When people envision a future in art
most often it’s seen through a white lens. Only 8% of the 100 top grossing sci-fi and fantasy films featured a protagonist of color. Half the time the protagonist was Will Smith. The future looks different, if you look at it through the lens of black experiences. But we’re not all white or Will Smith. The future looks different, if you look at it through the lens of black experiences. That’s why we have this thing called Afrofuturism. The term was coined by culture critic Mark Dery in 1994 to point out the lack of black writers and black stories in science fiction. But this kind of art existed long before the term Afrofuturism did. Just look at music. Jazz musician Sun-Ra is probably one of the most recognizable Afrofuturists. He lays out an afrofuturistic design is his 1973 album Space is the Place, which you’re listening to now, and also became a film. The key is that his future was afrocentric – linking his futuristic self, to ancient forbears in Egypt. These ideas were more politically direct, and a lot more funky, in George Clinton’s Parliament during 1975. In “Mothership Connection” he connects the struggle of civil rights and “We Shall Overcome” to a positive future with evidence the struggle will work: “You have overcome. For I am here” He not only references an old song from the underground railroad to escape slavery: “Swing down, sweet chariot.
Stop and let me ride.” But he flipped a desperate history into positive futuristic ride on his spaceship as evidence the struggle is over and we’ve won “Swing down, sweet chariot. Stop and let me ride” — so of course everybody wants to get on. [Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” playing] And people did get on, [Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” continues] or at least some 90s hip hop heavyweights did. But Afrofuturism also critiques the way the future looks today like André 3000 did on his ATLiens verse. “Because the future of the world depends on” “If or if not the child we raise gon’ have that n***a syndrome.” “Or will it know to beat the odds regardless of the skin tone.” He wants his unborn kid to get the future they want, not the one society created for them because of race. And that’s why he takes pride in the difference. They alienate us cause we different keep your hands to the sky. Like Sounds of Blackness when I practice what I preach ain’t no lie. And empowers black people to fight to get what’s ours. “I’ll be the baker and the maker of the piece of my pie.” ‘Cause that’s the thing about afrofuturism — it’s rooted in black people a better future for ourselves on our terms, like Janelle Monáe does in “Q.U.E.E.N.” “Even if it makes others uncomfortable” “I will love who I am.” This is the common thread of Afrofuturism. To overcome the current ways society remains unequal There needs to be futures where those problems are solved. Afrofuturism shows us what that looks like. It looks like hope. [Crowd shouting “We goin’ be alright.” “Will you be electric sheep? Electric ladies, will you sleep? Or will you preach?”