The Octavia Project uses the creative power of science fiction to imagine new futures and greater possibilities for our world. We create spaces of imagination for Brooklyn teens, blending creative writing, art, science, and technology to create rich, interdisciplinary workshops that encourage critical thinking, build confidence, and develop skills in a myriad of subjects.
At our Summer Institute, young women and trans, gender non-conforming, or questioning youth from all over Brooklyn come together to muse on alternate histories and possible futures with award-winning authors; stretch their minds by coding interactive games based on their own stories; and attend interactive lectures in city planning and cellular biology. Guest teachers and artists knit their expertise into our world building science fiction curriculum: These architects, biologists, computer programmers, city planners, authors, and artists help create a totally unique program which allows for deep exposure to multiple disciplines and possible career paths. Through these interdisciplinary workshops, participants are able to inhabit their own science fiction and fantasy worlds. And they do this while creating community that is rooted in joy, compassion, encouragement, and self love.
Our new Fellowship Program gives returning participants, age 16 and up, the opportunity to take on leadership and mentoring roles within the community, in addition to gaining all the benefits of participating in our Summer Institute. Fellows lead exercises, advise program leaders, and mentor new participants; additionally, they receive stipends in acknowledgement of their additional responsibilities.
We use the lens of science fiction and fantasy to examine our current world and see the social and legal contracts that shape our city, schools, streets, and neighborhoods. Our teens gain the understanding that the world around them was created by a series of choices, and those choices can be modified, remade, or replaced by something new. Our inspiration and namesake is Octavia E. Butler, who broke barriers in writing and science fiction to become an award-winning and internationally recognized author (Kindred, Lilith's Brood). We are inspired by her visions of alternate futures and commitment to social justice.
Read more about us on Daily News, DNA Info.com, Electronic Lit, Barnes & Noble blog, and Huffington Post. And see more about our connections to the tech, publishing, arts, and education fields through our advisory board.
In addition to our summer intensive, we offer programming in three other areas.
One-day workshops for teens
Our one-day workshops for teens take one module from our summer program--for example, urban planning, architecture, wearable electronics, or computer programming--and bring it to your school, Girl Scout troop, community center, or out-of-school program. Email to find out more.
Workshops for adults
"I wish I could do The Octavia Project!" We hear this from adults all the time, so we've adapted modules from our curriculum to suit an adult audience. We will bring our interdisciplinary, interactive workshops to your office, friend-group, or local watering hole. Email to find out more.
Professional development for educators
Last summer, Octavia Project head teachers lead a professional development session for K-12 public school teachers, hosted by The Brooklyn Public Library, on teaching programming through creative writing. Participants learned introductory programming concepts, designed their own narrative online game, and thought about how game design based around creative writing can be adapted for the ELA, Social Studies, and math classroom. Email to find out more.
Meet Meghan, Octavia Project co-founder and director.
Meghan McNamara is a teacher and organizer living in Brooklyn, NY. Previously, Meghan was director of programs at Girls Write Now, a nationally-recognized writing and mentoring program for underserved NYC high school girls. Under Meghan's leadership Girls Write Now more than doubled the number of girls served and developed and led a new digital- writing and mentoring program in partnership with The New School.
Meghan currently teaches science and writing to adults pursuing their high school equivalency diplomas in Bronx, NY. In this capacity she developed and taught a year-long course that used Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to build science literacy and confidence in STEM skills in women adult learners, which she has presented on at national and regional conferences. Meghan also teaches video game design at an all-girls middle school in Brooklyn.
Meet Chana, Octavia Project co-founder and artist-in-residence.
