Energy Never Dies

“With ‘Energy Never Dies,’ Ayana Contreras has written the cultural biography of Black Chicago” — Chicago Tribune

From Afro Sheen to Theaster Gates and from Soul Train to Chance the Rapper, Black Chicago draws sustenance from a culture rooted in self-determination, aspiration, and hustle. Ayana Contreras embarks on a journey to share the implausible success stories and breathtaking achievements of Black Chicago’s artists and entrepreneurs. Past and present generations speak with one another, maintaining a vital connection to a beautiful narrative of Black triumph and empowerment that still inspires creativity and pride. Contreras weaves a hidden history from these true stories and the magic released by undervalued cultural artifacts. As she does, the idea that the improbable is always possible emerges as an indestructible Afro-Optimism that binds a people together.

Passionate and enlightening, Energy Never Dies uses the power of storytelling to show how optimism and courage fuel the dreams of Black Chicago.

“Contreras breezily weaves together memoir, political history, oral history and a deep musical knowledge that defies easy categorization.” — The Triibe

“In her new book, Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism & Creativity in Chicago, Contreras looks beyond the despair that grips the South and West Sides to grasp the too-easily-forgotten tales of Black excellence.” —Chicago magazine

[Energy Never Dies] “explores the prominence of Black Chicago’s culture and the ambition, creativity, and “hustle spirit” that helped frame it.” — Chicago Defender

“Contreras puts virtually every aspect of Black Chicago culture, music, business breakthroughs, and more on the table, then shows exactly how they are all interconnected. She writes the book as the Black experience is actually lived–this guy knows that guy, but the other guy used to work for the two of them. And none of it would’ve happened were it not for a certain audacious manner of hope and optimism found in Black Chicago.”–Lee Bey, author of Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side

“In Energy Never Dies, Ayana Contreras crafts an intensely intimate and loving portrait of Black Chicago that that will illuminate, even to lifelong South and West Siders, the distinctiveness of our cultural history and worldview. This book offers urgently needed blueprints for extending the work and actualizing the dreams of the Great Migrants.”–Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema

Ayana Contreras on Left of Black, a web series featuring interviews with Black Studies scholars produced by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. Full link here

Energy Never Dies Book Talks And Signings

(all times Central, unless otherwise noted) for bookings, contact

Friday, July 22, 2022, 6:30-8:30pm (doors open at 6:00)

“Big Energy – An Evening With Ayana Contreras”: in conversation with Adam Green, Associate Professor of History at UChicago; Tempestt Hazel, curator, writer and co-founder/co-director of Sixty Inches From Center; and Natalie Y. Moore, journalist, author and playwright. This program is co-sponsored with Arts + Public Life and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. Books will be available for purchase at the event courtesy of Semicolon Bookstore

Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Blvd, Chicago, IL 60637

Monday June 27, 2022, 6:30pm

“Ayana Contreras on Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago”: Arts Club Of Chicago

Friday March 4, 2022, 12pm-1:30pm

Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago Black Arts Consortium Event”: on Zoom. Register here:

Saturday March 12, 2022 2pm-4pm

Lecture & Book Signing: “Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago” with Author Ayana Contreras Stax Museum of American Soul Music, 926 E. McLemore Ave., Memphis, TN 38106 More Information Here

Past Events

Monday February 28, 2022, 6pm-8pm

NEW! Energy Never Dies Book Q&A and Signing, Silverroom, 1506 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

Friday February 25, 2022, 5pm-6pm

“Lola Case Austen Writer in Residence Ayana Contreras reads from her book “Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago”, Western Illinois University Sandburg Theater, University Union, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL 61455

Friday February 25, 2022, 1pm-2:30pm

“Producing, Performing, Interviewing, Writing, Collecting: Career Q&A”, Western Illinois University Multicultural Center, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL 61455

Thursday February 17, 2022, 4pm-5:15pm

NEW! “Ayana Contreras Black History Month Book Talk”. Loyola University Chicago, Information Commons, 4th Floor, 6501 N Kenmore Ave, Chicago, IL 60660 (attendees must be vaccinated), and on Zoom:

Wednesday February 16, 2022, 7pm

“University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library Presents Energy Never Dies author event featuring panel with Dr. Kamau Grantham and Prof. Stacey Robinson.”

Registration required. Link here:

Online Event

Tuesday February 8, 2022 7pm (EST)

“How I Got Here: A Career Path Chat”, Heritage Coffeehouse at University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469

Wednesday February 9, 2022 3:35pm-4:50pm (EST)

Energy Never Dies Book Talk“, University Of Dayton Sears Recital Hall, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469

Saturday February 5, 2022 2-4pm

NEW! Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism & Creativity In Chicago Book Signing. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60628

Saturday, January 29, 2022 2pm-4pm

Black Metropolis Research Consortium Presents: A Conversation with Ayana Contreras: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago (in collaboration with Woodson Regional Library, Chicago)

Online Event

This event takes place on Zoom. Please register online by 12 p.m. Saturday, January 29. You’ll receive an email with a link to the secure Zoom meeting about 24 hours before the meeting. By registering for this event, you agree to abide by the Library Use Guidelines.

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