Why It’s Important to Develop Your Personal Brand

It seems to me that not many people within tech are taking ownership of their personal brand. Building your personal brand doesn’t mean you have to spend countless hours cultivating it (well not all at once). It can consist of simply updating your website when you are speaking at an event, blogging or tweeting about a particular topic that resonates with your brand or advertising your skills.

How useful are your skills if no one knows about them? For what do you want to be known? If there is a particular area at which you specialize, amplify it. Make it public knowledge; be deliberate about it. If you are looking for a job, you are in a much better position if future employers come to you. Take advantage of your uniqueness — show it. It may resonate with a group of people.

If you don’t manage your brand, one will be created for you. Most of us already have a digital footprint — it’s just a sign of the times. That is not to say that one cannot be stealthy and remain somewhat off the grid. But as for the majority of us, our online presence is being captured, cached and analyzed.

Here are a few quick tips to get you going on building your personal brand:

Identify a domain for which you’d like to be known.

Is there a particular topic for which all your family and friends call you? If so, you are known among your circle as being knowledgeable in that area. If they trust you enough to use you as their subject matter expert, well so may others — if they only knew about you!

Be strategic about your message and affiliations.

If you are a subject matter expert in XYZ, think about how you can help others with the skills you have and connect with larger brands to catapult yours.

Create a personal website.

It can be as simple as a bio, listing your skill-set, how to get in touch and links to your social channels. Place your website URL in your email signature, on your LinkedIn and Twitter pages. This will drive more traffic to your site and also tailor the results of Google search queries that include your name.

Be active in your domain.

Share your story, tips, experiences, provide mentorship (if possible), create cool products, etc.

Be consistent — this is your brand after all.

If you decide to start blogging, set up an interval at which you’ll release new posts. People will grow to expect your content and you’ll build an audience.

Know your search results.

Google yourself from time to time and set up Google alerts for your name and/or business. If your top results are not to your liking, make strides to change that. Drive more traffic to your website, and get Google to remove old content that you feel does not effectively represent you.

Once you start building your personal brand, you’ll be in awe at what comes your way. However, building your brand is not a one-time task. It’s a continuous process, and you make it part of your personal development cycle.

Happy brand building!

Quiessence is an information security professional with over seven years of experience within the financial industry. She is also the co-founder of Urban Tech Alliance, creator of the Girltechie Campaign, and a workshop series called SecurEd. Quiessence gravitated to technology at an early age and has been captivated ever since. 

Combining Time Travel and Metaphysics: Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales) Review

Review written by Sherese Francis of FuturisticallyAncient.com

Experiment: Write a letter to your future self or past self. Try to meditate and astral project yourself into the body of one of those selves before or while you are writing to do so. Can you remember past and future memories?
(Not from the book but in the style of it)

If you study metaphysics and archetypal psychology, you might have heard the term synchronicity. Popularized by Carl Jung, synchronicity is defined as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events … that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality” or as he describes it, “synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer. I’ll be honest. I do believe in synchronicity because I have had numerous strange coincidences maybe because I was intuitively looking for something and happen to come across it, or I set things into motion by looking for something in one place and stumble across something relevant in another. For example, I applied for a poetry fellowship and I was compelled to go through the list of the previous fellows; one of them was Reginald Dwayne Betts. I read some of his poems and happened to like them. About a week or two later, I went to the library and randomly decided to look through the poetry section and found a collection of Robert Hayden poems. I remembered enjoying his poetry as well, so I flipped to the forward and started reading. The writer’s description sounded familiar and I didn’t realize why until I looked at the cover again and realized that it was written by Betts. How did I stumble across a collection introduced by Betts soon after I just found out about him? Hmmm? Does it mean something? I don’t know, but it was spooky.

Why am I beginning with this? Well a similar circumstance happens to the character Khepri in Rasheedah Phillips’ experimental book, “Recurrence Plot and Other Time Travel Tales.” For synchronicity to happen, time itself works not only in a surface-level linear fashion that implies causality, but it works also at deeper, circular, interwoven movements of several times. Phillips explores the complexities of time and memory via concepts found in metaphysics, physics, philosophy and quantum theory. The book begins and stays for a majority of the time with the main character, Khepri, whose name is the same as the Egyptian scarab beetle god of rebirth and sunrise (note: her mother in the book actually names her after the Capri Sun name but with a variation in spelling, which could be considered a play on synchronicity). Khepri is a journalist who is investigating a series of virtual reality experiments done on young teen boys who are committing violent acts afterwards for no reason. But during a day off and a travel to a thrift shop, she stumbles across a book called “Experimental Time Order,” a book within a book, which she was meant to find and is a mash-up of quotations from several thinkers and reflections on the mind, memory, time, physics, quantum physics, spirituality and metaphysics. This opens the door to conversations with her future self, which help her to reveal suppressed memories of her difficult past that will help her present self.

