Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

New Black Panther Anthology (Why, yes, I have a story in it!)

[TRIES TO CONTAIN NERD GLEE] I’m so excited to announce that I have a story in Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda! Debuting Feb 2, this is the first ever Black Panther short story anthology, edited by Jesse J. Holland. I’m alongside such great authors like Tananarive Due Linda D Addison Sheree Renée Thomas Suyi Davies Okungbowa Troy L Wiggins and more! [I WROTE A BLACK PANTHER STORY, Y’ALL]

You can read all about it here:

Pre-order your copies now here!
#publishing #books #blackpanther #disney #titanbooks

Re-Group: With Clint Breeze

Join the Indiana Arts Commission and Cafe Creative for the next Re-Group! Co-hosts Anna Tragesser and Maurice Broaddus invite industry pros to chat about what’s possible in the creative economy every other week in this Zoom gathering of Hoosier creatives. 

On December 8th at 7p, we’ll be talking to Carrington Clinton aka Clint Breeze (of Clint Breeze and the Groove) on the art of collaboration: experimenting and risk-taking our way through these times.

ABOUT CARRINGTON
Carrington “Clint Breeze” Clinton is a musician and creative based in Indy who is the band leader of Clint Breeze and The Groove. He enjoys teaching and the life of a musician by trade. In this free time he’s spending time with family and his two dogs. Allow Clint to introduce himself:

And if you want to sample Clint Breeze and the Groove before (or after) our conversation, here’s their latest project

Endtime Overture

That’s December 8th, 7p

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Check out IAC and Cafe Creative on social media:

  • Facebook: @inartscommission
  • Instagram: @inartscomm
  • Facebook + Instagram: @cafecreativeindy

[PATREON] Year End Update

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!



Awards Eligibility Post 2020

It’s that time of the year, for all the good little authors and creatives to post their lists of eligible works as we head into the SFF awards season. I have a novella, a novelette, and a couple short stories for consideration.

NOVELLA

Sorcerers (NeoText Books)

EXCLUSIVE: AMC has optioned the rights to Sorcerers, a novella by co-writers Maurice Broaddus and Otis Whitaker and featuring illustrations by internationally renowned artist Jim Mahfood, with plans to adapt it into a series. The short story is a psychedelic urban fantasy about a 30-year-old man from Harlem who comes into his own as a hip hop-inspired sorcerer. It follows Malik Hutchins, the black sheep to one of the most successful families in Harlem. Malik couch-surfs with relatives, parties with his girlfriend, and ghostwrites rhymes for local rappers for a few bucks to finance his lifestyle—but when cocky Malik sells two warring rappers the same verse, he paints a target on his own back. Then on his deathbed, Malik’s beloved grandfather Pop-Pop reveals that Malik is a sorcerer, in the great tradition of African sorcery born on the plains of the rift valley before the beginning of time. Malik is thrown headlong into a quest that winds through the streets of Harlem, to the rural South, and places much farther beyond, places he’s only visited in dreams…

NOVELETTE

“Bound By Sorrow” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

From SFF Reviews: “Thematically, this novella is about grief, death, and choices. It is also a story about the power of stories. Its main character, Dinga, and his wise-ass friend, Gerard, are on a quest to deliver Dinga’s dead sister to a city where gods reside, the Dreaming City. Along the way, their journey is interspersed by stories told by Dinga and others they encounter. These narratives give a story-within-a-story feel to the piece that help further illustrate Dinga’s life and mission while building a richly layered history and mythology. You may need to read the story twice to fully grasp all its nuances, but your time will be well spent.”

SHORT STORIES

The Legacy of Alexandria in Apex Magazine
“Cities of Refuge” in Escape Pod

NON-FICTION

Protests and the Value of Disruption” – Indianapolis Monthly (June 5, 2020)

EDITOR

Fireside Magazine Autumn Issue (2020)

Some of the SFF awards:

Nebula Awards
If you’re a member of the SFWA (any type), you can nominate a work for the Nebula Awards right now.

