A feast of Black-centered literary events lit up the Bay Area February 2020

by Sumiko Saulson

#Writing While Black for March 2020

Stagefright Live at Club Vantablack

There were several interesting and exciting Black History Month and Afrocentric Bay Area events, some of which I personally attended and was involved with last month. Although M. Lamar was unable to make it to San Francisco for the Black Gothic Takeover event at Club Vantablack, the fabulous Black-fronted multicultural Sacramento gothic band In Retrograde brought all of their star quality to the performance and my band Stagefright ended up headlining the show. Afrogothic is a literary and musical genre, and I am a part of it.

Afrosurrealist Workshop

On Feb. 19, I read at the library and met fellow Afrosurrealist award winner Jasmine H. Wade, who won the award in 2017. I am the 2018 winner, for my short story “A Balm of Brackish Water.” It and other short stories will appear in an anthology to be released March 6, 2020, during FogCon. We will appear on a column with James Tiptree Jr. Award Winner Nisi Shawl taking place on Saturday, March 7, 10:30-11:45 a.m., in Salon A/B.

“Audrey T. Williams (moderator), Jasmine H. Wade, Vernon Keeve III and Raina León are the esteemed panelists of the Black Speculative event sponsored by the AfroSurreal Writers Workshop and the San Francisco Public Library. These brilliant poets and writers of speculative fiction are also Black literary scholars. Topics ranged from the misguided Blackface of reimagined remakes of classics by Barnes & Noble, the trauma of Blackness in the film “The Wiz,” Black women savior syndrome, why Black horror? and Octavia Butler writings, among other topics. “It was a night to remember,” remarked Dera R. Jones Williams.

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CAPTION: AfroSurrealist writers featured at the Feb. 19 event are, in the back row from left, Audrey T. Williams, Sumiko Saulson Ayobami, Kwan Booth, Tara Christina, Alan Saint Clark, Elwin Michael Cotman, Jenee Darden, Thaddeus Howze and Dera R. Jones Williams. Panelists In front are Vernon Keeve III, Raina León and Jasmine H. Wade.

In partnership with the San Francisco Public Library’s “More Than a Month” Black History Celebration, the first annual “SF by the Bay” Festival and Borderlands Books centered diverse perspectives from the Black Speculative Literary Arts landscape.

The AfroSurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland, founded by Rochelle Spencer, PhD, amplifies the voices of emerging and established writers, poets and artists of color who create in surreal worlds: futurist, speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, slipstream, horror, utopian/dystopian, weird or absurdist.

The AfroSurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland (and friends) along with members of the Black Speculative Arts Movement Oakland Chapter read from their speculative projects, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Audrey T. Williams. During the panel, three Bay Area writers and poets spoke about their SF/F (science fiction and fantasy) influences, shared works in progress and revealed their 2020 visions.

Borderland Books (the ONLY SF/F bookstore in San Francisco) sold work by local authors at this event, including literature and visual art in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, myth, faerie tales, climate fiction, horror and eco-poetry.

Readers included Radhiyah Ayobami, Kwan Booth, Tara Christina, Alan Saint Clark, Elwin Michael Cotman, Jenee Darden, Thaddeus Howze. Sumiko Saulson and Dera R Jones Williams. Panelists were Vernon Keeve III, Raina León and Jasmine H. Wade. The Afrosurrealist Writers’ Workshop event was well attended.

Scary Sisters at Marcus Books

Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison and Nisi Shawl speak on diversity in fiction writing and how to “write the other,” i.e., how to write diverse characters tastefully if you’re not from the same background.

The book reading at Marcus Bookstore in Oakland with Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson and Bram Stoker winner Linda D. Addison was a lovely, intimate gathering of fans and friends. Each writer read in order; it was well-attended and the readings well-received.

Surely the ghost of Toni Morrison was in the room, as Magical Realism ruled the day. Linda D. Addison broke form slightly with her amusing darkly hilarious take on “Little Red Ridinghood” and other fairytales with a distinctly horror spin.

African American Multimedia Conference

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Kevin E. Myrick, Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson, Linda D. Addison and Jessie Myrick were panelists for the African American Multimedia Conference at the Melrose Branch of the Oakland Public Library on Feb. 14.

The African American Multimedia Conference kick-off event on Valentine’s Day at the San Francisco Public Library included many remembrances and there were about 30 people there. Other African American Multimedia Conference events were small but well received, and we will continue to build up the event next year.

The Bay Area Black Independent Film Festival presented “Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror” and showcased films by Kevin Craig West and Meosha Bean. Bean and Linda Addison were keynote speakers.

San Francisco African American Historical & Cultural Society

Since its founding in 1955, the San Francisco African American Historical & Cultural Society has provided a venue, a fellowship, an institution for honoring and celebrating the rich legacy of African Americans in San Francisco and beyond. This Black History Month, the society continued its traditional kickoff with the City on Friday, February 7, honoring the 2020 national theme “African Americans and the Vote” and featuring keynote speaker Alicia Garza, co-creator of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

On Feb. 13, the society premiered its Citizen Film-produced film “African Americans and the Vote” and held the opening reception for an exhibit on President Obama at the African American Art and Culture Complex. The exhibit features images and information from the collection of Francee Covington, artwork by Courageous, and is curated by Society Executive Director Dr. William Hoskins.

The society is also collaborating with the Human Rights Commission for programs based on the book Changemakers written by University of San Francisco students about the notable African American activists in the murals at Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. And the society continues its collaboration with San Francisco Public Library, presenting Genealogy Workshops and the Trailblazer presentation about pioneer African American journalist Delilah Beasley.

Dr. Hoskins has curated more than 40 society exhibits during the last 20 years and was honored with a San Francisco Pioneer Award at the African American Multimedia Conference on Feb. 14. For more information about the society, its history, events, articles and Praisesinger newsletter, see the website www.sfaahcs.org.

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.