The major linchpin of the book is Phillips’ slippage between reality and fiction. It pervades throughout the entire book as well as in a metafictional sense. Walls between the reader and book seem to break down at several points with the inclusion of chapters of Experimental Time Order interspersed, and especially in one of the later chapters, it seems as if the reader is the one to whom the book addresses. From early in the book, it is introduced that the stories are interpreted as computer programs and the readers wonder if they are on the same experimental PTSD machine that is creating these virtual realities for the young boys and main characters. The characters in the first three stories, Khepri, Deenah and Afina, all suffer from some kind of memory issue. Khepri’s memory issues, based on this slipperiness of time and reality, make it questionable whether she is actually speaking with her future self or that her past self writes reminders to her present and future selves. All of these reinforce much of the major themes in the book of the interconnection between the observer and the observed, the slipperiness of memory and identity, the interconnectedness of all things, and the quantum concepts of life as an illusion or hologram.
Phillips also uses these themes of metaphysics, quantum physics and the construction of realities to write a commentary on social systems. Social systems are not the results of passive linear progress or the way the world just is, but a result of a mix of intentions and actions that we put into motion under the superficial surface of the results we see. We created them and there are multiple levels to life beyond what we do see. It is much like the movie of the Matrix: it takes conscious action, a mental and emotional awareness of oneself and the world around them and a recognition of patterns to cause a shift in the system (think back on synchronicity). One of the pieces of information mentioned in Experimental Time Order is the types of memory – ones that are mechanical and habitual and others that are consciously constructed. When social systems fall into the former mechanical one, it becomes dangerous because we no longer question other possibilities that exist; our attention is focused on that one possibility that we see much like the observer in the wave-particle theory. Khepri’s development of awareness of her past, present and future selves helps her see her connection and the complexities of herself in relation to institutional racism, racializied scientific experimentation and cultural philosophies about human existence.

Another linchpin of the book is its matriarchal, womb-like structure of it. The main characters of the book are all women and while they are not obviously connected or related, you sense a kind of lineage and interconnectedness of each character and the reader feels an embodiment of the characters. Each character is like a reincarnated presence of another building on the book’s idea of recurrence. Based on Phillips’ own personal stories reimagined in a speculative way, the book reinstates women as creators of worlds, a status that is often refused to them in traditional religions and other public institutions. In the ending stories, “The Shift (Afina)” and Zero Point (You), the stories ascend from more personal stories to more social and cosmic, the latter much like 2001′s “starchild” about to descend into its avatar, both in the divine being descending into human form and the computer representation of someone sense. Whether the book is read forwards or backwards as it suggests in the end, “Recurrence Plot” manages to find balance between its own chaos and order.

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, and a founding member of Metropolarity.net. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, “Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales).”

Translating Future Noise: Interview with Producer and Composer King Britt

Afrofuturistic music, art and culture showed early signs of life in Philadelphia decades before the term was coined. Because some of the men who would come to be dubbed the forefathers of the genre worked, lived, created and left their marks in Philly, the groundwork for the genre and culture has been substantially laid here. Sun Ra spent some years here and had a home base in the Germantown section of Philly, where the Sun Ra Arkestra continues to practice to this day; while jazz legend John Coltrane’s house still stands as a local landmark and testament to his childhood, study and early career in Philly. Philly is home to The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), the region’s first Black comic book convention. Samuel Delaney, Nebula-award winning author and recently named Grand Master of Science Fiction, is currently a creative writing professor at Temple University.

Philly is also home to world-renowned producer, composer and performer King Britt, who started experimenting with speculative and electronic sounds early on in his work. I caught up with King Britt in the middle of plane hopping on his way to Berlin to get his thoughts on Afrofuturism, technology, science fiction, and how it all collides as inspiration for his music and creativity.

What sci-fi/speculative fiction books, shows or comics influenced you as a musician and your work now?

Funny, as a kid I wanted to be an astronomer from like third grade to eighth grade. I had all the cool space books and didn’t really get into sci-fi through books. It was always sci fact.

Films and TV were my influence more than comics. Although the Muhammad Ali vs Superman giant comic was the most amazing thing I owned.

Ultraman and Johnny Sokko TV shows were probably the most important influences. They were Japanese TV shows that made it to the USA on a regular basis in the afternoons. I was obsessed with them. Still, it was like super innovative for the lack of technology at the time.

Then, of course, Shazam, Wonder Twins and Isis TV shows. Isis was the illest!!

Describe your first musical instrument. What made you pick it up? Who are your greatest musical influences? Who and what inspired you to take this path?