Chana Porter is a writer and teacher living in Brooklyn. Her plays and performance pieces have been developed or produced at Playwrights Horizons, La MaMa, Cloud City, 3LD, Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre, Cherry Lane, The Invisible Dog, Primary Stages, Movement Research, PS122, The Tank, and The White Bear in London. She is currently working on two speculative fiction novels, SEEP and THE THICK AND THE LEAN. She has been a guest teaching artist at Fordam University, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire College, and Weber State University. She is a MacDowell Fellow and a recent nominee for the Susan Smith BlackBurn Prize in Playwriting. Upcoming: LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR at Catastrophic Theatre in Houston, Texas, Feb 9th-March 4th. www.chanaporter.com
Meet ray ferreira, Octavia Project lead educator.
w h e n a m i blaqlatinx from occupied Lenape lands called New York, N Y: the illegitimate EEUU. An o t the r Corona, Queens a spacetimemattering a materialdiscusive (dis) continuity: [the Caribbean, the Greater Antilles, Hispañola, the Dominican Republic —> Corona, Queens] : history.
ray ferreira b.1991 w h e n a m i a performer of sorts aka multidisciplinary artist aka polymath. She stays playin : the dance between materiality<->language through her body w h e n a m i where histories are made and remade. She plays with iridescence, text, rhythms (aka systems), to cruise a quantum poetics. Englishes, Spanishes, and other body languages spiral, dance, and twirl to create a banj criticality: that turnup w/the grls; that swerve past white cishet patriarchy. wh e n ami
She can be located museum educating at the Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as floating through other museum education departments. In addition, she lead teaches at the Octavia Project, and freelances for various artists. w h e nam i Other intersections of space|time|matter residencies at the Institute for Electronic Arts and EmergeNYC, performances at the Segue reading series, Dixon Place, and La MaMa, slightly different performances at the Queens Museum of Art, and differently different in Femmescapes: Vol 2. whenami She has performed two durational performances to obtain an expensive pieces of paper: a BA in Studio Art from SUNY Geneseo, and an MFA in Combined Media from CUNY Hunter College.
Meet our Advisory Board, a coalition of dedicated professionals who donate their time to ensure the success of our mission.
Laura Cheung is a lifelong lover of books and as a child was frequently found under the dining room table reading. As Manager, Creative Services for Penguin Young Readers, Laura works with the cover design team and the marketing design team on project management and workflow. She is also a member of the Penguin Random House Diversity Council, working to amplify underrepresented voices in books. A graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock (BA) and the New School for Social Research (MA), and having worked at NGOs such as the Global Justice Center and Girls Write Now, the Octavia Project's mission sits squarely at the intersection of Laura's interests in literacy, empowerment, and empathetic justice. Laura lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a dog named Rosie Donut.
Katharine Duckett is a speculative writer whose short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Uncanny, PseudoPod, Apex, Interzone, and various anthologies, including Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good. Her debut book, Miranda in Milan, will publish in February 2019. Katharine is also the publicity manager for Tor.com Publishing, a line of science fiction and fantasy titles that includes award-winning work by Nnedi Okorafor, Malka Older, and Seanan McGuire. Katharine is a graduate of Hampshire College and the SFF workshop Viable Paradise, and taught English with the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan after college. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife.
Ian Dreiblatt is a poet, translator, and publisher. He is the author of sonnets (Metambesen, 2014) and בראשונה (DoubleCross Press, 2015), and the translator of a number of books including Nikolai Gogol's The Nose (Melville House, 2014), Comradely Greetings (the prison correspondence of Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Verso Books, 2014), and parts of Avant-Garde Museology (e-flux, 2015). He holds a JD from the City University of New York and is the director of digital media at Melville House.
Andrea Gabbidon-Levene, is the program coordinator of the CUNY Start Program at Borough of Manhattan Community College where she oversees two college transition programs. Her past experience includes corporate and foundation relationships officer at The Urban Assembly and the senior manager of national development at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Andrea previously served on the program advisory board for Girls Write Now. Andrea started her career as a journalist and has been published in the Boston Globe, New Jersey Herald and was a CampusVipe reporter for CNN.com during the 2004 presidential election. Andrea has a B.S. in Print Journalism from Emerson College and a M.S. in Urban Policy and Management from the New School. A native of Long Island, Andrea is the daughter of two Jamaican immigrants. She resides in Brooklyn.
Chandanie Hiralal is a young fantasy writer who hopes to make it big one day so she can use the money she makes to help fuel organizations against animal cruelty (and adopt a fully vegan diet) as well as movements for women’s equality, environmental conservation, and LGBTQIA rights.Chandanie published her first book of poems and short stories when she was 14. Currently she is working on another book of poems and is looking to publish her first novel, Moonrise in the Darkness. She’s a sophomore at CUNY Queens College with a major in English and minor in Business in Liberal Arts. Chandanie has a wide range of interests, but in her spare time she enjoys playing video games, watching anime, going on magical adventures with her boyfriend, and attuning herself with the Universe; recognizing and becoming one with the stream of meaningful coincidences found in everyday life.
