2-Day Event | Thursday January 30, 2020 (Day 1) | Friday January 31, 2020 (Day 2) | Featuring Ishmael Reed

Ishmael Reed - Afrofuturism

Ishmael Reed

Zora Neale Hurston Arts and Humanities Lecturer

What is Afrofuturism ?

Diaspora that offers radically different frameworks for understanding how society is formed and how it can operate.

A two-day Afrofuturism Conference (January 30 – 21) will present distinguished scholars working in the field today utilizing the lens of  the humanities.  Literary Elder Ishmael Reed, will deliver the Zora Neale Hurston Arts and Humanities Lecture [Day 2]; and panelists who responded to a  Call for Papers will engage with their  peers and members of the audience.


Day 1 – Thursday January 30, 2020 from 8:30am – 3:30pm

Day 2 – Friday January 31, 2020 from 9:30am – 4:30pm

Venue: UCF (Downtown Location) Communications and Media Building

Address: 500 West Livingston Street, Orlando, FL 32805

Ticket Information:

(Pricing Includes Fees)

On or before January 25, 2020
  • Professional $107
  • Independent Scholar $64
  • Graduate Student: $43
  • Undergraduate: $22
After January 25 and On-site:
  • Professional $75
  • Independent Scholar $59
  • Graduate Student: $70
  • Undergraduate: $48

One Day Ticket ( Can be used to attend any one of the two days )

On or before January 25, 2020
  • Professional $59
  • Independent Scholar $43
  • Graduate Student: $32
  • Undergraduate: $16
After January 25 and On-site:
  • Professional $75
  • Independent Scholar $59
  • Graduate Student: $48
  • Undergraduate: $32

Program Overview

Speaker Biography
Ishmael Reed is author of more than thirty books to date, including his eleventh novel, Conjugating Hindi,( Dalkey Archive Press, 2018); his eleventh non-fiction work, The Complete Muhammad Ali (Baraka Books, July, 2015); and New and Collected Poems, 1964-2007 (Carroll & Graf, 2007). New York’s Nuyorican Poets Café premiered his ninth and newest play, The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, May 23, 2019. His latest essay collection, Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico, was published by Baraka Books in September, 2019.  His new poetry collection, Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues: Poems 2007-2019, is forthcoming from Dalkey, and includes his poem, “Just Rollin’ Along,” about the 1934 encounter between Bonnie and Clyde and Oakland Blues artists L.C. Good Rockin’ Robinson, which is also included in The Best American Poetry, 2019.
In addition Reed has edited numerous magazines and fourteen anthologies, of which the most recent is Black Hollywood Unchained (Third World Press, 2015). He is also a publisher, songwriter, public media commentator, lecturer, teacher and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation and PEN Oakland, non-profit organizations run by writers for writers. After teaching at the University of California, Berkeley for over thirty years, he retired in 2005.  Now a Distinguished Professor at California College of the Art, he also taught a Spring 2019 creative writing class at UC Berkeley. He is a MacArthur Fellow, with other honors including the University of Buffalo’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award, and San Francisco LitQuake’s 2011 Barbary Coast Award.
Awarded the 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year from the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, his collaborations with jazz musicians for the past forty years were also recognized by SFJazz Center with his appointment, from 2012-2016, as San Francisco’s first Jazz Poet Laureate and in Venice, Italy, where he became the first Alberto Dubito International awardee in May, 2016, honored as “a special artistic individual who has distinguished himself through the most innovative creativity in the musical and linguistic languages.”  Reed’s most recent honors include the 2018 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Award, and the 2017 AUDELCO Pioneer Award for the Theater. His online international literary magazine, Konch, can be found at  His author website is located at

8:00-8:30 – Conference Registration & Coffee

8:30-9:30 – Welcome & Keynote

Reynaldo Anderson, Associate Professor of Communication and Chair of the Humanities Department, Harris-Stowe State University

9:45-11:00 – Panel #1

“The Zora Neale Hurston Museum: A Study in Afrofuturist Architecture”
Richard T. Reep, Independent Scholar / Rollins College

“Homespace for Black Women: Connections Between Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Marvel’s Black Panther”
Kathryn Polizzi, Graduate Student, Department of English, St. Louis University

“A Force Somewhere in Space: Afrofuturistic Storytelling in Barracoon and Their Eyes Were Watching God”
Piper Kendrix Williams, Associate Professor, The College of New Jersey

“On the Culture Beat: Exploring Zora Neale Hurston’s Narrative Praxis as a Model for Morally Transformative Journalism”
Tiffany Pennamon, Graduate Student, Department of English, University of Florida

11:00-11:15 – Break

11:15-12:30 – Panel #2

“Golden Age Science Fiction’s Backfire: The Collapse of the White Canon”

Michael Stokes, Graduate Student, Michigan State University

“Zora Neale Hurston and Octavia Butler: Women Alone Bravely Facing the Future”
Lisbeth Gant-Britton, Ph.D.

