A close up of the surface of the moon with a rainbow filter overlay - purple on the top right corner fading into blue in the middle and orange in the bottom left corner

How can communities build power and create solutions for themselves in the face of crisis and change?

Octavia E. Butler, an award-winning author ahead of her time, penned the Parable Series (Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) in the 1990s, and decades later the lessons from her speculative fiction worlds are more relevant than ever. Over the years, her parables have inspired, challenged, and motivated all those who read her stories, including the Mozilla Festival community.

This year, MozFest Virtual is taking the Parable Path from the 2022 Science Fair and building the “Parables Experience,” bringing to life both The Parable of The Sower and The Parable of The Talents. The Parables Experience will present discussions, workshops, and self guided content connecting lessons from Butler’s Parables series to MozFest 2023 central issues: Collective Power, Movement Building, Trustworthy AI, Transparency, and Bias.

The Parables Experience: A Focus On Community

The Parables Experience at MozFest 2023 will illuminate both the roots of systemic oppression AND community-led solutions and strategies in the face of climate catastrophe, criminalization, and exploitation.

In Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series, a community creates collective solutions and strategies in the face of climate catastrophe, criminalization, and exploitation. The Parables Experience will approach this by exchanging stories and strategies between global communities.

This experience will feature the work of a diverse range of artists, activists and community organizers who will share the unique intersections of their practices with the themes of Butler’s Parables. Participants will not only hear about the projects but receive prompts that guide practical applications and agency to their everyday lives. There will be a range of synchronous and self-guided exploratory experiences from live conversations to workshops and a virtual online Parable Pavilion.

the rocky, red surface of Mars

About Parable Pavilion

Destiny of Earthseed

Welcome to Mars! Come inhabit the “Octavia E. Butler Landing” officially named after her by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2021. Also speculating on the ending of “Parable of the Talents” in which members of Lauren Olamina’s religion “Earthseed” travel to space, this open air pavilion on Mars is the first human gathering space built on their settlement. Seeking to preserve the landscape as much as possible, the humans integrated the design of their gathering space with the existing “Jezero crater”, carving out the surrounding edges to build a walkway using materials native to the Martian ecosystem. The first seed from Earth that bore fruit on Mars was the pomegranate tree. They honor this tree by planting it at the entry of their gathering space, symbolizing nature and new life on Mars.

Created by Guada Labs, Ainslee Alem Robson, and Kidus Hailesilassie

The Parable Pavilion features artwork by Nettrice Gaskins, sound design by Carlos Johns-Davila, and graphic design by Wesley Taylor and Hyung Cho.

Here is an overview of sessions happening within the Parables Experience. Full session details can be found on the MozFest Plaza.

Water is Life

March 20th 07:00 ET // 12:00 CET

Witness an exchange about themes of Climate Justice and Water within Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series and connections to the work of brilliant cultural strategists, artists, scientists and technologists. Tré Vasquez of Movement Generation facilitates a conversation with Talk To Me About Water Collective members Nour Batyne, Martha Bearskin, Devin Ronneburg, Eamon O'Connor and Amelia Winger-Bearskin. A group of artists, science storytellers, water scientists, artificial intelligence researchers, data scientists, and more, Talk To Me About Water’s website states:

“It is said that “The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed.” It’s the same way with the water crisis— it will be a crisis for all of us one day, but currently, those shouldering the most of this burden are the global indigenous, the water protectors seeking to stop the extraction and pollution of their ecosystems. It feels far away now, but their water is our water or will be soon. If we don’t listen to them it’s like we’re ignoring a message from the future. Part of ‘Talk to me About Water’ is also bridging that gap for those who are experiencing the water crisis more acutely to hear from them, unfiltered.”

From Detroit to Egypt: Connecting Movements for Climate Justice and Prison Abolition

March 20th - 13:30 ET // 18:30 CET

An exchange between Detroit mother and activist Siwatu-Salama Ra and Egyptian activist and filmmaker Sanaa Seif about the links between Octavia E. Butler’s Parables, technology, climate justice, and movements to end criminalization, militarism and colonialism: from Egypt to Detroit and beyond. Moderated by creative technologist and immersive director Yasmin Elayat. Presented in partnership with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ).