Hugo Awards
Nominations for the Hugo Awards aren’t open yet, but they will be early in 2020. In order to nominate and vote in the awards, you must be an attending or supporting member of Worldcon 77 (last year’s), Worldcon 78 (this year’s), or Worldcon 79 (next year’s).

World Fantasy Awards
Attendees of the World Fantasy Convention can nominate works to be considered for the World Fantasy Award.

MY HOUSE SMELLS LIKE TURKEY AND JAMAICAN PATTIES

ETA: A STORY (WHEREIN YOUR HERO IS LARGELY AT FAULT)

So, for the last few weeks, my mother (Lieta Broaddus), who lives with us, and I have been in an unspoken cold war. It started when I criticized her spaghetti dish.

WHERE WERE Y’ALL WHEN I FIXED MY LIPS TO CORRECT A 75-YEAR-OLD, BLACK, JAMAICAN WOMAN’S RECIPE? Praise Jesus, I’m still here.

You’d have thought I learned my lesson a long time ago. The reason I’m a good cook is because of a joke I made a long time ago. My then newlywed white wife (Sally J Broaddus) fixed me a casserole. I *jokingly* referred to casseroles as a possible hate crime. I then spent the next thirteen years making the family meals.

Anyway, the following week, my mom made a meat sauce and may have said with NO ATTITUDE AT ALL that I should make the pasta. The next day, I made Chicken Marsala.

Things kept escalating. The last two weeks featured her making Chicken Maryland (“mom, that’s not chicken Maryland. That’s jerk chicken you topped with pineapple.” #praiseJesusagain) I responded with Chicken Bruschetta with angel hair pasta and balsamic glaze.

My wife: You know how uncomfortable it makes me when you and your mom fight. *switches from her jeans to sweatpants* #justkeepeating

After negotiations, we decided to join forces for Thanksgiving. My mom would make the main dishes. I was relegated to sides.

My oldest son (Reese Broaddus): I don’t want your Karen macaroni. Have your brother make it.

See? I’m not the only one with jokes. My now former son got his way.

My brother (Anthony Broaddus): I’ll make it, but that’s the only time I’m leaving this couch. Come pick it up. And when you do, take my trash out. #missiongoals

Thus, our meal came together. As I sit here in my formal dinner attire (my Wakandan shirt and my Nap or Nothing sweatpants), I’m thankful for friends and family. Speaking of, I’m about to text my sister something obnoxious, that way it’s a typical family dinner.

Good Teachers are Gifts

MY JUNIOR YEAR HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER LEFT THIS COMMENT ON MY BLOG! MR. BROWN AND MR. COMBS (MY SENIOR ENGLISH TEACHER) FOREVER CHANGED THE TRAJECTORY OF MY LIFE! I AM BESIDE MYSELF RIGHT NOW!!!

Stories on Serial Box!

A couple stories of mine have been published on Serial Box:

El is a Spaceship Melody

Originally published on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, it’s now narrated by Eboni Flowers over on Serial Box. “On a spaceship powered by jazz, the ship’s AI approaches sentience while dissent builds between the captain and a group of rebels who want to change the music.”

The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor

Originally published on Uncanny Magazine, it’s now narrated by Eboni Flowers over on Serial Box. “The movement—both willing and not—of African people, from prehistory to the stars. A story told in five stanzas.”

Ache of Home

Another story originally published on Uncanny Magazine. It’s narrated by Chante McCormick. “A Black woman living in a food desert in Indianapolis uses her innate magic to oppose the forces trying to destroy her neighborhood.”

Warrior of the Sunrise

A Sword & Soul originally published in The New Hero: Vol. 1 (and in my collection, The Voices of Martyrs), it’s the origin of Lalyani, the character whose story ends in “Bound by Sorrow.” Warrior of the Sunrise” is about A woman, cast out from her tribe, goes to battle against an evil sorcerer who turns men into monsters.

Dance of Bones

An entry into the Weird West, a Black Civil War veteran must act quickly when the cow hands he’s riding with encounter a deadly supernatural force in the desert.

