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AffroSurreal Writers Workshop

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The AfroSurreal Writers Workshop is a collective founded by Rochelle Spencer which supports writers of color who create weird, surreal, futuristic or absurdist art.

History[edit | edit source]

In 2016, the AfroSurreal Writers hosted a tea honoring Pulitzer-prize winner Edward P. Jones and held an AfroSurrealism conference, honoring Glyph-winner Juliana "Jewels" Smith, creator of the comic “(H)afrocentric,” at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). The conference was hosted by media personality Shannon Holbrook and organized by Veda Silva, AAMLO project director, and Rochelle Spencer. The conference included a screening of Tananarive Due's short film Lost and images from artist Tan Khanh Cao; conference speakers included Thaddeus Howze, Audrey T. Williams, Summer Brenner, and members of Prison Literature Project. In 2017, the AfroSurreal Writers were selected for the Writers Guild of America's hotlist.

Exhibitions and Projections[edit | edit source]

In 2018, the AfroSurreal Writers curated the Let’s Play exhibition at Oakland's Pro Arts Gallery, displaying works on the intersection between urban life and play.[1] The phrase Let's Play was coined to emphasize inclusiveness of community.[2] The exhibition featured an Emory Douglas-inspired mural from the Kiss My Black Arts Collective, an installation piece from visual artist David James Lee, and photographs from photographer, filmmaker, and poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths. The exhibition also featured audio or digital projections from writers Jacqueline Bishop, Renee Alexander Craft, Junot Díaz, Jewelle Gomez, Victor LaValle, Kyla Marshell, Sharan Strange, Sheree Renée Thomas, Dawnie Walton, and Johnnie Davis, the founder of Serenity House, a program for women who have experienced sexual assault and are experiencing trauma-related challenges.

The AfroSurreal Writers later screened a commissioned projection of Ishmael Reed's "Oakland Blues," directed by Alton Ray and edited by Shellie Sampson, and screened at Pro Arts Gallery.

The AfroSurreal Writers curated the NEA-sponsored Digital Literature Garden featuring commissioned virtual reality projections based on Tananarive Due's award-winning short story collection Ghost Summer and poetry from Giovanni Singleton, Raina J. Leon, and Audrey T. Williams. Malaika Parker and the Hummingbirds Collective designed the garden, and the website was designed by poet Amos White. Virtual reality glasses were donated by Siciliana Trevino. As part of the event, television and theater producer Randolph Sturrup judged the 2018 Edward P. Jones AfroSurreal short story contest and awarded Sumiko Saulson first place for her story, "The Balm of Brackish Water," which Sturrup called "brilliant and beautifully written." Saulson read at the event. Previous recipients of the Edward P. Jones AfroSurreal short story contest were Jasmine Wade and Benson Lott, who received free tickets for Z Space's performance of Jones' All Aunt Hagar's Children. The 2017 contest was judged by writer and editor Thaddeus Howze.

Current Members[edit | edit source]

Current members of the AfroSurreal Writers include Alan Clark, Shannon Holbrook, Thaddeus Howze, Desi Linc, Dr. Raina J. León, Rochelle Robinson, Dr. Rochelle Spencer, Kelechi Ubozoh, Amos White, Audrey T. Williams, and Dera R. Williams. They frequently collaborate with the Association of Black and Brown Writers, founded by Vernon Keeve, and the Kiss My Black Arts Collective, directed by lead artist Rtystk.

Group Interviews and Readings[edit | edit source]

The AfroSurreal Writers have been featured in Ms. , where they interviewed poet Arisa White, and in Clockwise Cat, the East Bay Express, Black Girl Nerds, and Poets and Writers. The collective has presented at Litcrawl and with the Living Room Light Exchange.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Gebreyesus, Ruth. "Let's Play Considers Fun as an Act of Joyous Rebellion at Pro Arts Gallery". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2019-02-07.
  2. "Let's Play: Intuition, Imagination, and Black Creativity". Poets & Writers. 2017-06-01. Retrieved 2019-02-07.


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