Tag Archives: Queens

Space:Queens: Yvonne Shortt

Yvonne Shortt

Hey everybody! Welcome to the first installment of my Space:Queens segment, where I explore afrofuturistic art, culture and influencers in my home borough of Queens, NY!

First up is Yvonne Shortt, who is the creative director of RPGA Studio, Inc., and is the curator for Queens Art Initiative, where she works on several community-based art and technology projects in the borough. Enjoy!


1)  Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and and what inspired your love of technology and math.

I’m an an artist, mathematician, African American female, technologist, and mother. My inspiration came from my uncle who started a company to help the  deaf communicate with others and my mom who bought me my first computer, a Commodore 64. Also my aunt, her belief that hard work makes all possible shaped me.


2)    How do you see Queens as a place of possibility and speculative/futuristic exploration?

We have so many people from so many countries and this diversity is an amazing power to draw from. It reminds me to use diversity in my work in my exploration – diversity including art, design, technology, education… This is what makes my work important and relevant I think.


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“Space:Queens” Exploring Afrofutures in Queens


NYS Pavilion/Munchkinland in “The Wiz”

Like Dorothy, I took my home for granted…

Welcome to Women’s History Month! We just left Black History/Future Month and a thought came to me to do a link between the two with a new segment called “Space:Queens.” In this new blog segment, I will be doing writeups and interviews focused on afrofuturism within my own home borough of Queens!

Growing up in Queens, it always felt as if the borough was treated as outer space. It’s reputation as a kind of wasteland was popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald calling it “The Valley of the Ashes” in The Great Gatsby, which Robert Moses later turned into Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Flushing Meadows Corona Park was home to the 1964 World’s Fair, whose focus was to showcase the latest and possible innovations of the day. Yet, most of the attention of the city has been focused on Manhattan and Brooklyn. I know many people who have said they didn’t like to venture out to the borough. I even wanted to move to Brooklyn once because I thought it was a central mecca for Black and Caribbean cultures.

But recently I have been exploring more and more of my borough and all the wonderful


Men in Black Unisphere scene

surprises hidden in it. There is so much unexplored within Queens, which is why I decided to set my fantasy book (“The E”) in the borough.


Because of Queens’ treatment as an outer space region of the city, the history of the World’s Fair and technological innovation, the technological transformation of the Valley of the Ashes into Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and The Unisphere and NYS Pavilion having this retro-futuristic appearance, I am not shocked that the later two have been used in science fiction and fantasy film, including Men In Black, The Wiz (“Munchkinland”) and Tony Stark’s Stark Expo.

Starting this month, I will post features about Queens-related visionaries who are helping to change the borough, the city and the world and visionary stories about Queens! First up are Yvonne Shortt and Shante Paradigm Smalls!


The Return of A Future Ancient: The Reinitiation

Untitled work from South African artist Gavin Jantjes Source: NY Times

Sometimes you get lost in the chaotic whirlwinds of life and need to find your footing again….

If you were wondering where I have been for the past several months, that I went off the grid, it is because I have been putting much of my energy into working on the Queens Book Festival, as previously the literary coordinator, and now director.

Although I am dedicated to the project and I am happy to announce the launch of our Indiegogo campaign (which you can contribute to here), I realized that in putting so much investment into the festival, I had neglected this space here.

Therefore, this official return is my attempt to try to find some sort of balance between these two projects (amidst the other projects I am working on, which I will tell you about another time). And this return, I call it the reinitiation.

First, I felt my blog needed a makeover, so I changed its look. Looking at it, I am reminded of the cave, where mysteries and initiations were held, and the mysterious paintings on cave walls. I wanted to invoke that with my logo and the stony background image. I hope you like it! Let me know what you think.

I will push myself to post as much as I can (most likely, a few times a month), but it won’t be as frequent as before.

Thank you everyone who has supported my blog and I hope you continue on this new journey with me!

Coming Up Next Week:

Interview with author Nichol Bradford (“The Sisterhood”) and my review of her book the week after!

Modern Griots Interview: Alex Kelly

Source: Buffalo Rising

Three words could describe singer-songwriter Alex Kelly — fiery, funky and fierce. The fellow Queens, NYC native covers a range of styles in her music from electronic to dance to rock to pop. Her first step in setting her music career into motion was meeting  Robby Takac, bassist of the Goo Goo Dolls, who picked Kelly as lead singer and co-songwriter in the electro-pop band Amungus. The band together released The truth is…EP, which included singles like “Bad Kitty,” “Serious Chemistry,” and “Black Velvet Smooth.” After three years with the group, Kelly ventured on her own and released her solo EP, Sticky Butterfly, in 2010, which featured the song “Funky Hydrophonic” and well-received on Afropunk and Z100. Two years later, she released her full-length album, Orange Circle in May 2012. Working with pILLOW tHEORY lead Kelsey Warren, Kelly has  created an album that is a good mix of bold dance music, mystical meanings and social commentary. Following her performance at NYC’s CMJ Music Marathon this year, she will be embarking on her eight-city, East Coast tour this month and December. In the meantime, enjoy my interview with her below in which she discusses her music, her inspirations and meaning behind her album:

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