An Evening with Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke (a pre-Mo*Con event)

At the intersection of race, gender, social justice, and speculative fiction, two powerful voices, Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke, join us for a night of what is sure to be lively conversation. Mikki and Chesya will interview each other and host a Q&A in a free-flowing dialogue on oppressive politics, the state of fluid literature, white feminism, and paths for moving forward.

ABOUT MIKKI KENDALL

A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and DePaul, Mikki Kendall has been blogging since 2003 under the pen name Karnythia. With nearly 100K Twitter followers, in August of 2013, Mikki started the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. It sparked a global conversation about racism, solidarity, representation, and access to resources in feminist circles. Her other hashtags (including #fasttailedgirls, #NotJustHello, #AbuserDynamics, #MillenialMammy, #NotYourMandingo, and others designed to make room for hard conversations about feminist issues) have also gone viral. Her hashtag #HistoricPOC was used by the US National Archives as part of the 2015 Black History Month events.

She has written for The Guardian, Ebony, Essence, Publishers Weekly, Global Comment, Salon, xoJane, The Toast, and other online and print markets. She has also been published in several anthologies, both fiction and nonfiction. She edited the Locus nominated anthology Hidden Youth with Chesya Burke, and is part of the Hugo nominated team of editors at Fireside Magazine. In addition, Mikki is an accomplished public speaker, frequently speaking on race, feminism, and social media at a variety of conferences and colleges.

Sample Mikki here:

Want to thank black voters for defeating Roy Moore? Tackle voter suppression.

Want to see Oprah be president? Maybe she should start with city council.

ABOUT CHESYA BURKE

Chesya Burke is a doctoral candidate in the English department at the University of Florida. She received her Master’s degree in African American Studies from Georgia State University in 2015. Currently, Chesya is a double fellow, receiving both the Florida Education Fund McKnight Fellowship and the PhD Graduate Student Fellowship from the University of Florida. As a scholar, she teaches such topics as Black Women Spec Fic Writers, The Racial Dynamics of Nationality Politics and The Literature of Resistance: From Nat Turner to Black Panther.

In addition, Burke wrote several articles for the African American National Biography published by Harvard and Oxford University Press. Burke is an award-winning writer, who has published nearly a hundred stories and articles, leading Grammy-nominated spoken word artist and poet Nikki Giovanni to call her work “stunning.” Her primary areas of interests are in African American literature, race and gender studies, comics and fluid fiction. She edited the Locus nominated anthology, Hidden Youth, with Mikki Kendall and her thesis was on the comic book character Storm from the X-MEN. Shiv, Burke’s stand alone comic, is scheduled to debut in 2019.

You can sample Chesya’s work here:

Zero Percent Chance

Say, She Toy:

Horror Is . . . Not What You Think or Probably Wish It Is

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – FROM WAKANDA TO PARABLE OF THE SOWER

First off, we’re pleased to announce that we have received a grant from Indiana Humanities to continue these conversations!

Second, Afrofuturism considers these questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? Our goal is to imagine the future we want to see. So let’s start with a re-cap of how dominating Black Panther’s run has been:

At this point, Black Panther’s performance at the box office has stopped being surprising and is now just impressive. Black Panther was number one at the box office for five straight weekends, it is now the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time domestically and it is the most tweeted about movie ever. Black Panther has now passed the nigh-unsinkable Titanic to become the third highest-grossing film of all time domestically.

-It’s only surpassed by James Cameron’s Avatar, which sits at number two, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens at number one.

Black Panther will be the first film released in Saudi Arabia in 35 years.

 

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – REPLICATING WAKANDA (A Re-cap)

After a vibrant (and standing room only) discussion about the movie Black Panther and its themes, our discussion ended before we had a chance to discuss the role of technology in our communities. Technology plays a vital role in Wakanda—in medicine, communication, protection, and transportation (we see a Wakanda designed to be walkable Wakanda as well as having a mass transit system). What we want to consider is that:

Afrofuturism is not just an aesthetic — it’s just as much a framework for activism and imagining new technologies. We’re interested in how the movement can make a practical difference in the lives of those from whom the thought culture draws.

We watched two clips about tech and Afrofuturism from Robin Thede’s late night show The Rundown as the basis of our table discussions:

  1. What (unique) resources does your community have?

-how can you use those resources to build your community?

-how can you leverage your privilege to benefit other communities?

  1. Considering the needs of your community, what are some technological aids (not fixes)?

-what kind of technology can you come up with?

