Originally Published on ForHarriet which can be viewed here:
Black History Month has become a month that is used to share history and knowledge of past leaders, intellectuals, artists and shapers of black life in the Diaspora and the continent. It is a year where we, as a diverse people, collectively celebrate the advancements we have made and track the key moments that have led us to where we are in the present times.
This month is vital to the our continual collective memory, which contributes to never forgetting the brutality and horrors we faced in various locations across the world and how we defiantly and creatively resist the powers who try to succumb us to the belief that there are no possibilities of freedom and liberation. Of course, it is important that we do not fall into essentialized definitions of “black” and “African.” For the purposes of this article, I am speaking of people of Afro-descent living in North America (particularly Canadian), as our condition, which is also complicated and complex, is also very much different of Afro/Black experiences in other regions of the world.
Recently, I attended the opening ceremony of Black History Month in Montreal, where awards were presented to Black Montrealers who have done much service to the Black Montreal Community. The laureates are brilliant individuals who are by far contributors to current alleviations of black struggle. However, the ceremony opened with three white politicians, namely Mayor Denis Codere who is known for his implicit role in the overthrow of democratically elected Haitian-president Jean-Bertrand Aristride in 2004.
White supremacy has infiltrated our own celebrations and commemorations of our peoples. Programming for Black History Month across Canada are being funded and sponsored by organizations and governments who are engaging in development or political ventures that are complicit in the continual suppression not only of our people in other countries, but are creating policy that is patronizing our youth and streamlining them into prison systems. Furthermore, theirmoney also distorts the control we have to truly shape our collective and individual narratives. For example, why is it that Afro-Canadian history largely untold? Authors such as David Austin and his book “Fear of a Black Nation” illustrates that Montreal had become a hub for black radical thinking and organizing during the 60s and 70s. AfricVille , and other communities such as Amber Valley in Alberta, are topics that are unknown by white, people of colour and black communities. The misdirection of focusing on African-American experience appears not to be a happenstance, but quite strategically shaped to influence our ideas on the need for continual resistance. Black leaders have been frozen in the glass case called “history” and their significance to our current conditions are forgotten.
A question arises, how much control do we have of BHM? The answer may frighteningly also lead us to posing the question – How much control do we then have over our future?
AfroFuturism and Black Sci-Fi, I believe, is the future of our self-actualization. In actuality, it always has. Every black visionary in all aspects of culture, politics and lifestyle were afro-futurists, science fiction visionaries who had the capacity to understand the current condition of black peoples, but were also able to see alternative possibilities.
Recently, there has been much debate on how the film industry depicts black people through one-dimensional slave narratives, that are doused in extreme violence and trauma. Black people cannot just be people. We have to be welfare queens, suffer extreme amounts of abuse, are enslaved, and/or depicted as criminals. Unlike our white counterparts, we aren’t able to just be, to enjoy portrayals of depth and complexity, with the capacity to experience various emotions and experiences. Our stories are flat and are often usedto ease the guilt of a white history and of white society for their inhuman and barbaric treatment of our peoples.
I believe that committing ourselves to sci-fi and futurism can allow us to break out of the narratives and conditions of living that have been constructed for us. We as black peoples, did not construct the ghettos, we did not construct the prisons, we did not create guns and drugs, we do not dictate the ignoring of those murdered for their genders and sexuality , we do not create the gate keepers of industry and professions. Instead we were placed in the midst of these creations. With this realization we can then conceive that we can change our circumstance. In fact, all the civil rights leaders, artists/musicians, politicians, and other visionaries, were able to envision new and alternative futures. They understood that it did not make sense for them tocontinue living a story that they were not the writers, but simply the subjects. They were able to recognize the components that made the current situation unbearable and then were able to envision new possibilities, that during their time, was inconceivable, impossible. But they committed themselves to their vision and believed with unwavering hope that they were be right.
The power of visualization. It is a tool that many spiritual and now self-help literature discusses in terms of being able to achieve a specific goal. With visualization, you are pushing your imagination into a future, and ultimately shifting your mental paradigm and thus impacting your actions towards filling that goal. That is science fiction. Black people, science fiction/future provides an answer. The people who took steps before us opened corridors that will allow us tocontinue to move forward into an afro-future of greatness, and limitless possibilities. They mobilized themselves by the hundreds of millions making it virtually impossible for countries tocontinue the methods of torture in an international stage. They were us, and we are them. We are the future, right here, right now.
For me, science fiction/futurism is synonymous with envisioning possibility. In the work that I do, I commit myself to doing work that imagines newness, and in effect changes my mind into action towards making these thoughts a reality.
This is essentially the goal of Afrofuturists. We pull from our past, of ancient Golden Ages and catapult ourselves into the future. We have always been a part of pushing the frontiers of technology, science and cultural advancements.
In Ytasha L. Womack’s book “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture,” an extensive look at how Afrofuturist thought has changed and continues to metamorph through processes of transition and transformation. Providing a thorough introduction to Afrofuturist thought, Womack touches on the ideas around art, science and technology that Afrofuturists (self-identified and not) have brought forth, each committing themselves to African peoples and unifying and finding alternatives to achieve peace and harmony.
Afrofuturism allows those of us from African descent and of the Diaspora to truly break away from the mental shackles of our existence and what we see as possible for
ourselves. If we are able to tap in that energy source, and that dark matter in which all things stem, there is no stopping us from landing on whatever planetary plain or astral projections we imagine in our minds.
For many of us, our imagination is all that we have. Afrofuturism provides a context where we as peoples of African descent and our children can visualize our future selves, and work towards taking those steps of actualizing ourselves into the earthbound reality.