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The Observatory: When the Buildings Began to Bleed (2019) and White (2011)

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Launching our monthly discussion club, The Observatory, with Vanessa Taylor's When the Buildings Began to Bleed in conversation with A. Sayeeda Moreno's White.


Wednesday, August 5 @ 6-7 PM EST.

The Observatory is a monthly club where we'll gather with our audience and sometimes special guests (authors, voice actors, and sound designers) to discuss OBSIDIAN episodes and other related content.

Gather for a Q&A with guests Vanessa Taylor @bacontribe and Ellen Chamberlain @esaidshesaid, screening of White (2011) and group discussion of both works. Free/Donation-based event, 100% of donations go towards featured guests, 50/50.

We hope this will be a fun and thought-provoking time on the future of sci-fi, afrofuturism, and what it means to be Black and Muslim in the face of climate change.

Register here


MC Tapera : No webcam on this machine! I will make sure to be on a machine with video in the future. :)

Safiyah Cheatam : Aww okay, marisha lol

camara (she/her) : The following from me will be a rough transcript of the event in your chat!

camara (she/her) : Ade: Hi everyone and thank you all for coming! The Observatory is a monthly club where we'll gather with our audience and sometimes special guests (authors, voice actors, and sound designers) to discuss OBSIDIAN episodes and other related content.

camara (she/her) : Ade: We’re here with guests Vanessa Taylor and Ellen Chamberlain to screen the short film White (2011) and have a group discussion of both works and short panel.

camara (she/her) : Saf: As you all know, this is a free or donation-based event with 100% of donations going towards our guests, 50/50. Thank you to everyone who donated! We’ve raised $50 to split between them, which I’m pretty proud of.

camara (she/her) : Saf: Without furtherado, we hope this will be a fun and thought-provoking time on the future of sci-fi, afrofuturism, and what it means to be Black and Muslim in the face of climate change.

camara (she/her) : OBSIDIAN is a speculative fiction anthology podcast based in Afrofuturism. Driven by a deep, untapped interest in science fiction, we desire to take hold of the narratives nearest to us. Each episode tells a story that sits at the crossroads of Blackness, technology, and science, tackling issues such as surveillance, artificial intelligence, and alternative realities.

camara (she/her) : Vanessa Taylor (she/her and they/them) is a Minnesota-born and Philadelphia-based writer focusing on Black Muslim womanhood and technology. She is the curator of NAZAR, an independent journalism project on surveillance, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Drinking Gourd, a Black Muslim literary magazine.

camara (she/her) : Ellen Chamberlain is a Journalist, producer, voice over artist, & creative writer. She has hosted a TED Talk examining the history of hip hop and how misogyny has been incorporated in the art throughout time.

Safiyah Cheatam : @drinkingourdmag @esaidshesaid

camara (she/her) : Moving into the Q and A, with Vanessa and Ellen about the specifics about their story.

camara (she/her) : Next is a screening of White (2011). Add your thoughts and questions in the chat. I’ll keep track of them, too!

camara (she/her) : Saf: Starting with Vanessa, so this story was initially published in Nov 2019, but you must’ve been writing it at least during the month prior. What was going on for you during Fall 2019 to spark this story?

Adetola Abdulkadir : If you're not speaking please mute yourself!

camara (she/her) : Ade: Creating this core family of Black Muslim women, what made you choose this group of characters to focus on?

camara (she/her) : Saf: Moving onto Ellen, you were the first Kilimanjaro Collection narrator, and thus the first to singularly narrate an OBSIDIAN episode. How did you approach reading/performing this story on your own?

camara (she/her) : Ade: What was your first reaction to this story's events and how do you feel about it now? And how did our editing change your reaction?

camara (she/her) : Ade: For Vanessa, how did having your story narrated change the effect or the experience of your story?

camara (she/her) : Saf: For Ellen, Vanessa wrote a very intimate family dynamic with this story. As a narrator, voicing these characters can become an intimate affair as well. What was it like to immerse yourself into the roles of this family?

Safiyah Cheatam :

MC Tapera : Looks good!

B Sultan : very interesting. melanin challenged...

Safiyah Cheatam : Vanessa writes, “The dictionary defines chaos as a noun: “complete disorder and confusion; behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.” The newspaper called what we did chaotic.” How would you define chaos and what is its place in protest?”

B Sultan : chaos is about disrupting the general comfortability that people unaffected by oppression get to experience

camara (she/her) : Ade asks, “Melanin in both “When the Buildings Began to Bleed” and “White” functions as a metaphor for the “price” people of color often have to pay due to the greed of corporations and powerful individuals. What real world costs does this bring to mind?”