 

RESOURCES

Afrofuturism and Outsider Tech

Sculpting Space for Afrofuturism as a Methodology of Liberation

 

NEXT UP: Octavia Butler’s seminal work, Parable of the Sower.

Octavia Butler’s work combines imagination with social, political, and even religious practice. It creates blueprints to find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us. And, with its Afrofuture promise, it paints a vivid portrait of what the world could look like. So we leave you with this thought from Parable of the Sower:

“All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.”

Go forth and be the change.

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION – A READING PRIMER

I recently spoke at the Kheprw Institute on the history of Black Spec Fic. This is the reading list I provided as a starting point:

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION – A READING PRIMER

Martin Delany
Blake, or the Huts of America (1859)

Charles W. Chesnutt
The Conjure Woman  (1899)

Frances Harper
Iola Leroy (1892)

Sutton Griggs
Imperium in Imperio (1899)

Pauline Hopkins
Of One Blood (1902)

Edward A. Johnson
Light Ahead for the Negro (1904)

W. E. B. Du Bois
“The Comet” (1920)
“Jesus Christ in Texas” (1920)

Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Mules and Men (1935)
Tell My Horse (1938)

George Schuyler
Black No More (1931)

Henry Dumas
Echo Tree

Amos Tutuola
The Palm Wine Drinkard (1952)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)

Samuel R. Delany
The Jewels of Aptor (1962)
Dhalgren (1975)
“Racism and Science Fiction”

Virginia Hamilton (1934-2002)
Zeely (1967)
The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl (1986)
The Justice Trilogy (2012)

Ishmael Reed
Mumbo Jumbo (1972)

Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon (1977)
Beloved (1987)

Octavia E. Butler
Kindred (1979)
“Bloodchild” (1984)
Parable of the Sower (1993)
Fledgling (2005)

Charles Saunders
Imaro (1981)

Gloria Naylor
Mama Day (1988)

Charles R. Johnson
Middle Passage (1990)

Jewelle Gomez
The Gilda Stories (1991)

Tananarive Due
My Soul to Keep (1997)
The Good House (2003)
Ghost Summer (2015)

Christopher Priest (Jim Owsley)
Black Panther v.3 (1998- 2003)

Nalo Hopkinson
Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
Midnight Robber (2000)

Sandra Jackson-Opoku
The River Where Blood Is Born (1998)

Victor LaValle
Slapboxing with Jesus (1999)
Big Machine (2009)
The Ballad of Black Tom (2016)

Colson Whitehead
The Intuitionist (1999)
Zone One (2011)
The Underground Railroad (2016)

Sheree Renée Thomas
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000)
Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004)

Walter Mosley
Futureland: Nine stories of an imminent future (2001)

Linda D. Addison
Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (2001)
Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (2007)
How to Recognize a Demon has Become your Friend (2011)

Steven Barnes
Lion’s Blood (2002)
Zulu Heart (2003)

L.A. Banks
The Vampire Huntress Legend series (2003-2010)
Crimson Moon series (2008- 2010)

Minister Faust
Coyote Kings of the Space- Age Bachelor Pad (2004)
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (2007)

Brandon Massey
Dark Dreams (2004)
Dark Corner (2004)

Andrea Hairston
Mindscape (2006)
Redwood and Wildfire (2011)

Nisi Shawl
Filter House (2008)
Stories for Chip (w/ Bill Campbell 2015)

Wrath James White
The Resurrectionist (2009)

Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death (2010)
Akata Witch (2011)
Binti (2016)

Maurice Broaddus
“Pimp My Airship” (2009)
King Maker (2010)
The Voices of Martyrs (2017)

Helen Oyeyemia
White is for Witching (2010)

N.K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010)
The Fifth Season (2015)

Chesya Burke
Let’s Play White (2011)

Mat Johnson
Pym (2011)

Milton Davis
Changa’s Safari (2011)

Balogun Ojetade
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (2012)

Tobias Buckell
Arctic Rising (2012)
Hurricane Fever (2014)

Sofia Samatar
A Stranger in Olondria (2013)

Bill Campbell
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond (2013)
Stories for Chip (w/ Nisi Shawl 2015)

Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince (2013)
Love Is the Drug (2015)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” (2015)

Jenn Brissett
Elysium (2014)

Tade Thompson
Making Wolf (2015)

Kai Ashante Wilson
“The Devil in America” (2015)
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (2015)
A Taste of Honey (2016)

Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown
Octavia’s Brood (2015)

Marlon James
The Dark Star trilogy (2017)

 

 

Shout Outs
John F. Allen
Paula D. Ashe
Michael Boatman
K. Tempest Bradford
Crystal Connor
Errick Dunnally
Andre Duza
Robert Fleming
Craig Laurance Gidney
LR Giles
Seressia Glass
Lawanna Holland-Moore
Valjeanne Jeffers
Jemiah Jefferson
Rhonda Jackson Joseph
John Edward Lawson
Kai Leakes
Alicia McCalla
Carl Hancock Rux
J. Malcolm Stewart
Geoffrey Thorne
K. Ceres Wright
Ibo Zoboi

 

Check out:

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

Science Fiction by African Writers

Upcoming Workshops

I’ve been getting a lot of (well-earned) grief about not publicizing my workshops and such. I try to keep my appearances updated on my web site, but here are some upcoming events:

Afrofuture Fridays – the second Friday of the month, I’ll be at the Kheprw Institute leading a community conversation on Afrofuturism and applying those themes to community work. Here are links to our introduction and out Black Panther conversations. Indiana Humanities has awarded us a $4,000 grant to continue the conversations. Next up, April 13th, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Characterization Through Dialogue – “Characters are at the heart of stories and dialogue helps define characters and drive story.  In this workshop you’ll learn to develop characters, consider word choice, and define their voice through dialogue. The workshop will present essential tips to improve dialogue and explore how to write dialogue that rings true, deepens character, creates tension, and more.” Saturday, May 19, 9-12p at the Indiana Writers Center.

Pop up Writing Workshop: Your Super Hero Story – “Learn tips to writing your own super hero story by transforming your personal memoirs and experiences into a masterpiece led by an expert at the Indiana Writers Center.” Monday, June 18, 6:00-7:30 pm at Metazoa Brewing

Midwest Writers Workshop Super Mini-conference – I’ll be conducting workshops on Worldbuilding, Dialogue, and the Business of Writing. July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center.

Writing Excuses Cruise – Allow me to quote fellow instructor, K. Tempest Bradford: “Join me on the Writing Excuses cruise, a writing conference & retreat taking place this September. Hone your craft by attending talks & participating in workshops led by a huge roster of amazing writers, editors, & agents. I’ll be an instructor this year alongside Amal El-MohtarMaurice Broaddus, Piper J Drake, Valynne E. MaetaniDongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kathy Powell ChungSandra TaylerDan Wells, and Howard Tayler. The depth of our collective knowledge is rivaled only by the sea, which we will sail to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. Yes, this cruise is part adventure as well. Though you’ll only a get a brief taste of each place we dock, sometimes that’s just enough for inspiration. And maybe it will make you want to return, explore deeper, and fuel more creative fire. More details available at the link as well as registration.”

Indiana State Library teen-focused writing festival celebrating the horror and sci-fi genres. October 20, 2018. Details to follow.

[My Apperances page also includes the conventions I plan on attending. Look for me at the Steampunk SymposiumMo*Con, GenCon, and World Fantasy]

The Apex Takeover Continues

A year ago it was announced that I’d taken on the position as reprints editor for Apex Magazine. Recently I was saying to myself, “Self, you’re not that busy, is there anything else you can take on?” So Apex Magazine made this announcement…

am pleased to announce that Maurice Broaddus has accepted the position of nonfiction editor for Apex Magazine!

Maurice is a prolific and well-regarded author who works in a multitude of genres. He is also the Apex Magazine reprints editor and now wears two hats for our publication. Upcoming authors Maurice has lined up for essays include Mur Lafferty, Mary SanGiovanni, and Tobias S. Buckell.

You can find Maurice Broaddus on Twitter at @mauricebroaddus and online at www.mauricebroaddus.com. His novella “Buffalo Soldiers” was recently published at Tor.com.

Mo*Con Giveaways: USB Memory Direct

We have a lot of partners coming on board to help put on Mo*Con this year.

USB Memory Direct has provided us with 25 custom flash drives to give away on a first come first serve basis.

Their catalog of drives can be found here, but they can obviously customize them (THEY FLIP TO MATCH MY BUSINESS CARDS/BOOK COVERS!)

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – REPLICATING WAKANDA (A Re-cap)

Being The Only White Guy In A Black Office After Black Panther

https://www.facebook.com/AllDefDigital/videos/1676552389104286/

If you think Black Panther was just another superhero movie, then you’ll probably be thrown by our discussions on race, colonialism, the relationship between black Americans/Africans, who the real hero of the movie was, and the role of technology in our communities.

