So recently I have had many people ask what would I recommend as an introduction into Afrofuturism. This is something that I am always talking about, teaching, and or even consuming for myself, so why not have a list for beginners! And voila…I compiled various books, short stories, comic books, graphic novels, children and YA fiction, and movies that offer a unique look into Afrofuturism.
Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture ~Ytasha Womack
Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness ~Edited by Reynaldo Anderson & Charles E. Jones
Beloved ~Toni Morrison
Kindred ~Octavia Butler
Wild Seed ~Octavia Butler
Brown Girl in the Ring ~Nalo Hopkinson
The Conductors ~Nicole Glover
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? ~N.K. Jemisin
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora ~Edited by Sheree Thomas
Dark Matter: Reading the Bones ~Edited by Sheree Thomas
Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Working of Science in the Land of the Free ~George Schuyler
Lion’s Blood ~Steven Barnes
Zulu Heart ~Steven Barnes
Black Leopard, Red Wolf ~Marlon James
Minions: A Vampire Huntress Legend ~L.A. Banks
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements ~Edited by Walidah Imarisha & adrienne maree brown
Black Kirby: In Search of the MotherBoxx Connection ~John Jennings & Stacey Robinson
Mothership Tales: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond ~Edited by Bill Campbell & Edward Austin Hall
“The Princess Steel” & “The Comet” ~W.E.B. Du Bois
“Caramelle 1864” ~Jewelle Gomez
“I Left My Heart in Skaftafell” ~Victor LaValle
“Don’t Go There” ~Tracy Cross
“Ain’t I a Woman” ~Sojourner Truth
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Matty’s Rocket and Infinitude: An Afrofuturist Tale ~Tim Fielder
Ahhhhh it’s that time of the year again! It’s a Saturday morning 8:30 am in Richmond, VA on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. The fall/winter season of graduation is upon us!! One thing I do like about VCU is that we have graduation twice a year, for those who finish in May and those that finish in December. December graduation this year was my first time participating in the entire school celebration at the Siegel Center here on the VCU campus. And this year was extra special as I had the awesome opportunity of hooding my former student and sister friend Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan!! Participating in this joyous moment is one that I will treasure for a lifetime. I remember when she asked me to take part in this incredible moment I had to make sure I was not dreaming, causing this is a serious thing. And what really got me was that morning as all the graduates are preparing for the big moment, Lisa walks in and sees me and she immediately begins to tear up and I had to fight back tears. That was the beginning of what would be one of the most rewarding days in my professorial career.
Graduation is ALWAYS one of my favorite times of the year here at VCU and I get to celebrate it twice once in the spring and also in the fall. This momentous occasion is one that with each year will become more and more special. This is what happens when you become invested in your craft and the students who play a role in its shaping.
This semester has been about self-determination and perseverance for not just myself, but especially for my students. Each one of them in their own unique way has charted a path to success on their own terms. I say this every semester, but it warrants being mentioned being a professor/teacher is way more than providing weekly/daily lessons and educating the future…it’s about being a listening ear, parting growing wisdom/advice, showing support in-person and via Zoom, creating platforms for stories to be told, and as my Soror and the first president of National Association of Colored Women (NACW) Mary Church Terrell once said “lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go.” Graduation is the culmination of all the hard work that students take part in during their academic matriculation, and we as professors get to see the fruits of their labor flourish. I am always grateful that I get to change lives regardless of how big or small.
This change was specifically seen in my Capstone Senior Seminar course! I had the opportunity to mentor 7 AFAM seniors as they completed their senior thesis research projects. The topics ranged from the importance of Black motorcycle clubs in the Hampton Roads, to the issue of colorism for Black men, to the need for academic safe spaces, to better representation in comic books, to healing and processing Black mental health in Black matriarchal figures. And if their oral presentations were just an appetizer to their research papers….I cannot wait till the main course!! I am so proud of each of them and the work that they have done. Overcoming fears, sharing their personal stories, being vulnerable, and taking risks that will make them better scholars and people!!
Look out world, there’s a new set scholars entering and they have something to say!!
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” ~Toni Morrison
Today marks the 156th year since the message of freedom was delivered to those enslaved in Texas, also known as Juneteenth (portmanteau of June and nineteenth)!! A celebration of emancipation, liberation, and Black Joy!!
And what is Juneteenth? Juneteenth refers to June 19th, 1865 the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to inform the 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free. Keep in mind the Emancipation Proclamation (which ended slavery) had went into effect January 1st, 1863 (also the start of watch night services), so Texas would not get this memo for almost two and half years later. And people wonder why Black people cannot wait for change! Why we are persistent about consistent upward and forward movement! Why are Black people not quick to trust, because of past failures and screw ups like what happened in Galveston, TX. Nevertheless, the chains are breaking and the truth is being revealed.