B Sultan : I thought the melanin challenged aspect was interesting. it was explicitly saying how black people are treated unfairly for the color of their skin

danya (she/they) : yep, was just going to mention climate crisis…Vanessa’s story is centered around the solar panels, and in White its literally 120 degrees in NYC at Christmas time

vanessataylor : for me, white was interesting because of how it resembles blood banks and plasma centers, too.

camara (she/her) : Also, thinking about the reports that Africans would be used for early COVID vaccines.

danya (she/they) : and if I remember correctly it was called a Melanin EXTRACTION center…so not so subtly underscoring how extractive these places are

camara (she/her) : ^^

Jacob Hamer (He/Him) : In terms of the role of chaos in protests and order vs chaos, when something is ordered it is rigid against change

Ellen Chamberlain : Tuskegee, anyone?

Ellen Chamberlain : DEFINITELY!

camara (she/her) : Ellen’s on it^

danya (she/they) : Can I also recommend that y’all check out a podcast called In Those Genes…it’s created by a Black population geneticist and she addresses a lot of these issues related to genetics, consumer genetic testing, etc.

danya (she/they) :

danya (she/they) : Lol too fast

camara (she/her) : Danya’s on it. Thank you!

camara (she/her) : Curiosity around genes and the use and abuse of genes might also lead you to our episode:

MC Tapera : It underscores the idea of race as originally a social construct.

camara (she/her) : Ade’s question: How do you understand the way the main character was stripped of his race because of the procedure?

danya (she/they) : and also how science (through medicine, health research) reinforces concepts of race

MC Tapera : And that there are authorities who define for others what racial status is.

camara (she/her) : Saf asks, “Climate is intrinsically connected to race-based equity. Is there any melding of the two anyone would like to see in the future? Or is happening currently?”

danya (she/they) : yes, pronouncing it right!

Safiyah Cheatam : reparations, anyone???

Ellen Chamberlain : declaring racism as a public health crisis is a step

Ellen Chamberlain : many states and municipalities have done so

Jacob Hamer (He/Him) : One Black environmentalist who was sharing content similar to that idea about the climate

MC Tapera : Thanks for the link, Jacob.

Adetola Abdulkadir :

^Link to the murder of environmental activists

camara (she/her) : Saf asks, “So we’ve obviously been dealing with a climate crisis for a while. An invasive fog causing solar ray disruption, doesn’t seem too far off to me. as we live through our own climate crisis, what parts of Vanessa's story struck you or did you see reflected?”

camara (she/her) : Also, “Has anyone else imagined any climate-based crises or apocalyptic events? And what do you imagine the response would be?”

Safiyah Cheatam : Ahmaud

danya (she/they) : i was struck by WHO was tasked with the burden of finding a solution to the climate crisis. Esp in Vanessa’s story, where literally melanin is part of the solution. And in White about how the story was set in NYC, where Black people are already faced with more pollution in their communities and probably will be disproportionately impacted as the impacts of climate change intensify

MC Tapera : So striking…

Tracey Turner : +1

danya (she/they) : and you can even extend that to a global sense…pollution being caused in the global north, people in the global south bearing the burdens…ofc not that simplified but you get the idea

camara (she/her) : ^^

Jacob Hamer (He/Him) : My scariest climate apocalypse scenario is that after the warming makes most of the earth unlivable for most life, the only ones that live on are the capitalist 1%

camara (she/her) : Everyone is buying up property in New Zealand to survive climate change

camara (she/her) : “Everyone” as the 1%

danya (she/they) : eeeek yea @Jacob but tbh don’t think that’s too far off

MC Tapera : He is working daily toward that.

MC Tapera : Elon Musk, that is.

MC Tapera : My fantasy zombie apocalypse location is New Zealand. I’m clearly late to the party. :)

Tracey Turner : Bezos

Adetola Abdulkadir : The Last of Us (PlayStation Game)

Jacob Hamer (He/Him) : Parasites brings it back to Bezos and Musk

MC Tapera : Thank you!!

Chanel : Thank you all very much!!

MC Tapera : LOL Jacob

Safiyah Cheatam : LOL great 360 jacob

camara (she/her) : We plan on doing more Observatory events in support our Patreon. Patreon is a community based way of supporting creators, like us. Through Patreon, you can donate certain amounts every month to support us!

Safiyah Cheatam : Patreon link through our linktree if you're interested!

Safiyah Cheatam :

camara (she/her) : Find us @obsidianpodcast on all socials!

B Sultan : looking forward to merch

B Sultan : thank you for this event

Ellen Chamberlain : @esaidshesaid

MC Tapera : Congrats on all this… looking forward to seeing what you get up to. Yes especially march!

B Sultan : i really enjoy this podcast

Ellen Chamberlain : heard on merch!

B Sultan : obsidian hive rise!

MC Tapera : @mcrituli

vanessataylor : ayeee

danya (she/they) : yea, thanks! really appreciate the work y’all are doing

vanessataylor : yeah this was dope

That concludes the event chat! Some of the producers' comments and guests' answers were not written in the chat, but we hope this gives you a good idea of the discussion! Thank you.

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