Using science fiction to advance social justice

Science fiction may be the realm of time travel and extraterrestrial life to many, but to Walidah Imarisha, it’s a tool that can help us advance equity, justice and a better society right here on earth.

Imarisha — a public scholar, organizer, spoken word artist and PSU alumna — brought themes and concepts drawn from a new book she co-edited, “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements,” to her keynote speech at this year’s MLK Tribute event on January 22 at the Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) Ballroom on the Portland State University campus.

“I’ve been a science fiction nerd since birth,” says Imarisha, who graduated with high honors from PSU with a B.A. in history and certificate in Black Studies in 2000 and taught literature and writing classes in Portland State’s Black Studies Department and at Stanford University.  “I was drawn to its space of imagination where one could create entire worlds and infinite possibilities. Science fiction as a genre doesn’t just allow you to throw out everything that’s possible.  It demands it!”

Imarisha, her co-editor adrienne maree brown and the contributing authors urge readers to harness the power of imagination to create a world where the systemic institutional changes advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr. become reality.  In Oregon, Imarisha sees a particularly powerful opportunity to move away from the state’s racist history.

“It’s time to disrupt the 19th century dream of a white utopia here in Oregon,” says Imarisha. “We must institute a new dream rooted in racial justice.”

The event was part of the “Living the Legacy” series of campus and community events honoring the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

- Kurt Bedell, University Communications

Caption: Walidah Imarisha.

Front page caption: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watch a video recording of the MLK Tribute ‘18, Living the Legacy: Afrofuturism & Possibilities for Oregon featuring Walidah Imarisha below.


Upcoming events:

Race, Gender and Justice
In conversation with Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala
A fundraiser for the Women's Justice Project
State Attorney Ayala has committed herself to criminal justice reform because of her belief in an evidence-based approach to addressing public safety and crime. She will be in conversation with Oregon Justice Resource Center Executive Director Bobbin Singh to talk about race, gender and justice.

Thursday, January 25, 2018
6:30 pm
Lincoln Recital Hall 75, Portland State University
1620 SW Park Ave., Portland, OR 97201

FREE for PSU Students with ID 
General admission tickets are offered on a sliding scale: $40, $30, or $20.


Past events:

MLK Day of Service
Monday, January 15, 2018
8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Each year, PSU participates in the National Day of Service by collaborating with other local colleges and universities and Oregon Campus Compact, to organize a day of service honoring the commitment to community building, justice, and solidarity that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embodied. This is part of a city-wide call to action that mobilizes thousands of students, community members, and organizations to address issues in our community.

Live Mural Painting with Sea Mason
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Multicultural Center, Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 228, Portland State University
Help paint a mural illustrating the legacy of MLK, mission of the Pan-African Commons, success & possibility, and the empowerment of Black peoples!