“DREAMING OF A BETTER WORLD” – Indiana Library Federation Conference

Here’s the text from my talk at the Indiana Library Federation Conference. Thanks to Indiana Humanities for the opportunity.

“DREAMING OF A BETTER WORLD” aka How Pimp My Airship Came to Be

Back in 2009, a horror writer wondered why I kept talking about my latest story, “Pimp My Airship,” because it was such a departure from what I usually did. I’d spent the previous ten years building my reputation as a horror writer, having already published a couple dozen short stories by that time. But I sensed, even then, that this story was the beginning of something new for me. A new direction. A new potential. Because I was looking to write something new.

Now some of you know how the story “Pimp My Airship” came into being. It began as a joke on Twitter. I didn’t know much about the steampunk genre. Folks dressed in Victorian clothing and there were a lot of gears … that was about it. Enough to make a joke on Twitter: “I’m gonna write a steampunk story with an all-black cast and call it ‘Pimp My Airship.’” That was it. That was the post. I was ready to move on but then a half dozen editors reached out to me for me to send the story to them when it was finished.

I’m never so published, especially then, that when an editor asks to see work that I’d pass up the opportunity. But I knew that I needed to do more research on the genre.

Steampunk is weird to explain. It’s a retro-futuristic subgenre that mixes future technology and aesthetic designs with culture inspired by the 19th-century Victorian era. Basically, imagine alternate histories where future tech is powered by steam. Think H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

So I began reading a lot in the genre, mostly short stories. The anthology Extraordinary Engines and the VanderMeer’s anthologies, Steampunk and Steampunk II. After several dozen stories, I couldn’t escape this feeling that this genre had this weird … unspoken longing. Like it looked by to the good ol’ days … without people that looked like me. It was like a subgenre with a near systematic erasure of black people.

And I was like … “I can’t do this.”

But I really wanted to send something to these editors. So I popped in some Parliament-Funkadelic and began dreaming. I got caught up in their mythology, starting with the Star Child and the idea of a Bop Gun, and imagined an alternate history. One where America lost the Revolutionary War and remains a colony of England. I’m also a British citizen. One where Jamaica is its own world power. My mom’s a Jamaican citizen. One where black people are in the world and a part of the culture. I’m, uh, black.

I began telling the tale of three conspirators:

A lay-about named Sleepy

A professional social agitator named 120 Degrees of Knowledge Allah

A rogue, female scientist named Deaconess Blues

United to free the Star Child, a popular social activist and community organizer, from prison. Three of my favorite characters I’ve ever created.

The story was published in Apex Magazine. Its editor, Jason Sizemore, was a huge champion of the original short story. I originally sent it to him for an anthology he was editing because Apex was on hiatus. He wrote me back and said “I’m rejecting this story because it’s too good for this anthology. I’m bringing back Apex, let me publish it in there.” 

The story was well-received. Um, really well-received. Requests began pouring in for more stories. Hang on, let me back up: there was one critique, a constant in many of the reviews. Folks kept saying that I’d crammed a whole novel into a short story. People wanted to see more of the world. Well, two things:

-One, I do the same level of world-building work for a short story as I do a novel

-Two, they were only paying me for a short story. So that’s all they were getting.

But the requests came in which gave me the excuse to build out the “Pimp My Airship” world a bit.

            -I wrote more about Deaconess Blues and her history at Oxford University

            -I wrote about Knowledge Allah and his involvement with his activism

            -I wrote about the Star Child, first in a Jamaican steampunk novelette, then in my novella, Buffalo Soldier

Soon I had over a dozen stories, novelettes, and novella … but I never wrote about Sleepy.

A few years ago, not long after Buffalo Soldier sold in 2015, I began thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was in a sales job, in my early 40s, and I had given myself permission to dream about possibilities for my life. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to make my community a better place. I wanted to make my world a better place, leave a legacy worthy of my children.

But I’m just a writer.

I was talking about making a major leap from my job to re-create my life with purpose and intentionality, but the only recent thing on my resume, my main skillset, was being a writer. I had no idea how to go about leveraging my gift for the benefit of community, no idea what a possible job or future could look like—and mind you, none of this process made my wife, mother of my two children, nervous at all—so I did what I always do when I’m unsure about things.

