Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing — A Roundtable Discussion

Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing — A Roundtable Discussion

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Off Campus Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

CalArts Center for Discursive Inquiry Research Group: Variety of Futurisms

With “art as a form of epistemology” and “disaster as the convention of the present state” as conceptual frameworks, poets Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin’s groundbreaking 2018 anthology, Letters to the Future, gathers and explores the innovations and interventions of contemporary Black women writers as they manifest the future of Black life, aesthetics and concern. 

At this roundtable discussion, USC scholar and writer Zakiyyah Iman Jackson and Letters to the Future contributors Harmony Holiday, Harryette Mullen and Tisa Bryant look beyond imposed social and political limits and offer readings, reflections and analysis on Black women’s feminism, experimental impulses and deployment of aesthetic categories such as “unruly,” “radical” and “undisciplined” to imagine another world to know, create and be in.

Harmony Holiday

Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist and the author o four collections of poetry: Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and the forthcoming A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She founded and runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics, and Mythscience, a publishing imprint that reissues and reprints work from the archive.  She transcribed all of the poetry Amiri Baraka recorded on LPs with jazz accompaniment for SOS, his book of selected poems.  Harmony studied rhetoric at UC Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.  She received her MFA from Columbia University and has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books, and fellowships from the Ruth Lilly Foundation and from the New York Foundation of the Arts.  She is currently working on a book of poems entitled M a á f a, and an accompanying collection of essays and memoir, Reparations: Thieves Who Stole My Blue Days, as well as a biography of the jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. She lives in Los Angeles. 

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen’s books include Recyclopedia (Graywolf, 2006), winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California, 2002), a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A collection of essays and interviews, The Cracks Between 

What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be, was published in 2012 by University of Alabama. Her most recent book, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary, was published by Graywolf in 2013. She teaches courses in American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLA.

Tisa Bryant

Tisa Bryant is the author of Unexplained Presence, a collection of fiction-essays on black presences in film, literature and visual arts, and co-editor of the cross-referenced literary journal, The Encyclopedia Project, which released its final book, Encyclopedia Vol. 3 L-Z, in 2017. Her film essays have been screened at the Los Angeles Public Library, NonfictionNow, the Associated Writing Program’s annual convention, and the Hammer Museum, and her collaboration with Ernest Hardy, The Black Book, a six-volume visual mixtape & love letter of film, video, literature, visual art and music that critically celebrates Black life, aesthetics, politics and culture, was presented at the Hammer Museum from 2015-2018. Forthcoming books include Residual, from Nightboat Books. Bryant is Program Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at CalArts, where she teaches fiction and hybrid forms.  

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California. Professor Jackson’s book in progress, titled “The Blackness of Space Between Matter and Meaning,” clarifies the nature of the proximity between blackness and animality in the history of Western science and philosophy and investigates black literary, visual artistic, and philosophical interventions into the reciprocal production of discourses of racialization and speciation. Professor Jackson has published work in Feminist Studies (2014), Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (2011 and 2015), Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences (2016), Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience (2016) and South Atlantic Quarterly (2018).

Center for Discursive Inquiry at California Institute of the Arts presents a new research group under the theme of “Variety of Futurisms.” Convened by Sara Mameni, this series explores Afro-Arab Futurisms in contemporary art and cultural production. In the past decade artists have responded to ongoing wars and continued corporate/imperial practices in the Middle-East and North Africa with alternative visions of the future. We have seen national conceptions of Palestine as a single high-rise tended to by a woman in a space-suite in the work of Larissa Sansour for instance, and artists working under the heading of “Gulf Futurism” in response to fast growing urban spaces in the Persian/Arab Gulf region. In light of these practices, this research group attempts to contextualize Speculative Arab Futurism in relation to longer traditions of futurist resistance in Afrofuturism.