Charlotte is About To Host Its First Annual AfroFuturism Festival


Charlotte is stepping into the future with its inaugural AfroFuturism Festival (AFF2021) over 3 days at 3 venues next week (August 12-14).

The festival will be packed with a full array of curated activities designed to fire the imaginations of Charlotteans and inspire people of all ages to create and experience a vibrant new world full of possibilities. The idea for this annual event came about when Henry Rock, Founder and Executive Director of City Startup Labs and Rashaan Peek, Director of BlackTechCLT/BlackTech Interactive, thought about how to craft a special break-out convening that would be unique, festive and allow for the cross-pollination of techies, entrepreneurs, makers, creatives, designers, thinkers, scientists and community folks. They wanted to wrap the concept of a new direction for BlackTech Interactive around the idea of Afrofuturism and plant that flag here in Charlotte.

So, what is Afrofuturism? One of the more potent recent examples was the 2018 movie, Black Panther and the fictional country of Wakanda. In the book, Afrofuturuism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, by Afrofuturists Ytasha Womack and Ingrid LaFleur explains, Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation… it is a way of imagining possible futures through a Black cultural lens”. Womack will be the Festival’s keynote speaker on Saturday (8/14 – 10AM-2PM), which takes place at the Central Piedmont Community College’s Main Campus.

In addition to Womack, AFF2021 will include an (un)Conference with an ideation session facilitated by Brandon Crooms, where the attendees will imagine solutions to challenges facing African American communities in Charlotte through new uses of technology. Also the (un)Conference will include an African Tech Co.Lab panel with TED Fellow, Juliana Rotich (Kenya), Gameli Adzaho (Ghana), and Babasile Daniel Oladele-Emmanuel (Nigeria), moderated by Sherrell Dorsey founder of the PLUG (coming back to her origins at BlackTechCLT). Activities for young folks will include a LED Maker’s Space created by Charla Fields, a comic book work/playshop with the artist Marcus Kiser. An Afrofuturist Art Exhibit curated by Joanne Rogers, co-owner of 9189 Studio Gallery will be on display, along with a Job Fair with, and assorted vendors and food trucks.

Speaking of food trucks, AFF2021 is commandeering the Black Businesses Owners Corp. (BBOC) Black Food Truck Friday on Friday (8/13 – 6PM) in the Historic West End. In addition to some fantastic dishes, the Black Classics Outdoor Cinema is showing a series of fascinating Black Sci-Fi shorts. A DJ and other vendors will round out the event.

AFF2021 kicks-off Thursday (8/12 – 6PM) at Dupp & Swat at Camp North End with Libations & Liberation There, Washington, DC nonprofit exec, technologist and entrepreneur, Sudi West will be joined by former Charlotte City Council Rep, Lawana Mayfield for a fireside chat about how Afrofuturism can mend the world. Also, Tamu Curtis of Liberate Your Palate and The Cocktailary will provide a libations tasting.

The festivities wrap up with the AfroPOP Party at Roy’s Kitchen & Patio (8/14 – 8PM).