The Queen Mother of Benin is coming to Austin.
Next week, African educator, human rights activist and philanthropist Queen Mother Dòwòti Désir, who heads the royal palace in the West African country just west of Nigeria, is traveling to Austin for the Society Today, a three-day virtual conference that kicks off with an in-person (and socially distanced) reception with Désir on Thursday, Oct. 1.
The reception will raise money for Dada Agbessi Hounon Primary School, Désir’s primary school, which operates through her organization, the AfroAtlantic Theologies & Treaties Institute.
The rest of the conference will bring together leaders from across the country to share lessons on sustainable agriculture, folklore, the power of performance and creativity. Attendees can also participate in a virtual edition of Body Rock ATX, as well as take a yoga and cooking class through their screens. (Tickets cost $20 for the conference and $200 to attend the in-person reception. For more info, go to thesociety.today.)
"People have no real concept of, or context for, African royalty," Ghislaine "Qi Dada" Jean, co-founder of the Society Today Conference, said via release. "The Queen Mother represents leadership on a global scale, and shows that this leadership can be extremely powerful, academic, soulful, and kind. This is truly a historic moment. Bringing her to Austin during a time of dramatic shifts and uncertainty with a powerful message of change is significant to say the least.’
"We are not waiting for permission, or direction about our future. The time is now to build the world we want to see in the next 50-100 years," says event co-founder, Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone.
Her Majesty Queen Mother will kick off the online programming with a virtual invocation at 8 p.m. Friday. Chaka and Qi Dada of Riders Against the Storm will present at 9 p.m. about the power of technology, history, art and philanthropy in creating a more just and sustainable world.
From 10 p.m. to midnight, they’ll stream an online version of their popular Body Rock ATX, a throwback dance party that started in 2010 and evolved into a ceremony of self-expression.
Programming continues on Saturday, Oct. 3, with Tiffany Washington of Dobbin-Kauv Garden Farm, who will talk at 10 a.m. about her journey from Navy veteran to Austin farmer and historian.
Jason Corwin, executive director of Seneca Media and Communications Center, will present at 11:15 a.m. about his work living off the grid and building sustainable communities. At 12:30 p.m., culinary historian Justin Robinson will talk about the importance of Black land, collective liberation and the Earthseed Collective, a North Carolina-based land collective led by people of color.
Gardenio founder Roman Gonzalez will take the virtual stage at 1:45 p.m. to share his insights into using technology, community and entrepreneurialism to help people grow their own food at home.
At 3 p.m., Lual Mayen, founder of Junub Games, will share lessons from building a virtual reality experience that helps users understand the effect of even their smallest behaviors. Vocalist and art educator Frederick Johnson will present at 4:15 p.m. about the power of creative expression as a catalyst for personal and communal empowerment, health and healing.
At 5:30 p.m., attendees can check out performances from Olivia and Mars, Riders Against the Storm, and Mobley, with Melat headlining at 7:20 p.m.
Sunday’s lineup starts at 10 a.m. with yoga hosted by Ebony Smith, founder of Via Yoga N Da Hood in Dallas. At 11:15 a.m., participants can catch a cooking class with Nadège Fleurimond, a New York City-based author who often teaches dishes inspired by her Haitian heritage.
Kuumba Kids founder Iya Bashea Imana will take the stage at 12:30 p.m. to lead one of her imaginative educational performances meant to help kids (and adults) feed their creative spirits. Performer and storytelling Valerie Tutson will present at 1:45 p.m. from her repertoire of folktales, personal and historical stories with an emphasis on black traditions.
Closing out the online conference, Her Majesty Queen Mother will return at 3 p.m. to wrap up the weekend activities.
Tickets to the virtual events cost $20, and tickets to the socially distanced opening reception on Thursday night cost $200, benefiting Dada Agbessi Hounon Primary School in Benin. You can register and find out more at thesociety.today.