I wrote.

Now you have to understand that I write for me. I’d never tried to turn a short story into a novel before, so it was an interesting experiment.

Thus I returned to the world of “Pimp My Airship.” Particularly Sleepy. I wanted to work some things out in my head and Sleepy was the perfect vehicle. I was inspired by my friend J.J., a poet and rapper. Watching him with his gift, not even realizing how gifted he was.

At the same time, I was looking at what kind of art-based work was going on in my community. a journey that took me through Second Story to The Learning Tree to the Kheprw Institute.

Mirroring Sleepy’s journey, starting in a spot where you’re comfortable in life. Got a 9-5, bills paid, and can do a little thing of his own at night at a poetry spot. You know, life was comfortable. That “I gots mine” mentality.

Only to have your world intruded upon and expanded by the reality of the system that controls the pillars of your world:

-redlining

-over-policing

-predatory capitalism

-poverty criminalized

-mass incarceration

-Given the context of turn of the century Indianapolis to add the weight of history to the lens of viewing those issues.

-Being opened up to the reality that the world is bigger than “the I”—that there’s in fact a “we,” your community—that puts “the I” in context.

-What it means to examine your gifts, use them to find and define your voice, and organize into a chorus of voices that can leverage change.

All while having a fun romp.

Because I gots jokes. This entire journey began with a joke and the name of the book is still Pimp My Airship. And while I want to make you think, the other part of my job is to entertain.

Can I tell you a secret? This book was never supposed to be published. Like I said, I write for me. Once it was finished, I put it in a drawer. I’d just signed a two-book middle grade book deal and was mid-doing the work of what would be a three book science fiction deal. In 2018, I was a co-host of the podcast Writing Excuses. On one episode, I was asked about the strangest hero’s journey I’d written. So I talked about Sleepy.

He’s a dude who just wants to be left alone so that he can enjoy his little corner of the world. Every character has to have a motivation, a goal, some thing they are trying to achieve or work toward. Well, Sleepy just wants to get high. And I won’t let him. I keep piling ever increasing obstacles in front of him just to keep him from getting high. Criminals underworld. The Klan. Riots. Prison. Giant robots. You know, the usual.

When the episode aired, my inbox started filling with people asking where they could get the book. I couldn’t just say “in my drawer,” so I reached out to Jason of Apex Books. He’s my friend, but I also respect his taste as an editor. It was a weird conversation.

I said “as a friend, I need you to look at some pages and tell me if I have something worth revisiting to get it into publishing shape.” And I sent three chapters.

He said “Yes you do. I’ll take it.”

“You can’t just call dibs on stuff.”

“Well, I’m about to announce that this book is coming out in May, so you better start working on the re-write.”

We were now friends. We could negotiate like that. Plus, I secretly wanted the project to land at Apex to bring things full circle. I wanted to write something that would excite him as much as the original story had.

He called dibs in October of 2018. Pimp My Airship was published in May of 2019. And the whirlwind around this book hasn’t stopped.

I have to say, I’m pleased with how the book has landed with readers. And it has been recognized. It’s changed my life in a lot of ways, took my writing in a different direction, but the key was in why I wrote the book in the first place. The journey started by giving myself permission to dream.

When you have a clear picture of what you want to work toward in the future, you can create a roadmap to begin those first steps in the present. Figure out what your gifts are, what you’re passionate about, and live your life in light of that. Be a part of a community that you can dream alongside. One who holds you accountable. Who sees your potential and keeps pushing you to be the best version of you.

In the end, that’s what Pimp My Airship is about.

Thank you for listening.



Join us for a special Afrofuture Friday (A Mo*Con sponsored Saturday edition) where we get to talk to two exceptional creators: Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford. We’ll be discussing their work as Afrofuturists and their Writing the Other workshop.

