SouthNEXT returns for 4th year

Photo Courtesy of SouthNEXT
Community leaders and inquisitive minds gather at SouthNEXT in 2017.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Each year SouthNEXT brings together local artists, speakers and performers to catalyze the kind of “creative collisions” that spark new ideas and inspire new solutions to some of the most pressing communal challenges of our times. Now in its fourth year, SouthNEXT ’18 kicks off Saturday, Nov. 10, with a full day of events, conversations and “collisions” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center and continues Sunday, Nov. 11, with programming all day at Seton Hall University.

For more information and to purchase your admission wristband, visit

Events on Saturday at SOPAC will include:

  • At noon, Carol Barash, award-winning author, teacher and entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Story2, will deliver a keynote address on “Stories from a Different Perspective.”
  • From noon to 6 p.m., work on the interactive mural with self-taught artist Elina Rosenblum. You can be a spectator or a participant and easily create a piece of whimsical art by rearranging shapes and colors on the wall. No artistic experience is necessary, only curiosity.
  • At 1 p.m., Caroline Chubb Calderon will present “The Point of Us – Reclaiming the Purpose of Humanity in the Age of Machines.” Artificial intelligence is a technology that will radically disrupt how we think about work, the economy, governments and society. When we look into a future where an increasing number of our human skills are eclipsed by self-improving intelligent machines, what then becomes the purpose, aspiration and worth of our humanness?
  • At 2 p.m., Lourdes Maria Alvarez, who studies the cultural interplay between Muslims, Christians and Jews in medieval Spain, as well as the modern legacy of those interchanges, will present “Tarab: Musical Ecstasy and Mystical Practice in Morocco.” While the meditative dance of “whirling dervishes” may be the form of Islamic mystical practice most familiar to Western audiences, Sufi music takes on very different forms across the globe. Join us for an exploration of the boundary-crossing sacred music traditions of Morocco, from the distinctive African rhythms and spiritual songs and chants of gnawa, to the Andalusian musical styles and compositions still performed by Muslims and Jews alike.
  • At 3 p.m., view an exciting game of “Intergenerational Jeopardy!” Watch as teams of four — each having a student, a millennial, a baby boomer and a senior — try to combine their wits and savvy to come up with the correct question from the answer provided.
  • At 4 p.m., psychologist Andy Simon, who studies how people behave in work settings, will present “Managing Arousal in the Era of Fitbit.” This presentation will discuss how arousal and anxiety influence our lives. Consideration will be given to the possibility that bodily reactions and thoughts are data to be observed rather than accurate responses to the world.
  • At 5 p.m., Mark Asch and Larry Fast will discuss “Technology in Music Over the Last 50 Years – Boon or Bane?” A composer and musician, Asch is a music teacher in the Jersey City public school system, produced three albums and performed for children for several years with rock band StarFish, and now jams with his band Thursday Habit. Fast is a co-producer and historian/writer of the documentary “Saving The Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport,” is known for his series of pioneering electronic music albums recorded under the project name Synergy, and is recognized for his decade of work with Peter Gabriel; a technology history specialist, Fast serves on the board of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and his developments in infrared audio technology have earned him several patents.
  • At 6 p.m., don’t miss the cocktail party. Listen to some music of the future and then hang out with today’s performers and attendees to debrief and download from a full day of amazing activity.

Events on Sunday at SHU will include:

  • At noon, Ruth Tsuria, a communications researcher who investigates the intersection of digital media, religion and feminism with a focus on developing theoretical tools to understand online discourse and interrogate the relationship between technology and society, will present “System Overload – Don’t Let Your Tech Rule You.”
  • At 1 p.m., “Magic, Leadership and Transcendence” will explore mental health and ways to hold on to happiness, even when depression looms. This session will be led by Juan Rios, who has experience in both the nonprofit and government sectors and is presently the clinical director of a multiservice specialty practice and serves as a clinical consultant to community mental health agencies; Anthony Nicotera, an educator, licensed social worker and executive manager and leader who serves as adjunct professor at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, teaching courses in social justice, nonviolent peacemaking and multi-faith leadership; and Jim Vagias, who has been performing magic for more than 50 years and is the producing artistic director of the American Theater Group, the professional theater company in residence at SOPAC.
  • At 2 p.m., an interdisciplinary panel will discuss “Privacy Vs. Censorship Vs. Technology, ” exploring privacy through the lens of technology with a focus on censorship. Moderated by Andre Preoteasa, the panel will include: Seth Wainer, the former chief information officer of Newark; South Orange Police Sgt. Adrian Acevedo; Avthar Sewrathan, a lead developer of Afari, a decentralized social media platform; and an anonymous hacker.
  • At 3 p.m., John C. Havens, executive director of The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems and The Council on Extended Intelligence, will discuss “The Merry Metaverse – Communal Well-being in Immersive Reality.” The future of humanity resides as much in digital, algorithmic and virtual environments as in the physical. Data representing our identities exists in this immersive reality today but remain invisible to most, inaccessible by design. Global values regarding our defining-data are framed by a quest for “artificial intelligence” pitting speed and growth against planet and purpose. Privacy is evolving in these future environments. By putting people at the center of their data and identity in the metaverse, we can communally create positive worlds prioritizing each other with intention and joy.
  • At 4 p.m., Kirk Johnson, who teaches courses in bioethics, global issues, philosophy and religion, and is a member of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and The New York Academy of Medicine, will discuss “Tools of Hope.” Antidepressants are limited by physiological focus, but prayer and mindfulness is a suggested mechanism that brings human beings into a unique state of oneness. Johnson suggests how centering/meditative prayer and similar practices like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be useful therapeutic interventions for depression.
  • At 5 p.m., attend “Mindfulness in our Community – SHU Students and Local Residents Discuss What Comes Next.” This discussion will include SHU professor Peter Savastano, who teaches both anthropology and religion in courses dealing with sexuality, gender, race, ritual, consciousness studies, folklore, mythology, human rights, social justice, contemplative life and interspirituality; David Harris, a board member of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race and SOMA Action, and a retired Lowenstein Sandler partner, where he held several positions, including chairman of the litigation department; and Monika Soto, an undergraduate at SHU pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work and political science, and president of both the United Greek Council and the Psi Pi Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.