[Brought to you by donations by the Indiana Humanities and CICF. Catered by the phenomenal We Run This.]

I. LISTENING/VIEWING SALON: videos by Kamasi Washington


  1. CALL TO ORDER: Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa – TED talk



“Monáe has spent a lifetime perfecting the art of being a pop star who isn’t a sexual object. Discretion is a survival strategy, a coping mechanism especially useful for black women living in the public eye. But she has now made an explicit album about sexual expression and identity that is somehow still shrouded in ambiguity.”

Janelle Monae imagines a better future in regards to sexual identity and relationships. As an advocate of women and queer issues – how does this help us imagine a different future?

Especially in light of the patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia in our music and culture?

Same sex, monogamy/polygamy, gender roles



Okorafor’s Igbo parents traveled to America to go to school, but they could not return to Nigeria because of the Nigerian Civil War. In high school she was known as a nationally-known tennis and track star, and excelled in math and the sciences. Due to her interest in insects, she desired to be an entomologist. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13, a condition that worsened as she grew older. At age 19, she underwent spinal fusion surgery to straighten and fuse her spine; a rare complication led to Okorafor becoming paralyzed from the waist down.

That summer, with intense physical therapy, Okorafor regained her ability to walk, but she was unable to continue her athletic career, using a cane to walk. At the suggestion of a close friend, she took a creative writing class that spring semester, and was writing her first novel by the semester’s end.

Okorafor’s first adult novel, Who Fears Death, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was a 2011 Tiptree Honor Book. In 2011 she returned to young adult with Akata Witch, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection. [I dare you to refer to this book as “Nigerian Harry Potter” to her face] It is being produced into a series for HBO with George R.R. Martin serving as the executive producer.

Okorafor’s science fiction novel Lagoon was a finalist for a British Science Fiction Association Award (Best Novel) and a Red Tentacle Award (Best Novel) and a Tiptree Honor Book. The Binti trilogy began with a 2015 novella, Binti. This was followed by Binti: Home, published in 2017, and Binti: The Night Masquerade, published in 2018. Binti won both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella. Plus she’s writing comics for Marvel: Black Panther: Long Live the King and Wakanda Forever

An article in the New York Times says that: “Magic, ritual and secrecy are threads that run through Ms. Okorafor’s wildly imaginative young adult fantasy series, which features a head-spinning menagerie of otherworldly spirits and deities drawn from Nigerian myths and legends.”

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

 Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.



What were some of your thoughts about the book?


Why does she want to go to the stars? Is that something we should strive for?


Leaving and becoming more is a major part of Afrofuturism, according to Nnedi. Binti has to give up her heritage several times over. The story says she has a ritual of death to grow: her leaving her people/home and when she lets go of edan/gets stung (both leading to transformation). What are some of the lessons or pathways to her growth and transformation? What are some of the risks?


Is the cost of integration worth it?

-transformation and growth means becoming someone new

-risk becoming a stranger to her people


Question to consider as we leave: What does it mean for you to own your own agency? What are you willing to risk and do?





Read an excerpt from the novella here.


Nnedi Okorafor and the Fantasy Genre She Is Helping Redefine



Of Jellyfish, Otjize, and Afrofuturism: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Of Jellyfish, Otjize, and Afrofuturism: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor


Representing Race: Why images matter?

Representing Race: Why Do Images Matter?



The Prophetic Struggle of Kendrick Lamar’s Damn



Kamasi Washington’s Giant Step