A Year in Review

The end of the year usually marks the perfect excuse to look back and see what all has been done. I was recently “chastised” that I don’t talk about what all I do publicly enough. So since my work is kind of the point of my Patreon, I thought I’d do this year end update.

I basically have three full time jobs: a teacher (and librarian (where I gave this talk) at The Oaks Academy (where I gave this talk on racial reconciliation), a writer (and editor at Apex Magazine (where my story, The Legacy of Alexandria was just published, a love letter to libraries, community, and the Kheprw Institute)), and a community activist (and resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute/founding member of Café Creative). They all function to provide platforms to do work in the community.

KHEPRW INSTITUTE/CAFÉ CREATIVE

The Kheprw Institute is a grassroots organization that trains up young leaders. The mantra is “Community Empowerment Through Self Mastery” which highlights the focus on developing people’s capacity to think and act critically to improve themselves, their community, and speak from their experiences. By elevating community vision, leadership and voice creating shared prosperity in under-invested communities, we want to build community wealth (I’m also part of their grants team).

(In this pic, l-r, Kheprw Institute co-founder, Imhotep Adisa; me, The Learning Tree founder, DeAmon Harges; and community griot, Januarie York).

We had two major initiatives that launched this year. Alkhemy and Café Creative and Alkhemy. Alkhemy is a 3,000 square foot workspace located in the Concord Building. It is equipped with modern furnishings with an open-office design and high-speed internet. It’s a great place to work alone, meet others or host small meetings. Kheprw Institute collaborated with Forward Cities to launch a pilot entrepreneur hub there for under-resourced entrepreneurs to work, develop skills and build their network. It opened February 18th to much fanfare with the goal of gauging community needs and collecting information to adapt and scale the project. However, the entrepreneurial incubator and co-working space is on hiatus as the COVID-19 crisis resolves itself. Alkhemy made the pivot to virtual workshops and other collaborations.

Cafe Creative is an artist coworking space, performance venue and art gallery focused on supporting local artists and creating community and culture. The work of Afrofuture Fridays and Mo*Con fall under its auspices. We’re in the process of renovating the basement of the 16 Park Building, where artists will have access to the space and tools of their art (for example, studio space) for free use.

We, too, had to do a major pivot due to Covid-19. Once the pandemic lockdown began, I began writing from my front porch. I soon declared it my “coffeeshop, with my neighbors as the regulars.” After that pronouncement, artists began dropping by and I began mentoring artists and having conversations. One of the things that has arose from all of my porch meetings is RE-GROUP. It’s a series of conversations with Indiana artists about how they are charting their way forward despite the pandemics. Officially a partnership between the Indiana Arts Commission and Café Creative, it’s me and my co-host, Anna Tragesser. Here are some of the conversations we’ve had so far:

Re-Group: With Clint Breeze

Re-Group – 11/11/20 (w/ Anna Powell Denton)

Re-Group – 10/28/20 (w/ Diop Adisa)

Re-Group – 10/21/20 (w/ Maurice Broaddus)

For those wanting more about how KI operates, I wrote this piece:

The Kheprw Institute: Nurturing Community During a Pandemic (Donate here)

AFROFUTURE FRIDAY

On the second Friday evenings of the month, the Kheprw Institute/Café Creative launched Afrofuture Fridays, using Afrofuturism as our framework to re-examine events of the past, critique the present day dilemmas of the African Diaspora, and create a space to imagine and dream of possible futures. The series brings community residents together to have hard conversations about identity, race, economic models, systems of organization, and justice but one that is rooted in innovation and imagining a hopeful future. From music to film, discussions center around various forms of Afrofuturist content as well as invited guest speakers who are authors, artists, and visionaries creating Afrofuturist content. Our tagline is “building a better future together.” This year we did:

Afrofuture Friday (A Mo*Con sponsored Saturday edition): A Conversation with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford

AFROFUTURE FRIDAY: A Conversation with Maurice Broaddus

AFROFUTURE FRIDAY: Black Futurists and Community Work

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – Curating the End of the World/Creating New Futures: A Conversation with Dr. Reynaldo Anderson, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Andrew Rollins

Afrofuture Friday: Parable of the Sower Discussion

Afrofuture Fridays – Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus

I ran a workshop using Afrofuturist worldbuilding to model community work for Spirit & Place, exploring how to build a new future, Corona Dialogues: Dreaming of New Worlds. The application of science fiction to community work is something I plan on doing more of. Since I was asked the question “what does it mean to be the resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute?” quite a bit, I wrote this: Radical Black Re-Imaginings: Afrofuturism and Community Work

BOARDS

I’ve been asked to sit on the advisory board for the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. It’s located on the campus of IUPUI and holds a significant portion of Bradbury’s papers and artifacts. Jon Eller has been the director (he’s transitioning into retirement), and he and Bradbury were friends, which is why Bradbury left Jon in charge of his collections. The center has been working to get the documents archived, digitized, and accessible to the public. Meanwhile, researchers can visit the center, which has re-created Bradbury’s office.

I was also asked to join the board of the daVinci Pursuit. “Connecting Art, Science and Community,” the daVinci Pursuit brings together artists, scientists, and community members to create unique interactions and conversations.

The thing about year end reviews is that looking back on what all we did, I’M EXHAUSTED! Next month, I’ll dive back in exploring some potential new partnerships and programs and conversations. Thank you for your support.

As a bonus, I’ll leave you with this mini-documentary about Premium Blend, a local jazz band, and their latest project, Vices. It features many of the artists I work with in the community. Plus, they’re just great.

As always, I appreciate your support of my Patreon. Words cannot express how encouraging it is, especially during these dark times. I really appreciate it…and each and every one of you. Thank you!

I launched a Patreon because some friends wanted a way to help support the work that I do in the community. If you would like to support it (and receive updates on the work that’s being done) please feel free to join. Thank you so much!
Become a Patron!