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Imagining New Black Futures for a Good Cause

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Adante Pointer, Queen Imïnah, Selena Wilson and Akintunde Ahmad stand shoulder to shoulder at a prior EOYDC gala.
Adante Pointer, Queen Imïnah, Selena Wilson and Akintunde Ahmad stand shoulder to shoulder at a prior EOYDC gala.  (Via EOYDC)

Not only are there Black folks in the future—they’re fly, too.

At the Black Futures Ball at the Bridge Yard on Aug. 6, you’ll see a blend of Comic-Con with a traditional gala and Town culture, says Selena Wilson, CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which is hosting the event.

“Folks can expect to see people in straight-up cosplay. They can expect to see people in grills and Jordans. They’ll see folks in heels and cocktail dresses, in gowns, and in beautiful traditional African clothing mixed with futuristic pieces,” Wilson tells me. “There will be something for everybody.”

Both celebration and fundraiser, attendees of the Black Futures Ball are invited to contribute to EOYDC’s annual college fund. A staple for over two decades, the Deep East Oakland-based center’s fund donated $150,000 to Black and brown Bay Area students last year alone. Wilson hopes to keep that momentum: “We’re celebrating the theme of Afrofuturism,” she says. “We’re also legit investing in Black futures.”

That investment is more important than ever. When Black students take out student loans to attend college, a recent Brookings Institute report concluded, they borrow more on average than their white classmates. What’s more, the debt disparity between Black graduates and white graduates more than triples after graduation.

EOYDC students on a college tour at Rice University.
EOYDC students on a college tour at Rice University. (Via EOYDC)

Backed by The Town Experience, Marketing Kings and The Subversal group, the event will be filled with visual arts, music and food. Performances include renowned Oakland vocalist Goapele and emerging lyricist J-Walt. Installations of visual art will come from Aerosoul, Black Terminus, AfroComicCon, Run The World Clothing and Dark Star Universe, as well as an Afrofuturism-themed exhibit hosted by the Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art.


Music from all throughout the diaspora will be spun by DC is Chillin and Davey D, and the Turffeinz will deliver a dance performance.

Hosted by Oakland’s own multitalented Grammy-nominated artist RyanNicole, there will be a formal segment of the evening where Champion for Youth Awards will be given to entertainer and community advocate Mistah F.A.B., activist and BART Board Director Lateefah Simon, organizer and educator Nehanda Imara, and the South Bay’s André Chapman, founder of Unity Care.

This all-star lineup comes together for a good cause in the face of the ever-increasing challenges in our world—a global pandemic, rising gun violence and more, says Wilson. “To solve the problems of today, it’s going to take radical imagination,” Wilson tells me. “And when I think about Afrofuturism, it inspires radical imagination for me.”

Motivated by the idea of the fictional utopia of Wakanda from the movie Black Panther—and in the wake of the recently dropped trailed for Wakanda Forever—this year’s theme is “Oakanda.”

Wilson asks rhetorically, “What if we could build the Oakanda of our dreams? What if we did engage in that radical imagination?”

Wilson, a firm believer that the key to liberation is joy, adds, “That’s why we wanted to make sure that we have so many different elements of joy in this event, so many things that are celebrating the culture.”

The Black Futures Ball gets underway on Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Bridge Yard in Oakland. Details here.

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