Rasu Jilani & Netic Rebel
Thesis: Decolonizing Blackness, Securing Black Futures Think Tank
In the era of #wokeness, Black Lives Matter, and Black pride, oftentimes the notions of blackness can fall into the trappings of being defined in contrast to whiteness. The drawback with this framework is that freedom becomes an elusive ideal when tethered to the white-gaze. This Think Tank is intended to be a meeting of the minds in order to share ideas, theories, experiences, practices of self-awareness and decolonization. Participants will collectively tackle complex topics prompted by the following questions: Who defines and owns the Black experience? In what ways do academic and cultural institutions commodify Blackness? What is the Black Pain Economy and how does it impact the psyche? What does solidarity look like across the diaspora? And, what do we need to do to ensure the reality of a thriving Black Future?
Rasu Jilani is an independent curator, social sculptor and entrepreneur whose work investigates the intersection between art, culture and civic engagement as a means of raising critical consciousness. The objective of his work is to catalyze interaction between artists, the local community and the wider public, in order to promote awareness around social issues through exhibitions, humanities, community programs and cultural events.
Thesis: There was a period in 2017 where you couldn’t go on twitter without seeing the #DeleteUber campaign. It’s estimated that more than 200,000 people deleted their accounts from Uber. However, months later Uber remained one of the most downloaded ride-sharing apps which shows that many people were still comfortable giving their money to the company. More recently, Dove and H&M faced backlash for racism in their advertising campaigns and were met with calls for boycotts of their products. This think tank will invite the audience to investigate the efficacy, sustainability and accessibility of boycotts as a way to push social change. We will address questions like: How can we remember to vote with our wallets long after scandals pass? When does a boycott work? How can we create a boycott that targets the culpable people (e.g in the case of Uber and or H&M, not the drivers or store clerks who are often people of color but the actual people in charge)?
Omayeli Arenyeka is a Nigerian born artist and engineer. Before that she studied Computer Science, Design and Art at New York University. She has been working as a Software Engineer for the past 6 months and joined the School of Poetic Computation in New York. Her work focuses on using art and satire to spur reconsideration and reflection of societal norms and pushing for change through micro-actions and micro influences. You can find her work, here.
Dr. Philip Reed-Butler
Spirituality, Gamification and Liberation
Thesis: Heavily engrained within Black identities are conceptions of connection to the divine. But, in terms of liberation from politically, emotionally and physically oppressive structures one might question the role of such a transcendent concept. Still the research points to a strong correlation between spirituality and psychological resistance. Even more so, in a world/society where technology becomes more prevalent, where do spirituality and technology meet? Can they? This think tank serves as a space of co-creation, in terms of thinking about the implications of merging technology and spirituality through a chatbot—Seekr. Seekr is a chatbot intended to facilitate nonjudgmental and compassionate internal dialogue among its users. Questions we will think about together will be: How might spirituality and technology meet in order to prove useful against oppressive structures; How might the fusion of game play, technology and spirituality alleviate stress and promote self-compassion; How does spirituality serve as a pre-emptive measure in the fight for liberation; and how might freedom be inherently connected to an immersion in the current technological landscape as a spiritual practice?
About Dr. Philip Reed-ButlerPhilip:
Philip Butler is an interdisciplinary scholar in neuroscience, technology, race, and spirituality. He earned his B.A. in religion from Morehouse College, and his M.Div. from Candler School of Theology with a dual concentration in ethics and church history. He is a recent graduate of Claremont School of Theology, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. His dissertation was entitled, “Black Transhuman Liberation Theology.” His passion for social justice, technological advancement and embodiment fuels his interdisciplinary approach. He serves on Hyperloop Transportation Technologies core ethical team, and is the author of, “Technocratic Automation & Contemplative Overlays in Artificially Intelligent Criminal Sentencing,” which appears in Co-Designing Economies in Transition.
Thesis: Wakanda Forever: How to use VR/AR to advocate for Reparations
The movie Black Panther conveyed Wakanda as an economic powerhouse and hub for technological innovation. In the real world, Black neighborhoods still feel the residual effects of slavery and are designed to have our people solely focus on survival. The first step for black empowerment is economic empowerment. We will discuss creative ways to implement VR/AR to advocate for reparations. Not as simply a check that comes in a mail, but an as an institution can support black empowerment. What other purposes could this office serve?