Well, both parents were music collectors, so I figure it was inevitable that I would fall into it in some way, shape or form.

In second grade, I played violin but never thought of pursuing music as a profession.

I soon started collecting as well but didn’t get serious about making music until the Scritti Politti Cupid and Psyche 85 came out. I needed to make music like that. Of course Depeche Mode as well.

So I bought my first keyboard, a Yamaha DX 100, and then I had the bug. Jazz fusion and new wave being my main influences.

What do you listen to before a show? What would be your theme song or anthem?

Before a show I try to listen to the act before me and feel the room out. Especially when DJing. Then maybe 15 before I just need silence to channel my spirit guide.

My theme music would just be a drone in C minor.

What was the Saturn Never Sleeps project? What is the meaning of the name?

SNS was a project, with Rucyl Mills, I was involved with years ago that is now defunct. I had gotten a personal call from the ICA in Philadelphia to curate a music performance around an amazing Sun Ra exhibit that was here from Chicago. Rucyl and I were dating at the time and thinking of the right time to collaborate. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to do an improvisational show. I called up Tim Motzer and Damon Bennett for guitar and keys and my homie Jason Senk on visuals. I had Jason cut up Sun Ra footage to mix live with us.

The name was a moment when we were trying to figure the name. I said Saturn must be in the title and Rucyl was like, don’t sleep (slang) and boom Saturn Never Sleeps. We went on to play at the World Finance Center, big props to Ben Neil … and then we started a series and did an album. Fun times. I have a new series starting in January around my experimental label, The Buddy System project.

When you improvise soundscapes (for example, live improvised sound for Brother from Another remix, improvised sound for Bucknell gala), are you recreating/participating in traditions such as free improvisation jazz, or what Sun Ra called ‘phree music,’ music of the sun? What inspires you to create sound in this way?

There is nothing phree-er than improv. I have little loops and such to combine for the foundation and then create live from there. I now have the tools to really express myself in a live context. Be it with a full band or solo. I feel I bring my studio wizardry to the stage now.

How do you define technology? Do you see art and music as technologies in and of themselves, absent whatever medium is used to create, communicate or transmit the sound or the image? How do you use technology to create?

For me, technologies are the tools based in a process, used to create more technologies.

Technology can be knowledge, art, objects … whatever thought-out system which can be used to help one adapt or create.

I feel technologies are infinite, and, yes, each is in itself a technology even out of context.

All of our creativity is from some sort of technology … brain, molecular, whatever.

How does futurism inform your work in music and technology? Do you identify as an Afrofuturist? What pulled you to the genre and how do you translate the concept into sound?

I feel the genre came to us. The term was created and it stuck. But I didn’t consciously say I’m an Afrofuturist. It just happens that I was way before the term. I feel I have always been a starchild, so I am this naturally.

I definitely now use it as it helps people understand and relate to the ideas. My major was marketing, so it helps in defining market value in terms of making money.

Earlier this year, you participated in the SPACES artist residency, a residency where artists share their expertise and creative practices with a neighborhood struggling after decades of disinvestment. What about the SPACES residency, if anything, was different or nontraditional from other residencies you’ve done?

This is the first residency where I worked with the youth. I learned so much. They are fearless and the program was to start a label and Internet radio show for the community and ended up with a studio, too, Playback Radio. This is the main hub! It blew my mind, and I’m excited to take this to other cities. Access is key! I also learned to be a better leader as inspiration to the youth.

As part of SPACES, you worked with the community to create Playback Music, a record label and radio show that gathers, remixes and broadcasts the voices and sounds of North Philadelphia around the world. Why was it important for you to bring this project to the community? How do you feel the residency connects to the tradition of Afrofuturism? How did technology play a role, and why is access to tech important, particularly for disenfranchised and marginalized communities?

Yes, access. Without it you feel that there is no way out! The simple technology we had in the studio opened doors to the entire world through software and the Internet.

I feel the community needed to hear not only new music but to hear themselves on the show. Be it music, interviews etc. we also did a party every Monday on the block called The Stoop. That kinda turned into the show. I’m excited for them to take it on Germantown Avenue, which was the plan. Just had to wait for the landlord.

As it relates to Afrofuturism … Black people using what we got to the max as usual.

In your travels, have you seen the concept of Afrofuturism and the Black speculative in other cities and countries? Do you see any particular place as becoming a hub or central to the movement?

I feel it’s the coin phrase now and it’s everywhere. But L.A. has taken it to a whole new level with low-end theory and flying lotus’ Brainfeeder label … also Seattle with Shabazz. But they don’t look at it in those terms … it’s just natural!

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, and a founding member of Metropolarity.net. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, “Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales).”