“Afrofuturism in Russia: A Critical Survey”
Irina Morozova, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow

“Reclaiming and Liberating the Dispossessed: Zora Neale Hurston’s Expansive Blackness”
Aiesha Turman, Ph.D., Humanities and Culture, Union Institute & University

12:30-2:15 – Lunch @ Downtown UCF / Break for Travel to Afternoon Session in Eatonville

Thursday Afternoon, Jan. 30th – Macedonia Baptist Church, Eatonville

Afternoon workshops (2:30 – 5:00 PM) will be held in Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Lias Fellowship Hall, 412 E Kennedy Blvd, Eatonville, FL 32751

2:30 – 3:30 – Workshop #1: “What is Afrofuturism? Definitions, Resources, and Praxis”

Facilitators: Julian Chambliss, Professor, Department of English, Michigan State University

Walter D. Greason, Associate Professor and Chair, Educational Leadership, Monmouth University

Since the debut of Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), the focus on Afrofuturism in the U.S. has skyrocketed amongst scholars and the general public. This focus fails to provide the public an understanding of the scope, complexity, and significance of Afrofuturism. What is Afrofuturism? When Mark Dery introduced the term “Afrofuturism” in 1994, he defined it in relation to speculative fiction that locates persons of African descent in complex techno-cultural universes, not as outliers or exceptions but as central to a dazzling range of imagined futures. Since then, the term has come to encompass myriad meanings, as a literary and artistic movement, a philosophical stance, and a mode of knowing (an “epistemology”) rooted in the historical experience of the African Diaspora that offers radically different frameworks for understanding how society is formed and how it can operate. In this workshop, we will outline the definition of Afrofuturism and its origins in contemporary thought. Participants will be given a list of Open Electronic Resources (OER) that they can utilize to expose students to Afrofuturism in the classroom.

3:30-3:45 – Break

3:45-5:00 -Workshop #2: “Call: What is Afrofuturism? Response: Community-Engaged Partnerships between Historically Black Spaces”

Dr. Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Spelman College – Moderator
Asia Reese, Spelman College – Student Presenter
Airel Stewart, Prairie View A&M University, Student Presenter
Kenyatta Robinson, Mississippi Valley State University – Student Presenter
Nino Chambers, Tuskegee University – Student Presenter
Fabian Carter-Randle, Grambling State University – Student Presenter

The HBCU-HBTSA Summit, organized by Spelman College and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, consisted of a collaborative gathering of six historically Black Colleges and Universities and six historically Black communities at ZORA! Festival 2019. These groups assembled, forged collaborative, community-engaged partnerships, and planned historic preservation projects in their home communities. Using intersectional conversations in the work of Dr. Julian Chambliss, Dr. Andrea Roberts, and Dr. Rita Bates, this panel will consist of a Spelman faculty mentor as moderator and a representative student from five collaborating HBCUs to talk about the community-engaged, historic preservation projects as Black Imaginative work. Student presenters will reflect on the experience of working on the historic preservation projects in their partner communities and how that work and those experiences 1) build on the community-engaged scholarship of Zora Neale Hurston’s early 20th-century work and 2) speak to larger Afrofuturistic conversations, situating historic placemaking and 21st century storytelling and preservation among them.

8:30 – 9:00

Conference registration & Coffee

9:00 – 9:25

Introductory remarks

9:30 – 10:30: Hurston Keynote – Ishmael Reed – [DETAILS TBA]

10:45 – 11:45: Roundtable

Reynaldo Anderson, Associate Professor of Communication and Chair of the Humanities Department, Harris-Stowe State University

Kinitra Brooks, Audrey and John Leslie Endowed Chair in Literary Studies, Department of English, Michigan State University

Isiah Lavender III, Sterling Goodman Professor of English, University of Georgia

12:00 – 1:00: Lunch

1:00 – 2:00: Keynote

Isiah Lavender III, Sterling Goodman Professor of English, University of Georgia

Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) concerns the thrice-married Janie Crawford-Killicks-Starks-Woods, and how she navigates the color line from Eatonville to the Everglades and back, seeking love and acceptance where the dozens and blues get played on the porches and in jook joints. In fact, Hurston’s novel also incorporates many of the elements of Afrofuturism. This incredible notion depends on accepting that in Afrofuturism we have a present-day mode of folklore, a tool for interrogating black existence, its dark matter, its reality, and its alternatives. In this respect, Afrofuturism sternly exhorts us to bring our racial memories into the future as Hurston does. Hence, I am rethinking Their Eyes as a classic in regard to frofuturism.

2:15 – 3:30 –
Panel #3
“Their God through Zora’s Eyes”
Irina Tedrick, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Languages & Cultures, Savannah State University

“Zora on My Mind Traveling with the “Eternal Feminine” in “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”
Gary L. Lemons, University of South Florida

“Afrofuturism As Repairer of the Breach: Identity, Liminality, and Politics in Hurston’s “Meet the Mama” and Marvel’s Black Panther”
Marvin E. Hobson, Associate Professor, Indian River State College

“Afrofuturism is Justice Ripping That Blindfold Off So She Can See”
Regina Moore, Graduate Student, California State University Dominguez Hills

3:30 – 3:45 – Break

3:45 – 5:00 –
Panel #4
“History Re-Experienced: Implementing Mixed Reality Systems into Historic House Museums”
Shadrick Addy, Visiting Assistant Professor, Advanced Computing Center for the Arts & Design, Ohio State University

“Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLoc)”Laurie N. Taylor, Chair, Digital Partnerships & Strategies Department, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida

“Eatonville and Wakanda: Contrasting Visions of Black Independence”
Walter D. Greason, Associate Professor, Monmouth University