Glenn is the Founder, CEO of Movers & Shakers, an NGO that aims at elevating the collective consciousness regarding the history of black and brown people using virtual reality, augmented reality and the creative arts. He and his team are working on an augmented reality book White Supremacy 101: Columbus the Hero? The idea of the book is to take the Movers & Shakers AR app on your phone and place it over each image for an animation to play over the physical art. The team is looking to set up installations in galleries with the art in upcoming months as they work to get the Columbus statues removed in New York City public spaces. He is also the Creator and Executive Producer of We the People, a 360 VR docuseries that intends humanize the resistance movement and convey the creative ways in which people are engaging in activism. So far they've had the chance to speak with influential resistors like Faiz Shakir, National Political Director of the ACLU, Todd Stern, Chief negotiator for the United States at the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference, and Steve Lucin, Founder/CEO of the Support Creativity Scholarship (as well as one of his scholarship recipients). They've also covered Charlottesville protests and had the pleasure of interviewing Don Gathers, Chair of the Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commission that decided to remove the Confederate statues.
BlackSpace's Emma Osore, Ajamu Brown, and Ifeoma Ebo
Our think tank will begin with a quick overview of gentrification headlines and cultural preservation to build common understanding of the terms. Participants will have a facilitated discussion to develop a common definition of gentrification and understanding of both physical and non-physical effects on a neighborhood. Group will focus on how non-physical and physical impact neighborhood culture. Presenters will then share background on one specific Brooklyn based project aimed at working through this complicated issue. Workshop participants will break into small groups organized by project milestone stages and be given a list of project resources/strengths along with a challenge or need. Small groups will be draft ideas toward solutions based on the information learned and received. Groups will come back together to discuss their work and debrief session.
As many of us have or currently do work within the public sector we believe planning and urban policies have a major role in developing more inclusive, just, and equitable communities. We hope this workshop helps participants think more about what residential displacement does to not only those who leave but also those who managed to stay within a changing neighborhood. We want participants to walk away understanding how important community knowledge and agency is within neighborhood development.
Emma Osore is a social architect who builds systems that develop young people in given economic, social, and environmental realities. She is currently the Arts & Business Council of New York Program Coordinator managing an internship program focused on equity in the NYC arts management pipeline and training artists/arts nonprofits to build capacity. Her drive for developing more resourceful, creative (young) people comes from her own background growing up working class and finding that the systems of poor people have always been pretty damn innovative.
Ajamu Brown is the Community Relations Manager at L + M Development Partners
Ifeoma Ebo is an urban designer and strategist who strives to be a catalyst for social justice and design activism while addressing challenges of the urban milieu. Currently, as the Senior Design Advisor with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, she is the project lead for the Mayor’s Neighborhood Activation project - an interagency initiative exploring the use of design to address crime prevention and public safety in marginalized communities across NYC. In addition, she provides design guidance towards the development of more humane Criminal Justice facilities incorporating concepts of Equity and Procedural Justice.
Tewodross Melchishua Williams
Thesis: Thinking of A Master Plan: Challenging practices in education, technology, visual culture and media studies at HBCU institutions and Mo'
The goal of this think tank is for Black artists, filmmakers, designers, educators, students and others to look at new practices in teaching (and learning) about us as a people through technology, film, design and media studies at HBCUs as well as other institutions. HBCUs and HBI's and other community based schools still struggle everyday to maintain their very existence and yet have produced some of the most prominent leaders, innovators, thinkers, artists, filmmakers, scholars and change makers. What are some of the ways we can empower our youth and community through technology and visual culture and enhance education in general at both HBI and TWI institutions? How can we use technology and innovative approaches to education and media practice to combat racism, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry and white supremacy.
Tewodross "Teo" Melchishua Williams (pronounced Tee-oh-droze Mell-keshu-ah) is a filmmaker, animator, visual artist, VJ educator and curator from Prince George’s County, Maryland. His animation, art and films have been shown to audiences nationally and internationally. He has also been a featured speaker and consultant on several workshops, panels and television programs discussing issues and topics such as afrofuturism, visual culture, digital art, design, animation, filmmaking and the cultural and historical aesthetics of the moving image, technology, hip-hop studies and diversity. Currently, he serves as an Associate Professor and program coordinator of the Visual Communication and Digital Media Arts program (VCDMA) at Bowie State University. He teaches courses in animation, motion graphics, cinematography, new media, hip-hop studies and contemporary (underground) art/design. He also runs Visual Jazz, a media arts and film collective created in honor of visual artist Romare Bearden and musician Thelonious Monk located in the Gateway Media Arts Lab in the city of Mount Rainier just inside the Gateway Arts district of Prince George's County, MD.
Thesis: “Antidote 1.0 : Virtual Reality for the Revolution”
A think tank inviting activated Black folks to interrogate our relationship to technology and reimagining how we might weaponize virility. Together we will share in a prototype project named “The Antidote 1.0” and dream up possibility.
