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The Origin of the Term

The Term 'Afrofuturism'

The term ‘afrofuturism’ was coined in 1993 by Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future”. The concept of afrofuturism is much older but Dery has given it the name that now is used.

Claiming Space in Science Fiction

Science Fiction is often thought of as a white, male space. Afrofuturism names its place in the genre of science fiction, which has always included diverse voices.

 

Connecting Past, Present & Future

A Genealogy of Thinking the Future into Existence 

Envisioning the future is necessarily tied up with images of the past and present. The nightmares and successes of the past are the foundation for afrofuturistic dreams, which manifest themselves in the present.

Janelle Monáe on Afrofuturism

"Afrofuturism is me, us, as Black people seeing ourselves in the future being as magical as we want to be. [...] I get to be whoever I want to be through afrofuturism"

-Janelle Monáe

transformative power

Janelle Monáe's "Turntables"

"a different vision with a new dream"

An Artist's View on Afrofuturism

Artist Rachael Young is quoted in a Guardian article where she describes the power of afrofuturism: I was asked the question recently: does your work try to rewrite history? No, it can’t. What is important is how you galvanise the energy from history to move forward with what you imagine that future to be like. (Minamore par. 8)

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the power of Afrofuturism

A Way to Process

 
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Dealing with Fear & Trauma

Afrofuturistic expression allows black people to confront and work through fears in a safe way and turn their fear and trauma into power and art.

Battling the Botfly

"When I have to deal with something that disturbs me as much as the botfly did, I write about it. I sort out my problems by writing about them. "

-Octavia Butler

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Building a tradition, legacy, and community

Reimagining what is taken for granted

Octavia's Brood

Constructed nature of gender

Octavia's Brood is a collection of short sci-fi stories inspired by Octavia Butler. The title is based off of her collection Lilith's Brood.

"...for those of us from communities with collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us."

–Walidah Imarisha, "Introduction"

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"Bloodchild"

A "pregnant man story"

-Octavia Butler 30

Elyce Rae Helford’s “‘Would You Really Rather Die than Bear My Young?’: The Construction of Gender, Race, and Species in Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Bloodchild’”

“When 'woman' emerges through the metaphor of an impregnated young boy, as it does in 'Bloodchild', we are invited to examine and challenge our understanding of the construction of gender”

-Helford, 261

Defending Intersectional Identities

 
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Janelle Monáe's "Dirty Computer"

Writing Blackness into Economics

 
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Aria Dean's "Notes on Blacceleration"

Blacceleration is a portmanteau that combines blackness and acceleration.
This portmanteau “proposes [...] that blackness is always already accelerationist

-Dean

Racial Capitalism

"Racial capitalism, a concept introduced by Cedric Robinson, names a historical-theoretical position that does not consider the development of capitalism and capital separately from questions of race. Racial capitalism instead reads Atlantic capitalism as fundamentally undergirded specifically by black slave labor."

-Dean

The Value of the Enslaved in Racial Capitalism

Blackness in the economic present

Dean quotes Ronald Judy who writes that “the value of the n[***a] is not in the physical body itself but in the energy, the potential force, that the body contains.”

Racial Capitalism Persists

"In the 'after-life of slavery,' as Christina Sharpe calls it, black people may not literally be bought and sold, but the logic of racial capitalism persists through embedded white supremacist ideologies."

-Dean

an apocalyptic economic future

Busta Rhymes's Album - E.L.E (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front

Afrofuturism as a Response to Racial Capitalism

"by putting the black man at the center of the apocalypse—as both the agent of the world’s demise and its inheritor—[afrofuturistic] works resonate more specifically with the child of these strange bedfellows, black radical thought and accelerationism, that I call blaccelerationism"

-Dean

Discovering a World within Yourself

 
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Ytasha L. Womack's Rayla 2212

"RAYLA 2212 follows Rayla Illmatic, a third generation citizen of Planet Hope, a former Earth colony that has claimed its independence. [...] But all isn't what it seems in this world where time and space shift at will. This story ties reincarnation, space travel, virtual worlds and love. As Rayla discovers new worlds, she comes to discover herself and her power."

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an extended universe

looking for an ideal place

The "Rayla" Universe

contending with alienation

Planet Hope

web page created around the universe in the novels of the Rayla series:

"Team Planet Hope, as the newcomers called themselves, among other things were also dedicated to building a society with no class system." (Womack 73)

The Return of a Third Generation Citizen

"We're aliens on this planet." (Womack 166)

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the story continues ...

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"A web of myth, mystery, love and the future, Rayla must face her nowness and navigate the fluid streams of existence that remix her new found reality."

 

Envisioning a Black Space

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Sun Ra was a musician, artist, composer, and writer. 

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Sun Ra's Space Is the Place

Sun Ra plays (music and cards) for the fate of Earth's black people, moving them from the ghetto to the outer realms of the galaxy. 

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Sun Ra's Space Is the Place

"I'm not real; I'm just like you. You don't exist in this society"

-Sun Ra

Critique of Earth as a White. Space

finding a place to be real

Lovecraft Country Episode 7 "I Am"

Sun Ra's influence

The Vision of a Better Place

Sun Ra has the vision of a better place, a place where he can “set up a colony for black people” (02:14)

"this planet is doomed" by Sun Ra

"this planet is doomed
and if all your wars and revolutions
don't stop
this planet is doomed
doomed forever
into a mass of writhing and sweating
melting and flowing pass of protoplasm
like, the earthman's gonna know
he's gonna
oh, he's gonna know where he is
like man, I ain't gonna be around to see him
'cause man, I'm gonna be in my groove
I'm gonna be in my bag
and I'm not gonna be here
I'm gonna be on my own planet
I'm gonna be on my planet
where things are big
powerful
things are more meaningful and
have more significance"

"in orbit" by Sun Ra

"you look at the earth and you begin to visualize
how the earth can be so small and
a place like this could be so big
and the people on the earth fightin'
all these wars
and up here are just altogether different
it's so big it just drowns out a war
war just don't mean nothing
the whole thing is just
big
powerful
nobody can experience anything like it
earthman can't even get there
earthman don't even know what it is
I know what it is, man
'cause I've seen it all the time
and I just gotta get there, man
I just gotta get there, that's all
I just gotta get there and
and can't nobody hold me back"

List of Afrofuturistic Visionaries (Artists)

Sun Ra (film, poetry, music)
 
Ytasha Womack (literature)
 
Janelle Monáe (music, acting)
 
Busta Rhymes (music)
 
Octavia Butler (literature)
 
Grace Jones (modeling, music, acting)
 
Keisha Thompson (literature, performance art)

Parliament-Funkadelic (music)

Tim Fielder (illustrator, cartoonist)
 
Samuel R. Delaney (literature)

Ellen Gallagher (art)

Wanuri Kahiu (film)

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The material on this page was compiled, created, and arranged by Nastacia Schmoll and Corina Göldi.. 

Complete bibliography and list of references.