the page” through emergent strategies of resistance and self-determination. 

Read the full review:


Gabriel Teodros and Walidah Imarisha on Sci-Fi, Social Justice and the Radical Imagination


  1. Science Fiction, Social Justice, and the Radical Imagination

    Walidah Imarisha and Gabriel Teodros, with a special video discussion from Mumia Abu Jamal, examine the ways in which visionary science and fantasy fiction can inspire the radical imagination to envision the features of a socially just world.

    They discuss and read from the new edited collection “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements” (AK Press - [http://www.akpress.org/octavia-s-brood.html]) which seeks to demonstrate a connection between speculative writing and movements for transformative social change.  

    This event was sponsored by the Anarres Project for Alternative Futures [http://anarresproject.org/] and the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion. [http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/shpr]


The Only Fiction Recommendation from Moe's Books, in SF Chronicle

'Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha: This collection, inspired by the writings of Octavia Butler, features almost three dozen stories that exhibit the natural affinity between writing speculative fiction and reflecting on the means of making a better world.'

Check out the list here:


Equal Time for Free Thought (radio)

'As many may already know, science fiction and speculative fiction in general can investigate and articulate the state of our nation and/or world in very direct but also metaphorical ways. We have talked about Star Trek, for instance, on Equal Time and how Gene Roddenberry was able to discuss humanism and naturalism via the small and large screen. And there have been many novels and short stories since at least the late 19th Century which have done the same.'

Check out the interview here: 


Nerdbrarian Reads Us For The Hugo Awards!


octavias_brood_postcard_front_final_revOn the short-story front, I’ve also been reading through the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements, which I originally encountered via BoingBoing. The majority of the featured authors hadn’t been published before in the genre and yet managed to produce some real quality speculative fiction. My favorite short stories included Bao Phi’s clever take on the zombie genre, “Revolution Shuffle,” and Morrigan Phillips’ dystopian tale about state power and the control of history, “The Long Memory.”


Read the rest here: http://www.nerdbrarian.com/2015/06/reading-for-the-hugos-2016/

'in search of our better selves' blog LOVES Octavia's Brood


Every once in a while, you come across a book that seems too good to be true. A book that almost feels like it couldn’t exist, like it’s too good for this world. Almost as if the existence of the book itself is science fiction, not real life.

I came across such a book this week. It’s called Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements.

Read the rest here: https://insearchofourbetterselves.wordpress.com/tag/octavias-brood/


1) AfroAF/BlackSF site reposted creative process video.
Aug 4, 2013
2) Colorlines, Octavia's Brood Wants to Bring You Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements.
Aug 5, 2013
3) Reveiller, Science Fiction + Social Justice
Aug 2, 2013
4) Hooded Utilitarian, excerpted Walidah's Piece
Aug 4, 2013
5) SciFiPulse.net, Check out Octavia's Brood
Aug 3, 2013
6) Red Door Project, Interview: Walidah Imarisha on Octavia's Brood
July 17, 2013
7) Cherwell.org, Interview: Octavia's Brood
Aug 1, 2013
8) International Examiner, Allied Media Conference: Imagining the Future of Media for People of Color
July 22, 2013