Travel Noire: Cultivated Insights from a Global Community of Black Travelers

Traveling gives one a sense of cultures, gratitude, empathy, perspective, personal development and much more. Some say that you learn more about yourself when traveling; you become more observant, open to receive and make connections. But with traveling being so fun, enlightening and important, it begs the question of why most Americans, let alone African-Americans, do not travel outside of their own country. This was a question that Zim Ugochukwu had while traveling around the world and noticing that there weren’t many people of color enriching their lives with such a meaningful experience.

Travel Noire is a beautifully designed platform featuring cultivated insights from a global community of Black travelers. Founded by Glamour Magazine award-winning entrepreneur Zim Ugochukwu, Travel Noire is a necessity in every traveler’s toolkit. The site is filled with traveling guides — involving group getaways, traveling on a budget, food exploration, studying abroad, etc. Travel Noire breaks down information to visitors by allowing them to consume it by people, culture, experience, destinations, food and style. It’s like going to a friend and asking how was your trip to [insert country here]. That’s the beauty of pulling from curators all around the world — these people have been there, experienced the good, the bad and the plentiful.

They hand select the most amazing individuals from the African diaspora, who reside all over the globe, to share their love of culture and exploration with their viewers — in hopes that you will hop out of your neighborhood and across one (or a few) of the seven seas.

Their curators live in major cities, sprawling metropolises, countrysides, on boats and in mountains and everywhere in between. They span from the Americas to the dunes of the Middle East, from Europe to Oceania and from the tip of Africa to the paddy fields of Asia.

You also get an up-close and personal moment with their favorite curators on Travel Noire TV. Here you’ll hear insightful stories and go on a journey with them. Travel Noire TV offers all things travel and lifestyle, from learning how to book a cheap flight to maximizing your experience while away.

One point that resonated with me about the folks at Travel Noire is when they said, “When you learn about who you are in the context of other cultures, you open yourself up to be of service.” Let that marinate.

Check out Travel Noire and Travel Noire TV. Happy Traveling!

Quiessence is an Information Security Professional with over seven years of experience. She is also the Curriculum Development Lead for Black Girls CODE NY, creator of the Girltechie Campaign, and a workshop called “Securing Your Web.” Quiessence gravitated to technology at an early age and has been captivated ever since.

Using STEAM to Move Marginalized Students into the Future: An Interview with Dr. Nettrice Gaskins

You may have heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects, but more and more programs are beginning to focus on STEAM (STEM + Art), recognizing the importance of art and design in education, research and policy. Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, STEAM education lab director at Boston Arts Academy, investigates culturally situated arts-based learning and new media and how they are developed and practiced in creative communities. In addition to her extensive work in the STEAM field, she frequently writes about and advances theory and research on Black futurism, digital technologies, art and music. In this interview, Gaskins offers her thoughts on Afrofuturism, race, technology, art and where it all intersects out in the real world.

How do you define technology? Where do art and technology cross paths?
Technology comes from a Greek word (teche) that translates as art, skill, cunning of hand and another word (logia) that means I speak. This makes me think of Public Enemy’s Terminator X Speaks With His Hands, or Sun Ra’s use of different instruments such as early electronic keyboards. Art and music, in of themselves, are products, but you need a tool, system or platform with which to extrapolate, communicate and amplify that information. That’s how an art form becomes technology. Technology is the making, modification, usage and knowledge of tools, systems or platforms to solve problems or improve a pre-existing solution to a problem. Take, for example, the problem of race: Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about race as a social construct and Beth Coleman writes about race as technology. Both are correct; we have constructed tools, systems and platforms to characterize race. I explored the idea of “race as technology” in my Art21 post, Black Futurism: The Creative Destruction and Reconstruction of Race in Contemporary Art, specifically how African-American artists trouble the notion of race.

One criticism about Afrofuturism is that it does not advance technology or dream up novel technologies that can have practical, real-life applications. What are your thoughts on this critique?

One of the early scholars of Afrofuturism, Alondra Nelson, co-wrote Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. In the book, she asserts that it is necessary to use a broader understanding of technology, and to include not only those thought to create revolutions (e.g. information technologies), but also those with which people come in contact in their daily lives.

To address Nelson’s challenge, my research more fully realizes the “different levels of technical knowledge and innovation that individuals and communities bring to their world, play, and creative expression.” This includes studying Sun Ra, as well as contemporary artists who tinker with found materials to create something new. One example of this is Grandmaster Flash who has been credited with the invention of the first crossfader by sourcing parts from a junkyard in the Bronx. This is a real-life application that helped bring hip-hop to the rest of the world. Of course, there are smaller revolutions taking place in artists’ studios. The problem is that we generally do not hear about these inventions. Grandmaster Flash’s role as an inventor was nearly lost to history. Cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian have ensured his place in history, as well as George Clinton’s mothership that was recently acquired and rebuilt for permanent exhibition there.

