Afro 1

Kayla Rodney performs at the open mic night Sept. 24 at the Civic Media Center. Rodney was the featured artist for the night, which had a theme of Afrofuturism, a genre of media that blends black culture with science fiction and technology.

The Civic Media Center hosted its first open mic of the semester last week, focusing on Afrofuturism.

Afrofuturism intersects speculative fiction and technology with regard to black culture, African

American studies librarian Stephanie Birch said. She represented Smathers Library at the event.

Afrofuturism spans multimedia platforms and is multigenerational, she said, and there has been a long history of the genre.

“It’s the product of black imagination,” she explained. “Imagination about what kind of futures can exist [for black people].”

Other local organizations tabling at the event included UF’s Queer Trans People of Color Collective and Dream Defenders.

Ashley Wallace was the coordinator of the event, although she calls herself a “people mover.”

She said the open mic nights have been recurring since 2014 on the last Tuesday of each month. Since it aligns with the school year, this was the first one since spring.

Throughout the night, over six local black poets and songwriters took the stage.

Kayla Rodney was the spotlight feature artist of the night.

“[People] make her mad at work, and she makes art,” Wallace said when introducing Rodney’s performance. “She makes gold. That’s Afrofuturism.”

Rodney said she started writing poetry in high school. Now 26, she said she enjoys what it “means” to write poetry.

“It’s an expression of who I am as a person,” she said. A major theme in her work is what it’s like to live in the world as a black woman.

Though she is originally from Louisiana, she feels she was adopted into the Gainesville community.

“A lot of my work involves water, ever since Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “I didn’t realize that until it was pointed out to me.”

She said she doesn’t consider Afrofuturism to be futuristic, but rather a vision of what a safe world would be like for black people.

“It’s important to have the space for black residents to come together and have a safe exploration of black utopia,” she said.

Her 20-minute set featured several spoken-word poems, which she said is not necessarily her forte.

“I call myself a page poet who happens to be onstage once in a while,” she said.

Wallace said the Civic Media Center likes doing themed nights when partnering with UF to bring people in.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between students and locals,” she said.