Image: Samuel Delany. 

Tonight Rev. Dr. William Barber one of the most outspoken and active leaders of the modern civil rights movement in America will speak at the University at Albany’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration tonight at 7 p.m. The event is officially sold out and it isn’t much of a surprise. Barber oversaw the nationwide Moral Day of Action protests, has spearheaded the rejuvenation of the Poor People’s Campaign and won a 2018 Macarthur “Genius” award for “building broad-based fusion coalitions as part of a moral movement to confront racial and economic inequality.”

While the Barber events is sold out, The New York State Writers Institute has a slate of compelling black speakers scheduled this month who you should not miss.  

On Thursday, novelist Lauren Wilkinson will take part in “Writing Love on Valentine’s Day,” a talk on writing about, you guessed it, love. The talk will take place at 4:15 p.m. at Campus Center West Addition. A presentation will take place at Campus Center Room 375 at 8 p.m.

Wilkinson a native New Yorker and Columbia graduate won massive praise for her debut spy thriller “American Spy” that follows a young black female intelligence officer as she navigates the boys club of the 1980s intelligence community.

“‘American Spy”is a beautifully paced spy thriller as well as a promising debut from a writer who’s not content to rely on the settled tropes of any literary genre,” writes Michael Shaub of NPR.

Schaub goes on to compare Wilkinson’s work to that of spy-thriller master John le Carre.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Samuel Delany, one of the most celebrated living writers of science fiction, will take part in discussions about his craft and exploring identity at two events–one at Opalka Gallery in Albany as part of the “In Place of Now,” exhibit that features artists who offer insights into contemporary black identity. He will make a presentation at 7:30 PM at Page Hall on the University at Albany Campus.

The Harlem-born author has won acclaim for his exploration of black and gay identities and is known for “Babel-17,” “Nova,” “Dhalgren,” and the “Return to Nevèrÿon” series.

The 2015 New Yorker profile “Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction” explores the obstacles and stereotypes Delany faced as a black, gay author writing in the 1960s and examines how modern science fiction writers of color continue to face the same prejudices.

In 2013, a group of science fiction writers began decrying the Hugo Awards for favoring high-minded science fiction (read works written by non-white men) over more straightforward genre pieces. It was a bit of a Gamergate moment for science fiction.

Asked about the to do in The New Yorker piece, Delany said the tension is actually socioeconomic–white male writers are afraid they’re losing their status to black, gay and female authors. “There are a lot of black women writers, and some of them are gay, and they are writing about their own historical moment, and the result is that white male writers find themselves wondering if this is a reverse kind of racism,” Delany told The New Yorker. “But when it gets to fifty percent,” he said, then “we can talk about that.” It has nothing to do with science fiction, he reiterated. “It has to do with the rest of society where science fiction exists.”