In a way there has been this sudden awakening regarding the Juneteenth holiday. Much like how the message of freedom was delayed in its delivery to those enslaved in Texas, one could say there is a delayed recognition (on a larger scale) of the Juneteenth holiday. With all of the the national protests, police violence, and continuous murder of Black and Brown bodies of last year the U.S. would be reminded of past moments of resistance and endurance. This acknowledgement rebirth is what I like to think of as a memory survival. As Isabel Wilkerson writes in her amazing book, The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went.” And thank goodness the memory of Juneteenth will always be present, because we cannot afford to have any more delays, these are moments that we need right now and always!
So when did I learn about Juneteenth, I remember it being brought up during one of my summer classes as an Upward Bound student, and in passing from one of my aunts who lives in Texas. But I would really learn about Juneteenth while attending Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA) and while out grocery shopping and a young man handed me a flyer for a Juneteenth celebration that was set to take place. Outside of the above-mentioned instances, I did not have any previous knowledge. Now I am not surprised by this, nor am I surprised that many other Black folks are only just now aware of what Juneteenth is and its significance. Even though I may not be from Texas, I take Juneteenth as my Independence Day/Emancipation Day, because clearly July 4th is not!!
Juneteenth is not only a day to celebrate, but also another day to inform the masses, continue speaking out on injustices, and always a day to remember! It’s also another excuse for me to celebrate my Blackness and create more ways to express Black joy and agency. This holiday is also an opportunity to instill values of self-improvement, racial uplift, and reclamation of the family unit. These values were personified through religious sermons and the singing of negro spirituals, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, rodeos, and the preservation of slave food traditions and delicacies (ex. BBQ and soul food). Juneteenth is another holiday that allows Black folks to commune and fellowship and just be free with ourselves!! This freedom has been further expressed with the creation of various websites and the Juneteenth flag:
Created in 1997 by activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) Ben Haith, the flag consists of a star, burst, arc, and the colors red, white, and blue. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)the star is a nod to the Lone Star State (where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865), but also stands for the freedom of every Black American in all 50 states, the burst represents an outline surrounding the star meant to reflect a nova— or new star—this represents a new beginning for all, and the arc represents a new horizon, fresh opportunities and promising futures for Black Americans. The colors are also reminiscent of the United States flag, this was intentional to show that the enslaved African Americans and their descendants are also free Americans. Even in our symbols there is always a deep, layered meaning attached.
In 2021, Juneteenth has become more than just a holiday, but in many ways a movement!! Not only are school curriculums slowly changing, but we are also becoming more informed about the holiday through popular media. A few examples include:
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America [Netflix]: Episode 4, ‘Freedom’
Atlanta (FX Network): Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
Black-ish (ABC): Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
And as of 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service all states, except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, recognize/celebrate Juneteenth in some sort of fashion. This personally became significant for me because upon moving to Virginia on last year Juneteenth became a permanent statewide holiday (following in the footsteps of Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania). The fact that Virginia made this a statewide holiday is truly significant considering the states past history and the fact that the state is known as being the capital of the Confederacy…Interesting how tides are beginning to change!!
In the end when I think about Juneteenth I am optimistic…I am hopeful…I am excited. Optimistic that one day it will become a national holiday, and that it will truly get the recognition that it deserves. Juneteenth is a holiday even worthy of being acknowledged internationally. Hopeful that the celebration of this holiday is not just for a moment or season, but for an infinity of lifetimes. Excited because with each passing day more and more people are learning about the importance and significance of Juneteenth!! Even if this is your first year, make sure it is not your last!!
And just in case you need a few references for later reading and viewing check out the following link!!
As I continue to dive into my new city, I am super excited to share this CFC (Call For Contributions) on “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” in which I am serving as the lead editor!! It is open to all and you do not have to reside in Richmond to contribute! See below for more information!
VCU Publishing seeking contributions to ‘Imagining Black Futures in Richmond’* The online anthology aims to reveal legacies of harm and envision new futures.
VCU Publishing — which amplifies VCU scholarly and research findings and provides publishing opportunities for students and faculty — is seeking contributions for “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond,” a curated open access anthology that will imagine and explore futures for Richmond through an Afrofuturist lens.
VCU Publishing, part of VCU Libraries, is hoping to receive Afrofuturist works from diverse authors — both academic and community members — as well as diverse disciplines and perspectives. These contributions could include any discipline and in many forms, whether they be scholarly essays, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual media (for example, photo essays or comic or graphic art), or interviews.
Authors do not have to reside in the Richmond area, but the work in some way must address the city, which continues to grapple with past and present racism and inequality. And since VCU is woven into the fabric of Richmond, VCU Publishing is also interested in works that embrace or challenge the university’s position in the community. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, the project aims to reveal legacies of harm and envision new futures.