Tsige Tafesse’s work looks to wage intimacy in a world growing deeply disconnected. Through performance, community organizing, multimedia journalism, and vr she conjures, building pathways from where we’ve been to where we could go. Collaboratively she’s a co-producer of the Prismatic podcast (an “archive of knowledges”), is a co-founder of BUFU (By Us For Us), a decentralized living archive and documentary project about (Pan)Black-(Pan)Asian cultural & political relationships, co-directed the first “Afrofuturism Conference: Designing New Narratives for the African Diaspora” at The New School. She has her BFA from The New School for Drama with a concentration in Directing. Her performance credits include Upright Citizens Brigade, Intiman Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Art Museum, and others. Her photography work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, BlackLivesMatter.com. She was named one of Fader Magazine’s “People Who Show Us Where Culture Is Going” 2017 amongst being covered in NYLON, ID Magazine, Viceland, Creator’s Project, Village Voice, Vibe Magazine, and various others. She is currently a Artist-In-Residence with her collective at Eyebeam in NYC.
Thesis: How can Black people maintain access to resources when organizing, both among ourselves and with people outside our community, for radical changes that threaten the power of the individuals and institutions that primarily control access to resources under the current oppressive system?
Nabil Hassein has worked professionally as a software developer and a teacher, and has done political organizing work with Millions March NYC and other grassroots groups, primarily for police and prison abolition. He is active in local tech communities, including the Recurse Center and the School for Poetic Computation, and is one of the organizers of !!Con (bangbangcon.com). Originally from Northern Virginia, Nabil has lived in New York since 2008 except for one year and is a resident of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Thesis: Just about everything you can imagine can be automated. McKinsey estimates that automation will eliminate 45% of American jobs in 12 years
(ref: https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/automation-jobs-and-the-future-of-work). Challenge: What criteria should we use to build a job creation engine based on artificial intelligence?
Who should own the job creating machines and who should own the job undertaking machines? Perhaps what we need to think about is the way in which the workers who are working with the machines are part owners of the machines. How would you begin to envision a new set of employment skills? Another take; if robots are able to generate wealth, how should that wealth be distributed?
Ajay is a strategic design researcher who helps enterprise and startup teams uncover and develop unique innovation opportunities. She applies systems thinking, ecological sciences, anthropology and design approaches to find hidden customer needs, visualize complex problem spaces and test potential solutions. Since 2000 she has worked for American and British design firms including Razorfish, HUGE, Adaptive Path and Flow Interactive, where she developed product & service strategies for CNN, MTV, Lionsgate Films, Center for Foreign Relations, TD Ameritrade and ADP. Her studies take place in settings as diverse as hedge funds, universities, hospitals, stock trading floors, comic conventions, news rooms and private homes in the US, the UK, and Japan
She has taught customer discovery and Lean Launchpad at New York University and the School of Visual Arts, participated in an ItoEn Chakathon, mentored startups and coached winning teams to secure funding. She researched the state of Japanese startups and presented a talk at Hack Osaka on the role of entrepreneurship education.
Constantly learning, her education includes Design Entrepreneurship at Pratt, High Tech Anthropology at Menlo Innovation and Cartooning from Center for Comics Studies.
Thesis: The most impactful forms of messaging that’s come to fame on the Web is the “meme”. It’s a short, usually succulent, way of capturing a message that can be used in a myriad of situations; the true embodiment of an image capturing a thousand words. However, today, in a lot of on-line circles, memes of Black persons, namely Black women, have been used without true context. That coupled with the hundreds of racial undertones in other communities, like that of the gaming and art tech scenes, leads us to a whole different conversations about dense messaging via images.
Jacky Alciné is a software developer that works with Web platforms leaning towards the back end platform. He works, however, as a full stack web developer very eager to experiment with new technologies whilst remaining very partial with providing platform support to as many users as possible. He also tinkers with technology that bridge the Web to physical hardware. Outside of software development, he's working to become a high school teacher that aims to capture, cultivate and assist in the development of youth and young adults. This education route will involve the heavy decolonization of the information presented to our youth currently to ensure a healthy Pan-Afrikanist approach to mental development is available.
Thesis: Diversity Inclusion in Tech: How can millennials help create pathways to increase diversity in some of Tech’s biggest companies?
For over a decade Yasmin has spent her free time mentoring inner city youth, and preparing them to enter higher education and the workforce. Yasmin dedicated six years serving the Obama Administration at both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. During her tenures, she has served as a key point person in the Office of Management & Administration and the Office of Partnership and Engagement respectively. Yasmin was inspired to start the Hustlers Guild off of the foundations of her career and things she love most ; outreach ,development, music, and youth advocacy . With a love of hip hop and understanding the importance of youth development , she felt it made sense to extend her resources as a blueprint for those in her community who need it most. Yasmin is a graduate of Alabama State University, where she received her BA in Communications .