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2021 SXSW Online Taps Stacey Abrams As Keynote Speaker, Announces Full Speaker Sessions and Film Fes

By Shanelle Genai,

The annual SXSW festival and conference series has announced the full keynote and featured speaker lineup and film festival slate for 2021.

According to SXSW, this year, political icon and best-selling author Stacey Abrams will be joining award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin, author of the New York Times bestselling book The City We Became, for a special keynote conversation.

“We’re truly excited about the remarkable range of creative talent and innovators that we’ve announced today as part of SXSW Online,” Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest explained. “In the 30-plus years of SXSW, we’ve showcased so many incredible voices who have shown tremendous courage and leadership, which is why we’re honored to add Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stacey Abrams as a Keynote for 2021. Moreover, her conversation with science fiction writer N.K. Jemisin taps into the kind of creative energy that only happens at SXSW.”

Other featured speakers include Mary J. Blige, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Desus Nice and the Kid Mero, Amber Ruffin, Method Man, Taraji P. Henson, Queen Latifah, Barry Jenkins, June Ambrose, Candace Parker, Chris Webber, Cynthia Erivo and more. A few of SXSW Online’s featured sessions include:

Late Night Girls Club: Samantha Bee & Amber Ruffin – Samantha Bee (host and executive producer of the WGA nominated, Emmy Award-winning show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) in conversation with Amber Ruffin (writer, executive producer and host of WGA Award-nominated series The Amber Ruffin Show). The two will discuss the trials and tribulations of covering politics in today’s unpredictable climate from a unique, comedic point of view. As the longest running correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Bee eventually went out on her own in 2016 with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. The show continues to use political satire to entertain, educate, and empower viewers while keeping the government in check. Ruffin is also an Emmy and WGA Award-nominated writer and performer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and was the first African American female to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S. STARZ’S “Power” Universe Collides – Join STARZ’S Power Universe co-creator, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; Power Book II: Ghost cast: Michael Rainey Jr., Mary J. Blige, and Cliff “Method Man” Smith; Power Book III: Raising Kanan cast: Mekai Curtis and Patina Miller; and Power Book IV: Force lead: Joseph Sikora, for the first time ever as the Power Universe collides. Moderated by media personality and bestselling author Angie Martinez, Power stars will discuss: the legacy of the Power Universe, the latest on upcoming seasons, the future and fate of new and iconic characters. Who Controls the Past: The Tulsa Race Massacre – How is it possible that the 1921 massacre of as many as thousands of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was almost erased from U.S. history? And why is it finally penetrating the national consciousness? Featured in HBO’s The Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, this history survived because of the dedicated efforts of Black Tulsans, including the descendants of survivors, who have made it their life’s work to uncover what really happened and make sure we never forget. This session, moderated by Jeffery Robinson from Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, examines the work of activists Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Chief Egunwale F. Amusan, and Kristi Orisabiyi Williams to take control of the historical narrative, and in so doing, to force a reckoning on racial justice in this country and a long overdue conversation on reparations for Black Americans.

On the film front, the 2021 festival programming will showcase a total of 75 features and 84 Short Films including music videos, episodic premieres and pilots, virtual cinema projects, title design entries, and special events. More on the lineup via SXSW:

The SXSW 2021 lineup screen in the following categories: Headliners; Narrative Feature Competition; Documentary Feature Competition; Narrative Spotlight; Documentary Spotlight; Visions; Midnighters; Global; 24 Beats Per Second; Festival Favorites; and, new this year, 2020 Spotlight. Special Events for 2021 consist of conversations, table readings, and other unique one-off events. Shorts screen as part of 10 curated sections and our Virtual Cinema programming will be available on the VRrOOm platform with selected work in VRChat. Viewins will take place across several platforms – web, mobile, and premium viewing from your TV – for a dynamic viewing experience. Seven films will launch every two hours from 10am-8pm CT with most of the films released March 16–18, starting with films with global access and no audience capacity limits.

“It’s been a year unlike any we’ve experienced, first marked by the cancellation of SXSW 2020,” said Director of Film Janet Pierson. “We feel privileged to have been able to pivot to SXSW Online and present a fantastic treasure trove of programming, including a pared down and wonderful selection of films that we know will delight, entertain, and move our attendees. SXSW Online will bring attendees a multifaceted event that speaks to so many areas of creativity in one five-day experience that everyone can access on their laptops, phones, and TVs. While we won’t have the wonderful in-person SXSW that we know and love, we can gather together to be inspired by the work.”

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