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Podcast, Social Justice, Arts & Culture

Episode 185: Science Fiction & Social Justice — with Walidah Imarisha

September 13, 2022
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Situated within the current context of police brutality, for-profit prisons, and excessive incarceration rates, Am Johal sits down with educator, writer, and public scholar, Walidah Imarisha.

Walidah describes her creative works involving ideas and futures of police and prison abolition, including her book Angels with Dirty Faces, and her current work developing Space to Breathe – a film that looks back on our present moment of the abolitionist movement from a future where police and prisons have been abolished. She also shares her collaboration with adrienne maree brown in the creating the Octavia's Brood, an anthology inspired out of their desire to push movement organizers beyond ideas of “realistic” change.

Throughout the interview Walidah also speaks about science fiction as an avenue to inspire greater imaginings for social change, and discusses white supremacy, imperial colonialism, and white “progressiveness” within the past and present histories of Oregon and The United States.

About Our Guest

Walidah Imarisha

Walidah Imarisha is an educator, writer, public scholar and spoken word artist.

She has co-edited two anthologies, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements and Another World is Possible. Imarisha’s nonfiction book Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption won a 2017 Oregon Book Award. She is also the author of the poetry collection Scars/Stars, and in 2015, she received a Tiptree Fellowship for her science fiction writing.

Imarisha is currently an Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Department and Director of the Center for Black Studies at Portland State University. In the past, she has taught at Stanford University, Pacific Northwest College of the Arts and Oregon State University. 

For six years, she presented statewide as a public scholar with Oregon Humanities' Conversation Project on several topics, including Oregon Black history. She was one of the founders and first editor of the political hip hop magazine AWOL.

She has toured the country many times performing, lecturing and challenging, and has shared the stage with folks as different as Angela Davis, Cornel West, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Kenny Muhammad of the Roots, Chuck D, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Robin D.G. Kelley, Umar bin Hassan from The Last Poets, Boots Riley, Saul Williams, Ani DiFranco, John Irving, dead prez, Rebecca Solnit, and Yuri Kochiyama.

Cite This Episode

Chicago Style

Johal, Am. “Science Fiction & Social Justice — with Walidah Imarisha” Below the Radar, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Podcast audio, September 13, 2022. https://www.sfu.ca/vancity-office-community-engagement/below-the-radar-podcast/episodes/185-walidah-imarisha.html.

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