How do we nurture and sustain these developments, particularly with our youth? In what ways is culturally situated arts-based learning accessible to poor and marginalized communities?

In order to sustain these developments, we have to create and sustain formal and informal learning environments where young people or even adults can tinker, experiment and play with technology. This is especially true for people who have been historically marginalized in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The artist’s and sound engineer’s studios are places where this happens, but with continuous, deep cuts in arts programs and that lack of new media in the schools, it makes access to these learning spaces difficult or impossible.

How does Afrofuturism/Black futurism inform your research and real-life work in the fields of art and technology? What experiences or inspirations led you to focus on and develop STEAM and culturally situated arts-based learning? Five to 10 years into the future, what role, impact and application do you see your work having?

When I was in high school, I double-majored in visual art and college/university, which meant that I was learning the craft and science of making ceramics (for example) while creating computer-generated anatomy illustrations in the same art classroom. I painted a mural demonstrating parabolic functions on my math teacher’s wall. Speaking of parabolas, check out the work of Fred Eversley: to me his work belongs in Afrofuturism. Eversley originally worked in the engineering and aerospace industry before deciding to become an artist. He also invented a technique of centrifugal casting of multi-color, multi-layer, concentric ring sculptures made of plastics.

However, unlike Eversley and other artists who prefer abstraction to dealing with race, I explored cultural heritage and hip-hop at a young age. I was doing independent research that led me to link the now old-school bamboo-style door knocker earrings with gold earrings worn by Ghanaian women. I created computer art illustrating these links when I was in the 12th grade. That piece was part of a series that got first place in Pratt Institute’s National Talent Search. That’s how I got to Pratt from a small town in Kentucky.

That’s what it’s really about, not just STEAM and culturally situated arts-based learning but advancing new approaches to the development of these models and providing multiple paths to success in school and the 21st century workforce. This year I conducted workshops with 150 middle school students who were predominantly African-American and these young people were inventing with paper and culturally situated design tools, including Afrofuturism CSDTs developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). These tools are online and free to use but it’s going to take a system to broaden access to and engagement in STEM.

My next challenge is building a new STEAM lab at Boston Arts Academy. The launch of the lab will take place in early fall. During the final interview for the position, I presented math and music curriculum using John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. This song and album is still considered innovative. Coltrane and Sun Ra were contemporaries and, apparently, studied together.

You can find more of Dr. Gaskins’ work at http://nettrice.us

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, and a founding member of Metropolarity.net. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, “Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales).”

Bringing Unseen Worlds to Light: Interview with Fine Artist Fabiola Jean-Louis

Fabiola Jean-Louis is a fine artist and photographer currently based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., whose imagery seamlessly blends magic with the mundane and reality with the speculative to bring unseen worlds out of hiding. Jean-Louis renders her portraits in such a way that it is often difficult to tell whether you are looking at something she dreamed up in her mind’s eye, or whether she was able to actually capture a glitch in the matrix, or if it is some ethereal piece of nature that let its guard down and unfolded before her. Although she has only been working at her craft since last November, she is already making waves as a visionary who can manifest diverse patterns of space-time, sci-fi, costume design and surrealism within the worlds of her art. We asked Jean-Louis about her inspirations, her creative process, her use of technology and her upcoming projects.

How would you describe your visual work? Is there a particular category, label or genre that you would affix to the images you create?

I would describe my visual work as mythical, dreamy, astrological and astronomical, ethereal, surreal. Many times, all these characteristics resonate in one piece. I tend to stay away from categorizing or labeling my work. However, my goal is always to tell a story through surrealism.

How do you define technology and how do you use it to enhance your work?

I’m a tech geek. When I think of science and all the possibilities it opens the world to – I become excited, imaginative and giddy like a little girl on a playground. At the same time, I am very aware of the astronomical damage it has caused our world … Technology comes at a heavy cost because it forces us to move forward regardless of time …

I can’t speak for every artist, but I can say that my art is a type of technology. The practical application of science to our everyday lives, seems to emphasize the distinction between the past, present and future. I use technology to do just that — emphasize the distinction between those spaces in time and, simultaneously, merge those facets together to create an art piece. Technology definitely plays a role in my creative process … From the use of my camera, to post-editing in Photoshop, and the symbols/elements found in the finished product.

A New Wave of Black Filmmaking: Experimental and Black Speculative Indie Films

In recent years, it has become relatively easier to produce your own short films, TV shows, commercials and music videos. Increased access to technology and platforms on which to display films, such as smartphones, YouTube and Vimeo, and alternative resources for funding to create these films, such as crowdfunding and small artists grants, have ushered in a new era of filmmaking for Black creators. Increased access to the tools and technology for producing films has also given independent filmmakers space to experiment in their work. A brief survey of the contemporary Black independent film scene yields a long and ever-growing list of experimental and Black speculative (including horror, Afrofuturism, sci-fi, fantasy, fan fiction) short cinema, film trailers, music videos and other projects. There are enough Black experimental and speculative films out there to warrant their own festivals and screening series.

