Afro Urban Society
Performance and community activism
About the Organization
Afro Urban Society (AUS) is a creative community of brilliant artists and culture workers dedicated to celebrating the unique expressions of Urban Africans through performance and community activism. Through original and curated arts and event production, popular arts education and community engagement, AUS creates spaces for diverse African stories. Based in Oakland, AUS began in 2004 with One3snapshot, a collective of artists producing art that spoke to the African urban experience. Since then it began to seek to create relationships among people of all Afro ethnicities through popular music, street dance and continental African aesthetics. As part of this effort, the organization offers dance classes and workshops and numerous community performances around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Today, AUS aims to bring in and promote more artists, provide more consistent programming, tighten its vision and create a powerful and reliable support network. The perception that all Africans have a similar experience negates the reality that Urban Africans are not tied to one distinct culture, nation or race. AUS seeks to bridge these vastly different experiences, allowing people to define their own cultural identity. With support from individuals, artists and grants, AUS extends support to and involvement of other underrepresented groups, including Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants.
Living Cultures Grant
Egwu Onwu: Making a Mixtape for Those Who Have Left Us
With support from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program in 2022, Afro Urban Society will produce ‘Egwu Onwu: Making a Mixtape for Those Who Have Left Us.’ This interactive and creative gathering will involve artists and cultural workers of African descent to explore death and mourning by creating and remixing elegy, dirge, and lament songs/poems, drawing from the Igbo traditions of Ọdịnanị and Ọmenala.
2018 + 2020
Bakanal de Afrique
In 2018 and 2020 Afro Urban Society received a Living Cultures Grant from ACTA to produce their signature event, Bakanal de Afrique (BdA). This biennial multidisciplinary festival of urban African arts & culture features an intergenerational/international/intercultural cohort of artists and performers representing the continent and the diaspora. The festival features multiple days of workshops, panels and a staged performance. The 2018 theme was “Wey You Dey” and it explored the history of urban African culture by asking people of the Diaspora to reflect on a specific moment in their lives and to create a story from that moment.
For the upcoming 2020 Bakanal de Afrique, Afro Urban Society has chosen the theme “Mi Soon Come.” The theme invites collaborating artists of diverse African descent to explore modes of transport as a conduit of citizenship, specifically through the themes of belonging, mobility, and access. Modes of transportation shape the story of migration and everyday mobility. And for the urban African, the how of their day-to-day movement literally shapes class, culture, citizenship, and possibility. Transport is often articulated as the result of one’s social condition, but Afro Urban Society posits that transport is the input; the independent variable that maps the boundaries of class, gender, economic access, mobility and most importantly time.
Gbedu Town Radio Ensemble during the premiere showing of The Mixtape of The Dead & Gone #1 at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Ensemble members are wearing a mix of black and white costumes, and in a diagonal line on the stage with white flooring. The backdrops of the stage have different motifs and Nsibidi writing of the Igbo people. Ensemble Members (L-R): Yung Phil, Jameelah Lane, Ebonie Barnett, Uzo Nwankpa, Kanukai Chigamba, Carmu, Roshonda Parker & Jamie Carter. Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny.
Gbedu Town Radio Ensemble during the premiere showing of The Mixtape of The Dead & Gone #1 at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Ensemble members are wearing a mix of orange, green, and blue Igbo traditional attires. The backdrops of the stage have different orange and white motifs and Nsibidi writing of the Igbo people. Ensemble Members: Front Row: Ebonie Barnett solo dancing as the rest of the ensemble support her. Middle Row Seated (L-R): Carmu, Kanukai Chigamba, Jameelah Lane. Last Row Standing (L-R): Yung Phil, Jamie Carter, Roshonda Parker. Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny.
Gbedu Town Radio Ensemble during the premiere showing of The Mixtape of The Dead & Gone #1 at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Ensemble members are wearing white coveralls that have black and white igbo motifs, and black and wite shades. Partial backdrop with black and white motifs. Ensemble Members (L-R): KaliMa Julien, Piwai, Pedro Rosales. Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny.
Gbedu Town Radio Ensemble members express emotions of grief, comfort, and confusion at The Mixtape of The Dead & Gone #1 photoshoot in East Oakland, CA. Background includes a dark shade of green wall with Igbo motifs and a window with an orange curtain. Ensemble members are dressed in earth tone colors. In front of them, are different memorial candles with images of the ensemble members’ ancestors. Ensemble Members (L-R): Moses Omolade, Kanukai Chigamba, Uzo Nwankpa, Yung Phil, Ebonie Barnett. Photo credit: Ashley Ross.
Gbedu Town Radio Ensemble during the premiere showing of The Mixtape of The Dead & Gone #1 at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Ensemble members are in a family portrait pose wearing a mix of orange, green, and blue Igbo traditional attires. Ensemble Members: Front Row Seated (L-R):Kendrick, ZioraMmachi, Bello Middle Row (L-R): Kanukai Chigamba, Uzo Nwankpa, Ebonie Barnett, Yung Phil Last Row (L-R): Roshonda Parker, Carmu, Jameelah Lane. Photo credit: Grey Tartaglione.