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Visioning Beyond the Parameters of Realism

Visioning Beyond the Parameters of Realism is a virtual panel centering Black women writers on the power of literature to envision futures outside the limitations of racism and patriarchy.

Date: Nov. 1, 2023

Time: 5-6:30 p.m. Pacific

Admission: FREE! (donations are welcome)

This panel will feature debut Aunt Lute authors Kathya Alexander and Michele Berger (titles coming in 2024) alongside queer Afrofuturist and CEO/Founder of Sistah Scifi, Isis Asare, and Poetry for the People program director and Creative Writing instructor at UC Berkeley, Aya de Leon. These panelists will discuss the power of literature to envision futures outside existing systems of oppression.

Moderating the panel discussion will be author and organizer of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland, Ellen C McBarnette.

This panel is part of a larger project that includes the publication of upcoming projects from both Kathya Alexander and Michele Berger, reading events, and a workshop for Black femme, nonbinary, cis, and trans women writers. This project is funded in part by the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about the upcoming events.

Meet the Panelists:

Kathya Alexander is a writer, playwright, storyteller, and teaching artist. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the prestigious Hedgebrook Women Writer’s Retreat and won the Fringe First Award for Black to My Roots: African American Tales from the Head and the Heart at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for Outstanding New Production and Innovation in Theater in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has also won awards from 4Culture, Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, Artist Trust, Jack Straw, Seattle Theater Group, Freehold Theater, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. She was a freelance writer for the now defunct award winning Colors NW Magazine and The Initiative, and is a regular contributor to the South Seattle Emerald. She has been published in The Pitkin Review, Arkana Literary Magazine, Pontoon Poetry/Black Lawrence Press, and Native Skin Magazine. She has also been published in anthologies by the African American Writers Alliance (AAWA) and in Raising Lily Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workplace by Lost Horse Press. Her playwriting credits include The Negro Passion Play; Black D*ck Matters; Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!; Think Before You Do; With Hope And With Morning; David & Jonathan: A Modern Day Retelling of the Biblical Story; Homegoing; A Revolution of Hope; emotionalblackmale; HumaNature; Dream’n; Native Sons and Daughters; A Taste of Prison; Three Strikes on Trial; Nappy Roots: A Fairy Tale; and Black to My Roots.

Kathya’s acting credits include House of Dinah, And Jesus Moonwalks The Mississippi, The Negro Passion Play, Zooman and the Sign, The Amen Corner, and Before It Hits Home. She is a founding member, producer, and Resident Playwright of Brownbox Theatre: Reimagined Black Theater in Seattle, WA. She has been a professional storyteller for 20+ years, and told stories monthly as part of Aunt Mama’s Story Table at Starbucks in Seattle for 15 years until it was closed due to COVID. Her experience as a teaching artist includes residencies for Seattle Public Schools, and she was part of the Freehold Theater residency at the Washington Correctional Center for Women. She has also taught for Powerful Schools and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative in addition to several community based programs for adults and children. Her most recent experience was working with BIPOC youth on a play about gun violence funded by Seattle Parks and Recreation. She is a proud member of the Creative Advantage Arts Partners Roster, the African American Writers Alliance, and the Seattle Storytellers Guild. Her debut novel is scheduled for release in 2023 by Aunt Lute Books.

Michele Tracy Berger is the Eric and Jane Nord Family Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. Her short fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared, or is forthcoming in 100 Word Story, Apex Magazine, Glint Literary Journal, The Wild Word, Thing Magazine, Blood and Bourbon, FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, Oracle: Fine Arts Review, Carolina Woman, Ms., and various anthologies. She is the 2019 winner of the Carl Brandon Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society for her story "Doll Seed" published in FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. Much of her work explores psychological horror, especially through issues of race and gender.

Isis Asare is a queer Afrofuturist, serial technology entrepreneur, and lover of community, yoga, and all things Black culture.

You can catch Isis zooming through cyberspace or in-person wherever Black folks gather. A citizen of the world, Isis was born to Ghanaian immigrants in Harlem. Isis concurrently resides in Seattle, WA and Oakland, CA with their supportive and evolving polycule.

Isis is an alum of Stanford University, Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and Columbia Business School were they earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, masters in public policy, and MBA respectively.

Isis is the CEO/Founder of Sistah Scifi, the first Black owned bookstore focused on science fiction and fantasy in the United States as validated by the American Booksellers Association.

Aya de León teaches creative writing and climate justice UC Berkeley. She is the founder of Fighting Chance Books, a new climate justice fiction imprint at She Writes Press. Fighting chance is acquiring novels by authors of all genders that tell stories of people taking collective action in the here and now to solve the climate crisis. As an author, Aya's novels have won the Northern California Book Award, the Jane Addams prize for social justice children’s literature, two first-place International Latino Book Awards and three first place Independent Publisher Awards. Her "Justice Hustlers" series has also been optioned for television. A former spoken word poet and hip hop theater artist, Aya's work has also appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, VICE, The Root, Ploughshares, and on Def Poetry, and she was recently interviewed in the New York Times. Aya has an intersectional memoir-in-progress about race, gender, war, body image, and the environment. In spring 2022, she organized an online conference entitled Black Literature vs. the Climate Emergency (available on YouTube). In addition, she does climate organizing with the Black Hive, the climate justice formation at the Movement for Black Lives.

Meet the Moderator:

Ellen C. McBarnette’s career has taken her from the halls of the US Congress to boozey poetry slams. Born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, second generation Caribbean, She has had a long career as a federal policy expert in environmental, civil rights and constitutional law, in which she wrote policy statements, speeches, public correspondence and opinion pieces. Her work has been published in the Congressional register, national magazines and newspapers around the country. In the evenings, she performed nonfiction memoir storytelling on the DC stage, occasionally making enough for cab fare home! She has performed dozens of times and has mc’d as well. She has performed in DC, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and California. For four years, she headed the Arlington Creative Non-Fiction Writers Group, a 1,000 member group supporting Washington area writers.

Today, she lives in Hayward, Ca with her partner and fellow writer, Ben Schmoker and their cat Java, where she is active in the San Francisco literary community. She is committed to peer supportive communities of writers as a part of the writer’s experience. She is the founder of the Beta Readers and Writers Peer review group, on the Board of the Womans National Book Association, SF Chapter and vice-president of the board of the California Writers Club Berkeley Branch. She has been recognised in the “2023 Black Women of Horror.”

She is the organizer of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland. We have been in existence for nearly ten years. In 2020, as Covid raged and the Bay shut down, the organization faced a crossroads. No longer able to meet in person once a month they considered suspension but Ellen stepped up, took the role of organizer and they pivoted to meeting more, not less. Once a week by Zoom they shared support, faith, news of financial support and personal tales of survival. Together they formed a stronger group.

Her novella, Negrita, a tale of afrosurrealism, historical fiction is published in Midnight and Indigo, Speculative Fiction Volume 2 and her poetry will be published in the award winning itinerary mgazine, Fault Zones, in December 2023.


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