We were tempted to have the community conversation the weekend after the movie came out. Think pieces were coming out left and right. Though I’d already seen it twice opening weekend, I needed more time to digest them. Plus we wanted to give folks a chance to see it. And they have:

[From Forbes last Monday … BEFORE IT HIT $920M WORLDWIDE]

 Black Panther just snagged a jaw-dropping $65.7 million in its third weekend of domestic release. That’s the third-biggest third weekend of all time, behind only Avatar ($69m in 2010) and Star: The Force Awakens ($90m in 2016).

 Like Jurassic World, it needed just 17 days to get to $500 million domestic, which will be one day slower than The Last Jedi and seven days slower than The Force Awakens.

Whether or not Black Panther catches up to The Last Jedi’s $619 million domestic total, it has already surpassed The Dark Knight Rises ($448m in 2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($459m in 2015) to become the third-biggest grossing comic book superhero movie in North America. It sits behind The Dark Knight ($534m in 2008) and The Avengers ($623m in 2012).

It has already passed Finding Dory to become the tenth-biggest U.S. grosser of all time, with a final landing spot of between seventh place and fifth place by the time it wraps up.

A BRIEF  HISTORY OF BLACK PANTHER COMICS

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby created the character in July-Aug 1966, making his debut in a two-part Fantastic Four storyline in issues 52-53 (right after the introduction of the Silver Surfer and Galactus). He goes on to join the Avengers.

His first starring role was in a comic called Jungle Action written by Don McGregor in 1973. Of additional note, the run was illustrated by Billy Graham, one of the first African American artists in comics. This highly respected run that gave us Eric Killmonger.

The 1970s brought us all manner of problematic villains, like Man-Ape (now M’Baku). [It wasn’t just him. For example, during this time Luke Cage was fighting the pimp-looking villain of the week.] After a couple mini-series, they turn to a writer named Christopher J. Priest.

Starting out as Jim Owsley, Priest became the first black editor and then first black writer at either Marvel or DC (1979). He went on to play a major role in Milestone Media. FOR ME, THIS WAS THE DEFINITIVE RUN ON BLACK PANTHER. He re-thought the approach to Black Panther: he’s not a superhero, he’s a king (Peter David mimicked this approach when he re-vamped Aquaman). So he gives a reason why a king would join a super-hero team (such as spying on a group of super-powered individuals for whom borders mean nothing) as well as the problems this causes back home for his rule. Priest is responsible for most of the world-building seen in the movie: the tribe structure (pared down to five from Priest’s 18), kimono beads, Dora Milaje, the Dogs of War; the rehabilitation of the problematic “villain” Man-Ape (M’Baku); and Everett K. Ross (brought over from Priest’s run on Ka-zar).

Black Panther has been largely in the hands of black writers since.

Reginald Hudlin, of House Party fame, took over next. It was his run that gave us Shuri and on which the BET animated series was based (you can now watch the entire run on Marvel’s YouTube channel).

[Our discussion about resources was answered by T’Chaka in the series at the 5:00 minute mark]

Ta-Nehisi Coates. Roxanne Gay. Nnedi Okorafor. Black creators have taken up the reigns of the book.

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE MOVIE – Why was this movie important to you?

There is a vision of black solidarity world wide, bridging the relationship between those in the Diaspora and Africans. It’s a beautiful celebration of blackness: excellence and art. And it continues the conversation on how best to achieve black liberation: Booker T. Washington “vs.” W.E.B. DuBois; Malcolm X “vs.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. One of the great things about the movie is that it allows for a lot of discussion points that allows everyone to have a defensible position…

Team T’Challa – remain in isolation (elitist)

Team Nakia – Wakanda as a beacon and model for the rest of the world

Team Killmonger – use technology to initiate a worldwide black revolution

…with the caution that this is not about black liberation vs. black radicalism, but about seeing ourselves in all sides of that discussion. We’re simultaneously the African ideal and the abandoned Diaspora. The movie is more about exposing the problems present even in a utopian Black society.

WHO IS THE REAL HERO OF THE MOVIE?

T’Challa – both hero and villain: his kingdom remains untouched by colonialism, yet he is also unwilling to help black people outside of his kingdom. He saved Wakanda and stopped their technologies from being being abused in the export of war, yet he abandoned black people around the world.