The BlackStar Film Festival, for example, is an annual, Philly-based film festival focused on work by and about people of African descent, featuring films that are often overlooked from directors, writers and producers working in narrative, documentary, experimental and music video filmmaking. This past year, BlackStar screened The Next Movement: Experimental Shorts, featuring, among others, Afronauts directed by Frances Bodomo, moonrising directed by Terrance Nance, and Negus: Lee “Scratch” Perry directed by Invernomuto. The Future Weird, a Brooklyn-based short film screening series curated by Derica Shields and Megan Eardley, features sci-fi, experimental, speculative and weird short films by directors from Africa and the Global South envisioning the future. The Future Weird screens films along several themed tracks, including Remote Control, Non-Resident Aliens, Visions of Excess, and In Search of a Black Atlantis; with each screening drawing on a range of materials: commercials, music videos, newsreels, and colonial archives, and frame films. Black Radical Imagination is a traveling short film series that focuses on futuristic, surreal, sci-fi, and experimental narratives that provide visions and commentary on post-modern society through the state of current Black culture. Curated by Erin Christovale and Amir George, Black Radical Imagination has themed installments that feature shorts by Jacolby Satterwhite, Cauleen Smith, Jabari Zuberi, and others.

If you aren’t within reach of a film festival and if an Afrofuturist film series isn’t traveling soon to a location near you, you are still in luck — many experimental, Black speculative short films are available online for free. Pumzi, a post-apocalyptic short sci-fi film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, can be found on Youtube. Noise Gate by Donovan Vim Crony, an experimental sci-fi short film about a dimensional traveling scientist who is in search of the ultimate reality, can be screened online at Vimeo. Danger Word, directed by Luchina Fisher and adapted for the screen by award-winning writers Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due (My Soul to Keep), is a short horror film about a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather who have survived the zombie plague in his wooded cabin – and how her birthday goes badly awry. The film is available on Youtube and some cable channels. FUTURESTATES.tv is a web series of short sci-fi films written and directed by veteran and emerging indie filmmakers, many of whom are people of color. The films explore possible futures through the prism of today’s global realities. Because these films are free and accessible, you can host your own mini-Black speculative film festival at your local library or community center, or gather up a few of your friends and have a Black speculative-themed movie night right in your own home.

If you enjoy these indie short films, you may be excited to know that there are several independent film projects in the works that could use your support. Nicole Sconiers, author of speculative novel Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, has launched Lavender Pinnochio, a production company that produces digital content (short stories, trailers, short films) to inspire an international dialogue about the issues Black women face and create complex, entertaining, challenging but rewarding roles for Black actresses. Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire by poet, dramatist and guerrilla filmmaker Dennis Leroy Kangalee, is a non-traditional vampire film currently in development about a 150-year old Black vampire struggling with the enduring legacy of colonization. Actress Reagan Gomez is crowdfunding to develop a sci-fi Web series called Surviving the Dead about a nurse named Shayla whose city is overtaken by a deadly virus, with her father and the government somehow involved. On her Indiegogo page, Gomez says that her motivation in creating the show is because, although people of color love sci-fi movies and shows, we are rarely represented in them. “The running joke is, if there’s a Black guy in the movie, he dies first. And Black women, well … we aren’t considered at all. We’re never the hero. We never survive till the end. We’re never the stars. It’s time for that to change,” says Gomez.

That change has already begun, and if it isn’t already, Black speculative film is well on its way to becoming one facet of a new/renewed Black Arts Movement. I have highlighted only a small sample of the Black creators who are out here developing, financing, producing, writing and starring in our own films. These films are helping to decentralize the stereotypical, stale narratives and representations of the Black image that Hollywood and mainstream media have forged. The question is, will Black people support these multi-faceted representations of ourselves and our culture? Will we put our resources and attention back into our own communities so that we can continue to create and be the heroes and stars we wish to see?

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, and a founding member of Metropolarity.net. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, “Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales).”

How I Managed the Disappointment of Not Getting on ‘Shark Tank’

Disappointment is a part of life. This may be a biased comment, but disappointment feels more acute for people like entrepreneurs, who risk everything to make their dreams a reality.

Entrepreneurs quit their jobs, sacrifice relationships with friends and family, cash out their 401(k)s and run head-first into the unknown — that place in the universe filled with possibilities, tremendous joy and fulfillment. But also with lots of disappointment.

