Members of the Afro Urban Society performing in community. By Mecca Woodard.

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

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.

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