Charlotte, NC

Afrofuturism Fest to Debut in Charlotte Next Month

Shannon Cuthrell

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BLKTECHCLT is hosting its inaugural Afrofuturism Fest in Charlotte from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14.BLKTECHCLT

Charlotte-based Black Tech Interactive will host its inaugural Afrofuturism Fest next month, bringing three days of vendor events, music, short films, networking, keynotes, panel discussions and more featuring Black creatives, entrepreneurs, small business owners and tech leaders.

The festival is the latest program of Black Tech Interactive (or BLKTECHCLT), a collective of Black startup founders and technologists in and around Charlotte. The organization was founded in 2016 and has since drawn 1,555 members. Its programming includes everything from tech training courses and workshops to student internship programs and networking series.

BLKTECHCLT's intellectual property was acquired in March by Charlotte-based startup accelerator and incubator City Startup Labs, which plans to further expand its activities in advanced technology fields.

Rashaan Peek, the director of BLKTECHCLT, says City Startup Labs Founder and Executive Director Henry Rock presented the Afrofuturism Fest concept as an innovation-centered gathering with a "cross-sectional/aggregation of present and future Black creatives, techies, makers, designers, scientists, thinkers and entrepreneurs."

Peek added that Rock wanted to "push the idea, envelope and state of the art of Black tech and links to the innovations of Afrofuturism" and create "a collision of designers, techies, makers, entrepreneurs, creatives and scientists with 'hip' programming."

"I took his vision and created what will be the Inaugural Afrofuturism Fest," Peek says.

She is expecting a turnout of around 200 people throughout the multi-day program.

The event will kick off on Aug. 11 with a block party to culminate BLKTECHCLT's 21-Day Reading Challenge, in which student-athletes from Julius L. Chambers High School will share daily posts about their reading activities on social media for three weeks beginning on July 21. Students who successfully complete the challenge will be invited to the block party.

In the following days, the festival will include several events at different venues across the city—all centering around the concept of Afrofuturism, a blend of art, technology, science fiction, music and innovation exploring the Black experience.

Here's a preview of the lineup:

Libations and Liberation

On Aug. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Camp North End's DUPP&SWAT space, the Libations and Liberation event will include a fireside chat with Sudi West, executive director of the Shaw Community Center in Washington, D.C., and a meet-and-greet with Tamu Curtis, founder of Charlotte-based cocktail and culinary company Liberate Your Palate and the soon-to-open beverage shop The Cocktailery.

Black-owned beverage brands Redd Rose Vodka and Calvine's Coffee will deliver samples.

Food Truck Friday and Black Cinema Classics

Held on Aug. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at 1600 W. Trade St., this event will feature several food trucks and vendors with art, jewelry, clothes and books. There will also be spoken word sessions, music and DJs, and sci-fi short film showings in partnership with The Black Classics, an outdoor cinema series based in Charlotte.

Peek says BLKTECHCLT will release the movie list this week.

Afrofuturism (un)Conference

Chicago-based author and filmmaker Ytasha Womack will headline the Afrofuturism (un)Conference on Aug. 14 as the keynote speaker. Held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Central Piedmont Community College's North Classroom Building, the event will also include a job fair, a maker space curated by Charlotte-based Charla Fields, and an art exhibit curated by JoAnne and Arthur Rogers of Charlotte's 9189 Studio Gallery.

A group of international speakers, including Gameli Adzaho of Ghana's Just One Giant Lab and Babasile Daniel Oladele-Emmanuel of the GreenLab Microfactory fabrication laboratory in Nigeria, will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Sherrell Dorsey, co-founder of BLKTECHCLT and publisher of The Plug.

An ideation session will focus on using technology to tackle low reading scores among Black youth, access to fresh food and community violence.

"The vision is to ignite the imaginations of all to see themselves in the future while collectively solving community challenges," Peek said of the ideation component of the program.

BLKTECHCLT is also partnering with AfroPop, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this Saturday, to present an event at Roy's Kitchen & Patio after the Afrofuturism (un)Conference.

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Shannon Cuthrell is a Charlotte-based freelance journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.

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