Date: Saturday, November 14th Time: 4:00pm

BIOS

Nisi Shawl, winner of the 2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, wrote the 2016 Nebula Award finalist Everfair (Tor) and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning collection Filter House (Aqueduct). Their stories also comprise the contents of PM Press’s 2019 Talk like a Man and Dark Moon’s 2018 Primer to Nisi Shawl, and they have edited and co-edited numerous anthologies such as New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color. In 2005 they co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. Shawl helped found the Carl Brandon Society, and serves on the board of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. They live in Seattle and take frequent walks with their cat.

K. Tempest Bradford is a science fiction and fantasy writer, writing instructor, media critic, reviewer, and podcaster. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines including Strange Horizons, PodCastle, Sunspot Jungle, In the Shadow of the Towers, and many more. She’s the host of ORIGINality, a podcast about the roots of creative genius, and contributes to several more. Her media criticism and reviews can be found on NPR, io9, and in books about Time Lords. When not writing, she teaches classes on writing inclusive fiction through LitReactor and Writing the Other.com. Visit her website at ktempestbradford.com.

RESOURCES

Carl Brandon Society

Take a Tour Through the History of Black Science Fiction

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

Must Read List Of Speculative Fiction By Writers Of Color

Writing the Other classes

Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story? Ten authors on the most divisive question in fiction, and the times they wrote outside their own identities.

How Not to Be All About What It’s Not All About: Further Thoughts on Writing About Someone Else’s Culture and Experience

How to Unlearn Everything When it comes to writing the “other,” what questions are we not asking?

Chesya Burke’s story “Say, She Toy”

Tempest Bradford’s “Androids and Allegory

Nana Nkweti – Walking on Cowrie Shells

The Fourth and Most Important by Nisi Shawl

Zin E. Rocklyn works



Afrofuture Fridays brought to you by a partnership with folks we’d like to thank:

Writing from the Center/Writing from the Crossroads

Description: What does it mean to write from the center? In Indianapolis, the Crossroads of America, we’ll consider the many facets of “center:” the position and perspective a writer takes, how place and geography influence written works, and the core self that the writing process engages, to name a few. We’ll also explore “crossroads moments:” the point of no return in a poem, story, or essay, and the lived experiences that may have influenced that moment. This session intends to highlight Indiana writers and writing, offering conference goers an opportunity to interact with practicing writers who are actively writing and participating in literature-based community events throughout Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. The audience will be invited to participate in the conversation, to deepen the connections forged around the idea of “the center.” Panelists: Sarah Layden, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Callista Buchen, Franklin College; Maurice Broaddus, independent author; Terry Kirts, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indianapolis is the place that I’ve called home since I was ten years old. I set most of my stories here. The theme of identity is common in much of my work and Indianapolis is where my roots are, my social network, my community, all the things that are pieces of my identity. So I feel like I am constantly interrogating the idea of what home means.

A few years ago, not long after my novella, Buffalo Soldier, sold in 2015, I began thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was in a sales job, in my early 40s, but I had given myself permission to dream about possibilities for my life. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to make my community a better place. I wanted to make my world a better place, leave a legacy worthy of my children.

But I’m just a writer.

I was talking about making a major leap from my job to re-create my life with purpose and intentionality, but the only recent thing on my resume, my main skillset, was being a writer. I had no idea how to go about leveraging my gift for the benefit of community, no idea what a possible job or future could look like—and mind you, none of this process made my wife, mother of my two children, nervous at all—so I did what I always do when I’m unsure about things.

I wrote.

The Learning Tree – learn your neighbors

At the same time, I was looking at what kind of art-based work was going on in my community. a journey that first landed me with the grassroots organization, The Learning Tree. The Learning Tree has been doing community building work in the United Northwest Area (UNWA) neighborhood since 2010. When I joined in 2016, one of the projects we did was called the Portfolios of Joy. I would go and learn the gifts and talents of the neighbors. What were they passionate about? What moved them to get out of bed in the morning? What skills could they teach to someone else in the community?  And I would talk to other neighbors to see how they saw each other. When I was done, I would compile the stories of the neighbors.

