When I tell people I am an AFROFuturist, I usually get a blank stare. Then, there is the polite question: “What is AFROFuturism?” I explain that AFROFuturism is not a religion nor a dangerous cult whose members seek to violently oust the existing world order. There will be no race riots or flaming torches. Yet, AFROFuturism can be very radical.
It is revolutionary. People of African descent can play a major role in the future of humankind. Once you become an AFROFuturist, you will have made the decision to perceive the world in a different way and help improve the human condition by utilizing technology and the arts. AFROFuturism combines artistic design, video, music, writing and philosophical dialogue into a collaborative endeavor.
AFROFuturism tell us: Let’s restructure the way the world operates economically. Let’s mold a global society that embraces all people and cultures. Let’s redefine the human animal and evolve it into a higher creature.
For me, becoming an AFROFuturist was reminiscent of joining a populist organization like the original Black Panther Party (if I had been old enough, I might have enrolled). You take the pledge. Don the black leather jacket. Hide behind ultra dark sunglasses and step into the glare of a turbulent urban scene.
We all have seen images of the 1970s Panther Party – the clinched fists and newspaper headlines. For the most part, AFROFuturism is similar to the revolutionary Black Panther Party except in several very important aspects.
Like the “Occupy Movement”, AFROFuturism has no centralized leadership. There is no head committee to imprison or torture. There are no mantras nor mission statements that we have to memorize and repeat upon demand. There is not even a secret handshake. We will not see AFROFuturists parading down Independence Avenue in Washington, DC, to pay homage to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial.
AFROFuturists will not be meeting in North Carolina barns at midnight, plotting to storm the local police kiosk and hack their computers. AFROFuturism is a spontaneous crusade involving a variety of individuals and activities. It is more of a “happening” occurring in big cities and small towns and around the world. There are AFROFuturistic fashion shows with champagne as well as structured academic study for PhD candidates.
Throughout American history, there have been organizations and movements that Black people have supported openly and clandestinely. During the 1960s, the Deacons for Defense and Justice scared white people in the South into believing that a catastrophic race war was imminent.
Even after his demise, Nat Turner was an AFROFuturist of merit attracting thousands of followers over the years. Harriet Tubman, Frederic Douglas and Martin Delany likewise had visions of a proper future for Black people. Their legacy is alive. We don’t always have to agree completely with the methods of these groups and their leadership, but the goal remains clear — Do whatever is necessary, violently or peacefully or through compromise, to raise people of African descent out of second class citizenship in a world that they helped to build and make prosperous.
AFROFuturists can be found in Tweets, Facebook, Bings and Googles. You can even YAHOO an AFROFuturist. We are netizens who promote our achievements and honor our innovators around the world online.
We encourage everyone to jump onboard the Mothership being built by Mae Jamison, the first Black Female astronaut. Jamison is leading an organization to build a space vehicle capable of traveling to the nearest star. We listen to Janelle Monae who tells us to “preach”. We pay homage to the transformational art of Mshindo, an artistic genius, who gives us visions of fantastic new possibilities.
We read fast paced action in Black Science Fiction, SteamFunk and Sword & Soul independently published by Milton Davis and a cascade of other writers who create heroic Black characters in short stories and novels.
So, why am I an AFROFuturist?
One of the elements of AFROFuturism that greatly appealed to me is that it is not gender or age specific. AFROFuturists such as Pauline Hopkins and George Schuyler were writing about futuristic Black people more than a hundred years ago. AFROFuturists such as Samuel Delany, Steven Barnes and Ronald Jones may have birthdays that are decades apart yet they are united by common literary themes.
Wisdom is not denied to us because of age, gender, sexual preference or religion. This allows AFROFuturists to inflict a devastating impact, daily upon hypocrisy. This could never have happened by an openly armed revolt against injustice. Words, art and music are much more effective than bullets or explosions. Dr. King was an AFROFuturist.
But mostly, I became an AFROFuturist to counter the extreme political right that is staging an attack against common sense. Gun control is common sense. Reproductive rights and private choice for procreation are common sense. Assisting families to escape inhumane poverty is common sense. Healthcare for everyone is common sense. Expanding education opportunities for all ages is common sense. Protecting the environment and acknowledging the human role in global climate change are common sense.
We must not allow the clock to be turned back to when Black people were kept in their place by vicious police dogs, irrational legislation and threats of imprisonment. We must not let fanatical religious doctrine trump science. We must stop wasting quadrillions of dollars on bloated military budgets that only benefits the obscenely wealthy. We must not be afraid to speak our minds online, at our churches, temples or mosques, in our schools, at home, after sex or during political elections.
AFROFuturists are promoting common sense for basic humanitarian causes such as education, the arts, medicine and scientific development. We seek to encourage people of African descent to embrace the tools of the modern world to make all our communities more livable and in harmony with our surroundings. We want to stride, eyes wide open, into a future where Black people exist, control their fate and help save the world.
That is why I became an AFROFuturist.