The Politics of Remembrance

March 21st - 07:00 ET // 12:00 CET

Taiwanese artists and activists Lee Tzu-Tung and Xin Xin will illuminate how Taiwanese communities, both locally and in the diaspora, are resisting destructive waves of military-colonialism through creative and cultural strategies.

Taiwan plays an essential role in the global supply chain as the world’s leading producer of semiconductors and other technologies. This gets leveraged by the Taiwanese government and corporate sectors to gain allyship from the West in the face of looming military invasion and occupation. However, using advanced technology as a bargaining chip perpetuates neoliberal politics that hides the continuous violation and undermining of Indigenous and minorities’s sovereignty and autonomy.

Tzu-Tung and Xin will explore the conflicting narratives and buried histories of Taiwan to ask:

How do we use creative technologies to cultivate new strategies of remembrance and resistance? How can we learn from Indigenous, queer, and feminist movements in Taiwan to articulate a more equitable future from the bottom-up?

Together, we will break isolation and sow seeds for power and liberation.

Sustenance and Liberation: Recipes and Stories inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s Parable Series

March 21st 18:00 ET // 23:00 CET

In the Parables Series there is a running theme of foods that Lauren Olamina and her family rely on as sustenance in a time of crisis. Nigerian-American chef and multimedia artist, Salimatu Amabebe and Award-winning African-American author, chef and food activist, Bryant Terry explore recipes and stories inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series. Join them for a mix of cooking and conversation about how food can sustain us through the long-haul work of liberation and community organizing.

Together, we will break isolation and sow seeds for power and liberation.

Seeds & Clay: Organizing New Worlds Through Vulnerability 2.0

March 23rd- 16:30 ET // 21:30 CET

Inspired by the work and life of Octavia E. Butler, particularly the Earthseed verses from the Parables Series, the Church of Black feminist Thought will host a Black feminist study session that looks back on the ways the converging pandemics of COVID-19 and ongoing racialized violence demand radical new formations of community. Like Butler's protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, these new formations of communities find their strength in and through vulnerability.

The Church of Black Feminist Thought is an embodied spiritual-political education project co-convened by Ra Malika Imhotep & Miyuki Baker in an effort to share citations in more accessible ways and to surface all the hidden labor done by black feminist artists, scholars, and writers. Living at the intersection of gender, race, critical theory and visual art, their work brings the words of black feminist thinkers into conversation in physical (or digital) space in a way that nourishes and supports many.

Stories Are Our Algorithm: Emerging Tech & Collective Power

March 23rd- 18:00 ET // 23:00 CET

Transmedia artist Stephanie Dinkins and producer/composer/curator/musician Toshi Reagon explore connections between Octavia E. Butler's Parable series, reclaimed family archives, AI, technology, and creativity's role in building collective power of the people.

Stephanie Dinkins immersive web experience “Secret Garden” illuminates the power and resilience in black women’s stories shared across space and time. Dinkin’s project ”Not The Only One” is described as “An experiment in making a multigenerational memoir of a black American family told from the perspective of a custom deep learning artificial intelligence.”

Toshi Reagon and her mother, a legendary scholar and musician Bernice Reagon Johnson, co-created an opera based on Octavia E Butler’s Parable of the Sower. In Parable of the Sower, and in the sequel Parable of the Talents, Lauren Olamina’s story is discovered by her long lost daughter through archives and memoirs. In this conversation, Stephanie and Toshi will examine the overlaps between their work of illuminating Black liberation histories and visions.