Leigh Hurwitz is a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library. Leigh's current professional areas of focus include LGBTQIA+-affirming/inclusive gender and sexuality education for all ages, comics literacy and appreciation, and school outreach. Besides Octavia Project, Leigh has partnered with other super cool organizations to deliver library programming, such as If You Want It!, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Hollaback!, and Interference Archive.
Tyler Hoyt is a research scientist, programmer, musician, and dancer. He is currently working in the departments of Environmental Design and Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, engaged in research to promote occupant-centric, energy efficient design. By impacting building standards and creating computational tools that help designers, educators, students, and researchers, he hopes to reduce the environmental impact of buildings while enabling the design of comfortable spaces. Before working at Berkeley, he earned a B.S. in Mathematics from UMass Amherst in 2006 and an M.S. in Mathematics at New York University in 2008. Outside of his academic work, Tyler is an avid dancer and musician, and loves to explore ways that mathematics and computing can be used in the arts as well as science. Known to make websites on occasion.
Daphne Lundi is an Urban Planner focusing on flood resiliency and climate adaptation planning. She currently works at the NYC Department of City Planning in neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Before working for the Department of City Planning she was also an Environmental Planning Specialist for Pinchina Consulting where she worked on agroforestry and reforestation studies for a community-led planning project in Petit Goave, Haiti. Originally from Brooklyn New York, Daphne earned a B.A. in Sociology with a focus in Urban Studies from Wellesley College and a an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning with from the University of Texas at Austin. A self-taught seamstress, Daphne is also interested in clothing construction and design.
Sunaina Rao is an educator and a life-long book lover. She works as the Community Relationships Director at Trail Blazers and earned her Masters Degree from The New School in 2016. She has worked with youth throughout her career starting with her time as a karate instructor and including two AmeriCorps years. With a background in Anthropology and Nonprofit Management, Sunaina seeks to encourage people-focused practices that acknowledge cultural differences and respect indigenous knowledge. Though she has read many important novels and texts in her years as an academic and and educator, she will always remember where she came from; her Nancy Drew and Fright Night books are perhaps the most important parts of her bookshelf.
Aviva Rubin works in multiple realms of architecture, including design, curation, education, and research. Currently, she is an Exhibition Design Associate at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She has previously practiced at Lynch/Eisinger/Design in New York, researched for exhibitions at SFMOMA, and taught at Harvard’s Career Discovery and Boston Architectural College. With a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University (2007) and a Master of Design Studies from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (2012), she believes that research can push design towards a more integrated approach to the production of space. In all of her work, she aims to merge the social and the architectural.
Jessica Wells-Hasan has nearly 15 years of experience in fundraising, management, external relations, and operations at leading New York City non-profits. She has secured millions of dollars of new and increased funding for effective organizations working in social justice, education, youth development, the arts, and the environment, including at Barnard College, The Juilliard School, Theatre Development Fund, the National Audubon Society, and Girls Write Now. Jessica is active at her alma mater, Barnard College, has served on the Advisory Board of EarthShare New York, joined the Harry Potter Alliance as an Advisor, and in 2015 joined the Octavia Project as a Board Member. A writer since childhood, she is currently working on a biography of her grandfather, an environmentalist and architect.
And meet our Spring 2018 intern, Bridget, without whom we would have typos all over the place.
Bridget Hawkins is a New Jersey native currently living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. As a biracial black woman living in America, her work often confronts issues of race and gender. Bridget is currently completing her junior year at Pratt Institute, earning a BFA in Writing and specializing mainly in short fiction and poetry. She has been published in a local newspaper, Community Life Brooklyn, and was runner-up in the Academy of American Poets Pratt Campus Contest in May 2016. Her graphic short story “Tell Her Anyway” is featured in the Simon and Schuster 2018 anthology, It Occurs to Me I Am America, edited by Jonathan Santlofer.