February 5, 2020

Afrofuturism: The Cornerstone of Black Autonomy


Writer Jamie Broadnax in her 2018 Huffington Post article “What the heck is Afrofuturism?” defines ‘afrofuturism’ as “…the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens.” Coined in the 1990’s by cultural scholar Mark Dery as the answer to the largely mainstream while narrative, afrofuturism thrives itself on the innovation and uncompromising guise of Black culture.


Black experiences have largely been ignored in traditional science fiction. Well known science fiction authors such as H.G Wells and Rau Bradbury seem to outright ignore any significance of Blackness within their largely white male cautionary satirical odysseys. No other voice really made an entrance with such multifaceted gaze than the late Octavia Butler.


Writer Steven Thrasher in his 2015 article for The Guardian writes, “Afrofuturism offers us a way out through the black imagination…. a tenant of Afrofuturism deals with black people being told they must adhere to divisions which don’t exist, and only accept a limited number of stories about ourselves, such that we have an extremely limited concept of what material reality can be.” The idea that we as African Americans can create our old worlds separate from that of our white counterparts. A world that which gives our experiences significance.


Imagination thrives in the black aesthetic. Through the works of Black writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, the patterns of our experiences seem to shape a palette unseen in many color theories. Afrofuturism exists beyond face value. The operatic sounds of Solange and H.E.R seem to sonically invite listeners into a citadel built by sounds of blackness. The thought-provoking visuals of Nick Cave and Jean-Michel Basquiat gives way to an exterior depiction of the pain and power of being Black. Of course, there can be no discussion on Afrofuturism without the vivid narrative theories of the epic film “Black Panther”, a literal glimpse into a “black planet.”


Beyond the mental invitations Afrofuturism gives onlookers, it takes the influence one step further through the embrace of representation matters. There is no status quo that needs to be fulfilled. In the presence of diversity, supremacy seems to just evaporate. Beyond the cosmic space odysseys, unpack the idea of what Afrofuturism has brought.


The idea of a Black President. The revelation of Afro hipster. The evolution of African American colloquialisms in words such as “woke”, “on fleek”, “lit”, and “facts”. These are the beneficiaries of Afrofuturism.


The mere indication and vindication in which Black people can picture themselves in rhetoric unlike before. Rhetoric born out of unapologetic blackness is, in fact, Afrofuturism.



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