“I am excited to take part in this multidisciplinary anthology project with VCU Publishing,” said Gipson, whose research interests include Black popular culture, digital humanities, representations of race and gender within comic books, Afrofuturism, and race and new media. “As a new resident to Richmond and to VCU, I look forward to learning more about the city of Richmond and the many ways that it explores the Black imaginary space.”
Afrofuturism has been defined by journalist and filmmaker Ytasha Womack as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” that “redefines culture and notions of blackness for today and the future” while combining “elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity and magic realism with non-Western beliefs.”
Building on the aspirations and explorations of W.E.B. Du Bois’ scholarly work as well as his speculative fiction, and moving forward to encompass popular culture in its broadest sense, Afrofuturism offers a conceptual springboard for an imagined future for the greater Richmond area that can be expressed through essays, scholarly studies and creative works. A future where, in the words of Du Bois, all are judged “by their souls and not by their skins.”
The idea for “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” arose out of discussions on future directions for VCU Publishing following the publication of “The Politics of Annexation” alongside renewed calls for racial justice in summer 2020.
Jimmy Ghaphery, associate dean for scholarly communications and publishing at VCU Libraries, said he is excited to see how “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” “can reflect a rich history of community activism in the city, and establish Richmond as a nexus for imagining and creating a new and more just future for the South and the United States.”
The project, he added, is expected to include a hands-on paid publishing experience for a VCU student.
Sam Byrd, scholarly publishing librarian at VCU Libraries, said the team is hoping to receive an array of materials that “amaze us, that we hadn’t dreamed of.”
“Richmond is a changing city,” he said. “The monuments starting to come down may be the most visible sign of that, but there has been so much more work going on before, during and after, from so many different voices. I hope this project can amplify that diversity and energy and give us some creative paths to move forward on.”
The deadline to contribute to “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” is July 1. Authors will retain copyright for their work and must be willing to have the work shared and preserved by VCU Publishing.
Authors can contribute their work online (Gmail account required). Alternatively, they can attach their file in email to email@example.com, including their name and the title of their contribution. The book is projected to publish in late spring 2022. For more details or further inquiries, VCU Publishing can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looks like fans we will be able to revisit the Kingdom of Wakanda!
Check out what crossed my desk…just got word that acclaimed director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Creed) is set to create a new Wakanda series for Disney+!!
As reported by Marvel.com, Ryan Coogler is set to develop a new drama for Disney+ that is based on the fictional society of Wakanda. The upcoming series is set to be a part of The Walt Disney Company’s five-year exclusive television deal in collaboration with Coogler’s multi-media company Proximity*.
So not only do we get to see the work of Coogler in film through the Black Panther sequel, but we will also get to see his magic play out on our television screens!! According to Bob Iger, Executive Chairman-The Walt Disney Company,
“Ryan Coogler is a singular storyteller whose vision and range have made him one of the standout filmmakers of his generation…With Black Panther, Ryan brought a groundbreaking story and iconic characters to life in a real, meaningful and memorable way, creating a watershed cultural moment. We’re thrilled to strengthen our relationship and look forward to telling more great stories with Ryan and his team.”
This is very exciting news, as viewers will get a chance to see Wakanda’s story continue to unfold, and in many ways create another branch that picks up from where we stopped in the 2018 Black Panther film. As a huge fan of Coogler’s work (directing, producing, writing), I can only imagine what he along with his Proximity team have in store for us! Through this television series and other potential projects, audiences will get the opportunity to dive deeper into the fantastical world and people of Wakanda. In addition, the creation of this series will also provide another platform to elevate and amplify Black diasporic talent and voices in front and behind the camera and television screen.
“We look forward to learning, growing, and building a relationship with audiences all over the world through the Disney platforms. We are especially excited that we will be taking our first leap with Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and their partners at Marvel Studios where we will be working closely with them on select MCU shows for Disney+. We’re already in the mix on some projects that we can’t wait to share,” as stated by Coogler.
Nothing like watching the unveiling of Black Excellence!!
*Proximity is a multi-media company founded by Ryan Coogler, Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian, Ludwig Göransson, Archie Davis and Peter Nicks with a mission to create event-driven feature films, television, soundtracks and podcasts that look to bring audiences closer together through stories involving often-overlooked subject matters. Proximity is committed to developing a wide variety of projects across all budget levels.
Now for folks that know me, they know I love geeking out about Black Futures and even more about its relationship with Black History (hence the name of this site ‘Black Future Feminist’). So it is without question that I am very excited to virtually sit with some forward thinking minds and participate in this soul-stirring, out of this world panel!!
You can stream and get more information about the event here!!
And remember although February is the month (here in the US) that we formally celebrate Black History (major thanks to Carter G. Woodson) just know that Black History is 365 day effort!!