Now in our fifth year, the Octavia Project uses the creative power of science fiction and community to envision new futures and greater possibilities for our world. We foster spaces of imagination and exploration for Brooklyn teens, blending creative writing, art, science, and technology to encourage critical thinking, increase 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 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 Writer's Digest, Daily News, DNA Info.com, Electronic Lit, Barnes & Noble blog, and Huffington Post. And see more about our connections to the tech, publishing, arts, non-profit, and education fields through our advisory board.
Meet ray ferreira, Octavia Project Program Director.
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 Meghan McNamara, Octavia Project co-founder and Executive Director.
Meghan comes to the Octavia Project with over 10 years of experience in non-profit leadership and education. Previously, Meghan was director of programs at Girls Write Now, a nationally-recognized writing and mentoring program for NYC high school girls. After that, Meghan taught science, math, and writing to adults pursuing their high school equivalency diplomas in the Bronx and Manhattan. In this capacity she developed and taught science curriculums that built STEM literacy and confidence in adult learners, which she presented on regionally and nationally. Meghan also taught video game design to middle school students in Brooklyn. Currently Meghan helps raise funds for educational initiatives in India. When she’s not working on the Octavia Project, you can find her reading science fiction, riding her bike around Brooklyn, or playing board games.
Meet Chana Porter, Octavia Project co-founder.
Chana 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. www.chanaporter.com
Meet our Advisory Board, a coalition of dedicated professionals who donate their time to ensure the success of our mission.
Emmy Catedral is a Butuan born artist and writer who makes objects, rooms, books and performances. She sometimes presents work as The Amateur Astronomers Society of Voorhees, or The Explorers Club of Enrique de Malacca. Emmy is also co-founder of the mobile Pilipinx American Library, and is the Fairs & Editions Coordinator for Printed Matter, Inc.
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.
Rocío Cuevas is a writer, lover of Latinx culture, and advocate of women's empowerment. She currently works as an Administrative Associate at STEM From Dance, where she manages donor cultivation, marketing strategies, and operational tasks. Prior to working at STEM From Dance, Rocío worked as an Administrative Coordinator at CUNY Start, a program that assists college students in reducing their remedial needs. Rocío also worked as Senior Writer for Brooklyn Savvy, a television talk show based in Brooklyn, where a panel of professional women discuss a variety of topics. Rocío hopes to use her writing to create a platform where women of color feel validated, safe, and inspired. She holds a B.A in Psychology from New York University, with minors in Creative Writing and Child & Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Rocío is a Dominican woman born and raised in Brooklyn, currently residing in Queens, NY. In her spare time she enjoys listening to podcasts, and watching CW TV shows.
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.
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.
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 a Senior Policy Advisor with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Prior to that she was an urban planner at the NYC Department of City Planning focused on climate resilience and neighborhood 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 garment maker, Daphne is also interested in clothing construction and design.
Stephanie Mendoza grew up telling everyone she knew she wanted to work in publishing. Originally from San Antonio, after graduating from university in Texas, she earned her MA in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College, and now works as a book publicist in NYC. She handles the publicity for a wide variety of genres, specializing in literary fiction and serious nonfiction, and loves introducing amazing fiction by debut authors to new audiences, talking up the novels of sophomore authors she loves, and bringing to light conversation-shifting nonfiction with the power to enlighten and better the world. She spends her days chatting with authors, doing her best to keep up with contemporary fiction, attending bookstore events and literary functions, and hanging out with her roommate's dog, Lucy.
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.