We were gearing up for Open Bite Nite II.  Open Bite Night launched from the porch of one of our neighbors, my sister as a matter of fact, to encourage local businesses and artists. It came in the wake of a spate of police violence toward the African American community. The event proved to be a healing one, allowing residents to grieve and protest while celebrating community. For Open Bite Nite II, we were setting up an open-air gallery of art. You see, 25 doors had been dumped in an alley in the neighborhood, a perfect metaphor of how the neighborhood was seen from the outside: someone in the city decided we were no longer useful or had any value so we’d been discarded and left to be forgotten. One of our artist neighbors came up with the idea to have the artists in our community paint their stories on the doors. While some of our neighbors working on setting up the art display, I passed out the Portfolios of Joy.

Well, they read their stories on the spot (nothing is more nerve-wracking for a writer than having people read your work in front of you, because you’re going to be looking for that immediate feedback). I waited. And waited. And waited. Wanting to see their reaction. But then they started swapping the stories with each other like they were collector cards. Asking each other “is this who I am?” “Is this how I’m seen?” Why? Because our culture doesn’t often see us for who we are. We’re labeled, we’re discounted, we’re invisible. Unless some aspect of the system needs someone to blame. But to have who you are, the blessing of what you bring to the community, reflected back at you, it can be life affirming. That’s the power of stories.

The Kheprw Institute – Resident Afrofuturist

I moved on to work with the Kheprw Institute. KI is a nonprofit organization focused on empowering youth and building community wealth in Indianapolis since 2003. I’m their resident Afrofuturist. Many organizations have futurists on staff, people using their vision and skillset to consider new alternatives or be a guide to navigate current circumstances. Futurists by definition look for new ways of examining our society, technology, and the world to extrapolate and create blueprints and roadmaps to innovate tomorrow.

With an Afrofuturist lens, however, that visioning is rooted in black history and culture to create a vivid picture of what the world could look like.

For KI, a resident Afrofuturist represents a public statement of the attitude and mindset of the organization and community, about creating desired future states in the present by constantly re-imagining the work and the way the community moves through the world.

We live in a culture that doesn’t value imagining as a skillset. But we also live in the midst of collapsing systems that are past reforming and require radical re-imagining.

By strange coincidence, I just had a story published a couple days ago. “The Legacy of Alexandria” in Apex Magazine. It’s about a community organization full of books used to train up future leaders (in a near apocalyptic version of Indianapolis). Basically, a story about finding resilience, purpose, and identity through the power of books. The power of stories.

My Work

Part of my work involves hidden worlds. With Knights of Breton Court, I retold the legend of King Arthur through eyes of homeless teenagers, set here in Indianapolis. I had been working as a volunteer at the homeless teen ministry, Outreach Inc, at the time. I used magic as metaphor for homelessness. Again, with the idea of making the unseen seen.

I also love secret history, the hidden stories. I returned to the world of a short story I’d written a decade ago, “Pimp My Airship.” I wanted to tell the story particularly through the eyes of a poet named Sleepy. I wanted to work some things out in my head about what it means to leverage your gift, your art, for change in the community.

Sleepy’s journey started in a spot where he was comfortable in life. Had a 9-5, his bills paid, and he could do a little thing of his own at night at a poetry spot. You know, life was comfortable. That “I gots mine” mentality.

Only to have his world intruded upon and expanded by the reality of the systems that control the pillars of his world:

-redlining

-over-policing

-predatory capitalism

-poverty criminalized

-mass incarceration

Using the trappings of the subgenre steampunk allowed me to tell this story within the context of turn of the century Indianapolis in order to add the weight of history to the lens of viewing those issues.

-Being opened up to the reality that the world is bigger than “the I”—that there’s in fact a “we,” your community—that puts “the I” in context. A greater story that puts your story in context.

-What it means to examine your gifts, use them to find and define your voice, and organize into a chorus of voices that can leverage change. To learn the stories of your neighbors and join them into a force.

Conclusion

The power of story. Now you have to understand that I write for me. But part of me writing for me is telling the stories of and within my community. My community work informs my writing and my writing informs my community work. That’s what writing from the center looks like for me.