I’d like to share how I overcame the disappointment of not making it to the final round of auditions to get my company, WeMontage, on the incredibly popular TV show Shark Tank.

Why I Wanted to Get on Shark Tank

I recently listened to a great audio book by Ben Horowitz called, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I had one really great takeaway from the book:

When things get hard in your business and you’re not sure if there is anything you can do to make a difference, you ALWAYS have a move.

Let me repeat that. You ALWAYS have a move.

Things have been extremely challenging at WeMontage since we ran out of funding back in the spring. I have a great product with hundreds of happy customers, but the biggest issue for the business is lack of consistent national exposure.

Shark Tank has 20 million viewers. So, while it was a complete long-shot, getting on the show was my move. And doing so obviously would have addressed what I’ve identified as the major issue for the business.

I made it to the next-to-last round of auditions, but did not get the call to go to LA to pitch to the Sharks. Cause for disappointment? Perhaps…

How I Handled the Disappointment of Not Getting on Shark Tank

I initially thought I didn’t make it to the second round of auditions because people in line around me at the audition got their call back and I hadn’t; I was really upset about this because the producer said my pitch was great. I eventually did get the call a few days later and was super-pumped about it.

After I prepared my nine-minute pitch video for the producers and submitted my lengthy application, a funny thing occurred. I made a conscious decision that it didn’t matter what happened next, as I knew I had put forth my absolute best effort. I think that choice was inspired by something Ariana Huffington said in an interview about her new book, Thrive.

Ariana, a super-Type A personality, said she realized she can only control 10 percent of what happens in life, so she does her 10 percent at 100 percent of her ability and trusts the Universe to handle the other 90 percent. So, maybe that’s what I did, too. Or maybe I just released the whole thing because I’ve learned that my greatest disappointments in life have been when I expected a certain outcome and it didn’t come to pass. Or maybe it was some subconscious effort to protect my mental health. I actually think it was a combination of all three of these things.

Surprisingly though, I wasn’t disappointed to learn I didn’t make it to Shark Tank.

Disappointment of Others Who Support You

My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout this entrepreneurial journey. When I didn’t hear back about making it to LA, she was still optimistic it was going to happen. Once the trailers for the new season of Shark Tank started airing, the reality set in that I wasn’t going to be on the show and I could tell she was disappointed. And for the first time in the last three years, she began to question the feasibility of me accomplishing my dream of making WeMontage a household name.

She asked me, “Do you think WeMontage is going to happen.” My answer surprised even me. I didn’t hesitate in my response, “Yes, I do. I don’t know exactly how at this point, but I’m OK with that. I have a few tangible things coming up soon, that should make a huge difference.”

I was grateful she accepted that answer without hesitation. I was even more impressed that I still had the resilience in me to respond so affirmatively and so quickly in that way.

Suggestions for Managing Disappointment

I looked around the Internet to see what others recommend for handling disappointment. I found a few practical, platitude-free suggestions in an article over at PsychCentral.com. Here are six recommendations in the article for how to effectively cope with disappointment.

1. Manage emotion
2. Don’t take it personally
3. Review expectations
4. Take a big picture perspective
5. Try again — or try another tack

I think I’ve used all of these tips during the last three years of chasing my dream. The thing I think I’m best at on this list though is number “6”, which is being resilient.

Resilience Matters

In my experience, the one thing that has consistently kept me moving forward, other than the support of my amazing wife, loving family and friends, is resilience.

There have been plenty of times I’ve wanted to quit, but I haven’t.

I still might quit…

But not today.

How have you dealt with disappointment as it relates to being an entrepreneur? Are there things you can share that might help others? Please do so in the comments.

James Oliver, Jr. is a husband to an amazing wife, Ayana, and co-founder of the world’s cutest twins, Thaddeus and Zoe. James is a tech entrepreneur who successfully raised private investment capital for his startup, WeMontage, the world’s only website that lets you turn your photos into large collages on removable wallpaper. James graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse Collage and has an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. Follow @jamesoliverjr on twitter and via treplifedad on Facebook and G+. You can connect with James via his lifestyle blog for parent entrepreneurs:www.treplifedad.com.

Black Speculative Tech – Uses of Technology in Black Science Fiction, Part 1

I’ve always considered the term “science fiction,” as applied to writing, film and other speculative media involving scientific concerns, to be somewhat inadequate. It has always seemed to me that the worlds created within the pages or upon the screen are literally written into existence, brought to life, fully functioning and self-sustaining in the imaginations and minds of the viewers and readers, whereas the term “fiction” would seem to deny the world its possibility of being.

