Onye ozi artist Fellowship

 for new Black immigrants* and existing African Americans*

What Had Happened Was... - by Robbie Sweeney (1).jpg

About the fellowship

What Had Happened Was... - by Robbie Sweeney (103).jpg

‘Onye Ozi’ (‘Messenger’) brings Bay Area artists of diverse African ancestry across disciplines to create work that uses their personal experiences and artistic practice as a virile catalyst for social change. Fellows will reflect on the embodiment of the term paired with the phrase ‘ọnụ ụzọ’ (portal), how they/their work creates a pathway of discourse among new Black immigrants* and existing African American* communities.

The fellowship employs arts professionals, scholars, social justice practitioners, policy advocates, and cultural workers to guide the navigation of personal inquiry, socio-political discourse and the production and presentation of a final artistic piece. Fellows meet over the course of 9-months and create work addressing the inquiry independently or in collaboration with other fellows. Personal reflection, historical and contextual inquiry, artistic rigor, and collaboration are essential facets of the fellowship.

‘Onye Ozi’ aims to acknowledge and name the layers of complexity (“from conflict or personal animosity to understanding common history and political context”) of African/Black Identity. Positing that although political and environmental factors commandeer the issues, there is no one more instrumental than the artist, to instigate a pathway for a new vision. One that has to begin with personal reconstruction and face-to-face dialogue.

This fellowship is possible thanks to support from the San Fransisco Foundation, California Arts Council and the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program, and Afro Urban Society's individual donors and sustainers.

Who it’s for

The fellowship is open to people of African descent. We are seeking a mixed cohort that can represent a variety of art disciplines, nationality/ethnicity, age, gender, generational residence in the United States, as well as other factors. 

The ideal fellow is interested in/curious about delving into the complex conversations surrounding the relationships between *Africans & *African Americans in the United States, and employing art as a way to permeate and inform the community and mainstream audiences.  We are looking for fellows that are able to commit to the entire fellowship period, and have artistic rigor and quality, intellectual curiosity, strong work ethic, willingness to learn, are truthful and honest yet humble, open to working collaboratively but can also take individual initiative, have strong communication skills; and demonstrate organization, attention to detail, problem-solving, and time-management skills. 

The fellow must be able to produce a final artistic presentation for the public, as well as complete an evaluation of their experience. We will only be accepting a limited number of fellows.


What you get

  • Recognition as a part of an integral cohort of change makers and dynamic art practicioners

  • Connection to studio/creative space for the duration of the fellowship; professional and peer mentorship and referrals; marketing (including professional photo & video); production support for new work in shared showcases; and an artist stipend. 

  • A $2000 stipend upon successful completion of fellowship

  • A mini grant towards production of fellowship-related work 

  • Support towards getting additional funding to produce work

  • Complimentary or discounted attendance to shows, workshops and other events produced by Afro Urban Society and/or Partner organizations through the duration of the fellowship (dependent on availability)

  • Professional referrals to resources and artistic organizations in the Bay Area

  • Connection to a network of arts and social justice practitioners

  • Referrals to professionals to support your work as Coaches/Advisors

  • Support and mentoring with artistic and career development


(Left) Itoro Udofia, 2018 Afro Urban Society Fellow

(Left) Itoro Udofia, 2018 Afro Urban Society Fellow

Meeting Sessions (required) - downtown Oakland, CA

The Onye Ozi Artist for Social Change Fellowship will be from September 2019 through June 2020. We are looking for working artists, people who can participate in sessions and labs during the day on weekdays. We ask that applicants commit to participating fully for the duration of the Fellowship.

Your commitment will include attending 20 in-person sessions: weekly in September & October ‘19; monthly Nov '19 -Feb '20 and May & June ‘20; biweekly March & April 2020; 3 self-scheduled sessions and; a group public presentation of final artwork/creative expression in May 2019. The tentative schedule is as follows. We may make adjustments to schedule based on cohort needs.

How to Apply


Deadline: September 27, 2019 (12PM)

For more info contact: 415-320-6534 |  info@afrourbansociety.com


*African and American identity in the US has/is becoming even more complex. For the purposes of this project ‘African’ refers to 1-2nd generation immigrants of African descent to the United States, and African Americans refer to existing African American communities who have been here for 3 generations or longer and have disconnects from their continental heritage. The gradient of African or ‘American’ Immigrant identity also includes those of Caribbean & Latinx heritage.