Moving through the Apocalypse: Considering the Future through the Caribbean's Past

March 24th - 12:00 ET // 17:00 CET

In her Parable Series, Octavia E. Butler sheds light on what kind of future awaits us when the issues at the roots of systemic oppression, criminalization, exploitation and climate change are ignored. At the same time, she plants the seeds that can bring us towards change, if we pay close attention- the power of community-led solutions and strategies in the face of injustice. Join filmmaker, Jason Fitzroy Jeffers and performer and researcher, Valencia James in conversation about the unexpected parallels between Butler’s text and colonial Caribbean history, how the ghastly methodologies and laws born of plantations in Barbados in the 1600s spawned much of the systemic racism that haunts North America and the rest of the western hemisphere to this day, and the artistic movements and community-led strategies of resistance that arose and may yet arise from this.

A People's Guide to AI (Zine)

A People's Guide to Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an educational and speculative approach to understanding AI and its growing impact on society. The 78-page downloadable booklet explores the forms AI takes today and the role AI-based technologies can play in fostering equitable futures. The project resists narratives of dystopian futures by using popular education, design, and storytelling to lay the groundwork for creative imaginings.

Written by Mimi Onuoha and Diana Nucera (a.k.a. Mother Cyborg), with design and illustration by And Also Too.

(Curators note: In Octavia Butler's Parable book series' protagonist Lauren Olamina scribed Earthseed: The Books of the Living as a way to incite critical thinking in a time of fascist imposed ignorance. Along those lines, A People's Guide to Tech creates zines which demystifies technology in order to incite agency and put back the power of tech where it belongs – in the hands of communities – to "make sense of past technology and create their own visions for the future".)

An important note on Accessibility

At MozFest, accessibility is important to us and our community. Automated Closed Captioning is enabled by default in all sessions hosted on Zoom, and Human Closed Captioning is available in our Dialogues and Debates series. American Sign Language is available in a limited number of sessions, and shown on session details in the Plaza with the ASL tag.If you have further questions about accessibility support at the Festival, or feedback on how we can improve please email [email protected].

Reflection: The Parable Path At The MozFest Science Fair in 2022

In 2022, the MozFest Science Fair in Mozilla Hubs was an experimental and interactive imagining of The Parable of the Sower, where the powerful narrative by Octavia E. Butler came to life.

a virtual world with purple geometric people standing around a fire pit
Parable Path Experience at MozFest 2022

Parable of the Sower tells the story of change, of seeding new worlds and developing systems to mitigate the loss of freedom people face when technology, policy, and economies are consolidated and weaponized. Artists, creators, and readers all over the world reference Butler’s work as a way to make sense of present technologies, and as a map to imagine a future world. It has become an activist’s tool to organize, educate, collaborate, and envision new ways to build technologies.

Toshi Reagon and Alexis Pauline Gumbs kicked off the Science Fair with a live, interactive performance and conversation about the narrative. Then, participants were encouraged to levitate with their avatars into an immersive sonic and visual exploration of the text through various virtual galleries. Live Science Fair demos of projects that celebrate themes of sustainability, decolonization, planting seeds, and emergence were staged throughout the experience.

This year’s Parables Experience will reflect on the Hubs experience from 2022, drawing on it for inspiration and story exchanges.

About The Curators

A person looking to the right, wearing a black brimmed hat and colorful shirt. An oval window is in the background.

ill Weaver is a Detroit based artist and organizer. They co-founded Emergence Media and Complex Movements. They are a Trans/gender-nonconforming person of European (Ashkenazi) heritage. They produce and facilitate media and cultural strategies for liberation. 

A person smiling at the camera with long brown hair braided into dreads. Blue sky is in the background.

Valencia James is a performer, maker and researcher from Barbados, interested in the intersection between dance, theater, technology and activism. Her works have explored remote interdisciplinary collaboration, artist-driven open-source software tools and the combination of live performance with immersive interactive technologies. Valencia has been a 2020 Rapid Response Fellow at Eyebeam NYC and a 2021-2022 Sundance Interdisciplinary Fellow. She has presented work at  the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence 2015, SIGGRAPH 2021, and the 2022 New Frontier exhibition at Sundance Film Festival. Valencia is currently pursuing an MFA in Art Practice at the University of California Berkeley.

MozFest is part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world. To learn more, visit www.mozillafestival.org.

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