Science fiction also denotes a false sense of cause and effect, as though the writing or film is influenced by the field of science in a unilateral direction, instead of both science and speculative works being mutually influenced by each other. Science and technology have benefitted from the imaginations of science fiction writers as much as the reverse, and many sci-fi writers are, in fact, scientists, or are consulted by scientists when their work predicts the future or thinks up new possibilities and uses for technology. Many of the words and terms that we believe to have been fashioned in a laboratory, such as “zero gravity,” “ion drive,” and “robotics” were first used in science-fiction stories, and subsequently integrated into science jargon. And any sci-fi writer will tell you that extensive research into the scientific area that your story is focused on is crucial and perpetual. Likely, the same is true for other artists and performers whose works are speculative or science fictional in nature.

In this ongoing examination, we will look at the use of technology in the writings and art of popular and contemporary Black speculative writers and artists, what the technology comments on or correspond to in reality, how that technology anticipates some later development in science, or how the work expands or redefines the meaning of technology.

Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933-1940 written in 1931 by George Schuyler, tells the story of a technology invented by a Black scientist named Dr. Crookman that changes a Black person into a white person. The transforming technology seems to anticipate the skin-bleaching phenomenon that would later grip societies all around the world. Although many sources trace skin-lightening techniques back to ancient times, skin-lightening cream did not come into mass production until the 1960s. In 1940, it was discovered that the chemical compound hydroquinone would depigment skin in people of color wearing rubber gloves made of the compound. In 1978, the Food and Drug Administration would issue proposed rules for over-the-counter drugs containing hydroquinone, which included skin-bleaching products. The chemical has since been banned in several countries, but remains available over the counter in the United States if it contains the chemical below a certain percentage. In Schuyler’s time, just as in 2014, lighter skin means a higher rung on the social hierarchy, along with better social and economic opportunities. Crookman’s machine, described as “a cross between a dentist’s chair and an electric chair,” also anticipates the use of cosmetic surgery to alter appearance. The technology in the novel changes not only the Black person’s skin pigmentation, but hair texture and color, nose and lips.

In her short story Like Daughter (appearing in the Dark Matter anthology), speculative author Tananarive Due paints an eerie picture of “designer babies” taken to its most extreme conclusion. Synthesizing the concepts of genetics, epigenetics, trauma and memory, Due’s story, released in 2001, seems to anticipate the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis to pre-select preferred qualities of a child, such as its eye color and gender, and advances in assisted reproductive technology that could eventually allow parents to genetically engineer a child.

Amiri Baraka has two works in particular which are a speculative re-imagining of the function and use of technology. Rhythm Travel, also found in the Dark Matter anthology, envisions a way of traversing space-time that allows the traveler to “be the music,” disappearing and reappearing wherever and whenever the music is played. This 1996 story is an interesting parallel to Baraka’s earlier 1969 essay Technology and Ethos, where he calls for us to dramatically redefine and create new technologies that push beyond the boundaries established by the politics of the white scientific institution. The Molecular Anyscape used in Rhythm Travel appears to be one of the machines produced by the spirit that Baraka refers to in Technology and Ethos.

What are some other uses of or comments on technology in the speculative works of Black writers, artists and performers?

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia public interest attorney, speculative fiction writer, the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair, and a founding member of Metropolarity.net. She recently independently published her first speculative fiction collection, “Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales).”

8 Books of Critical Analysis and Essays on Black Speculative, Science Fiction, Superheroes and Horror

Books of critical analysis and essays on Black speculative, science fiction, superheroes and horror:

1. Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation edited by Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II (2013) is an analytic history of the diverse contributions of Black artists to the medium of comics. Covering comic books, superhero comics, graphic novels and cartoon strips from the early 20th century to the present, the book explores the ways in which Black comic artists have grappled with such themes as the Black experience, gender identity, politics and social media.

2. Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film by Adilifu Nama (2008) is the first book-length study of African-American representation in science fiction film. Black Space demonstrates that science fiction cinema has become an important field of racial analysis, a site where definitions of race can be contested and post-civil rights race relations (re)imagined.

3. Race in American Science Fiction by Isiah Lavender III (2011) offers a systematic classification of ways that race appears and how it is silenced in science fiction, while developing a critical vocabulary designed to focus attention on often-overlooked racial implications. These focused readings of science fiction contextualize race within the genre’s better-known master narratives and agendas.

4. Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from 1890s to Present by Robin Means Coleman (2011) presents a unique social history of blacks in America through changing images in horror films. Throughout the text, the reader is encouraged to unpack the genre’s racialized imagery, as well as the narratives that make up popular culture’s commentary on race. Offering a comprehensive chronological survey of the genre, this book addresses a full range of black horror films, including mainstream Hollywood fare, as well as art-house films, Blaxploitation films, direct-to-DVD films, and the emerging U.S./hip-hop culture-inspired Nigerian “Nollywood” Black horror films.