ERIK KILMONGER MAY BE THE MOST NUANCED, COMPLICATED, AND SYMPATHETIC “VILLAIN” PRESENTED IN (COMIC BOOK) MOVIES!

Killmonger: “His royal father is killed by his uncle when he’s young, he’s stuck exiled from his homeland, and he returns there once he’s grown older to claim the throne from the person he views as a terrible king.” That’s the story of Simba from The Lion King, a hero’s journey. He was the abandoned child of Wakanda forced to fend for himself in a society dominated by white supremacy. He give voice to the idea of worldwide black liberation. He exposed the problems that existed in this utopian black society. On the flip side: he shot his girlfriend, he choked an elder woman, and he killed a member of the Dora Milaje. Ostensibly about black liberation, he seems content to do that with no regard for black women. In many ways he’s the personification of toxic masculinity (where did he learn that?).

Killmonger burned the garden of the Heart-Shaped Herb, which was his right as the king, however, it would leave a future with no Black Panthers to protect the kingdom. Thus the future he imagined wasn’t utopian for anyone but himself. Like the Joker, he’s content to watch the world burn, for Wakanda to suffer as much as he suffered. In the end, it was his bid for world domination through ruthless violence that had to be stopped (not black radicalism).

In many ways, who was the hero could be view through the lens of how each viewed women.

ON THE AGENCY OF WOMEN

With its Afrofuturist lens, Black Panther with its depiction of women offers a critique of the present (speaks to a deeply patriarchal society) and offers a model for what the future could look like: with women being equal to men, T’Challa not being threatened by their power, knowledge, or wisdom. Women play an active role in every segment of society, from the Wakandan “Secret Service” known as the Dora Milaje (based on the Dahomey Amazons) to scientists to cultural leaders. In fact, Black Panther is out of second act of the film and the ladies don’t miss a beat.

[One of the things that struck me was the depiction of black on black violence. It was largely bloodless, which was probably a deliberate choice of Ryan Coogler. When violence is necessary to be depicted, there is no reveling in broken black bodies (ala slave films).]

The presence of the CIA – a friend/manipulator of Wakanda?

When Everett K. Ross was introduced in the comics, it was largely to create an access point for white readers. The book was going to be unapologetically black under Priest’s run, so there was some concern from management. In Priest’s words “I figured, and I believe rightly, that for Black Panther to succeed, it needed a white male at the center, and that white male had to give voice to the audience’s misgivings or apprehensions or assumptions about this character and this book.” With the comic largely told through his eyes, this allowed Black Panther to remain enigmatic.

Throughout the movie, similar to the comics, Agent Ross gets presented as useless, the comic foil. As M’Baku says on behalf of the audience, “Why is he even here? Why is he speaking?” His role wasn’t as “white savior” as some people feared, but he was more an extension of Shuri during the climax. She was controlling him/he took his directions from her as he learned what it meant to be an ally.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BLACK AMERICANS AND AFRICANS

With many of the problems in African countries stemming from colonialism, mirrored by those in the Diaspora, the fact that the relationship between blacks and Africans is so fraught with -animus and competition (including the derogatory way we refer to one another) remains disheartening. African American culture is very influential in Africa (and vice versa). The movie calls for bridges to be built and unity to be had. But we continue to unpack this.

The conversation is to be continued.

For now know that there is no Wakanda, but the dream of such powers us—black people around the world—to continue to stand up and forge the reality of it for ourselves.  As T’Chaka told his son, T’Challa, “Stand up. You are a King.”

Additional reading:

‘Black Panther’: Why the relationship between Africans and black Americans is so messed up

Editorial: You Love Killmonger At The Expense Of Black Women

In Defense Of Erik Killmonger And The Forgotten Children Of Wakanda

The Most Important Moment in Black Panther No One Is Talking About

‘BLACK PANTHER’ SUCCEEDS AS URBAN UTOPIA: THERE ARE NO CARS IN WAKANDA

Afrofuture Fridays: An Introduction (A Re-cap) and a Preview (March – Replicating Wakanda)

Join us on March 9th at the Kheprw Institute for Afrofuture Friday: Replicating Wakanda (in our communities).

We will:
-go over the history of Black Panther in comics
-discuss the impact and themes of the movie
-discuss the role of technology in our communities

As always, there will be food, music (the Black Panther soundtrack), and celebration of community.

Sign up via Facebook or Eventbrite.

***

I was on a Creating the Future panel a few weeks ago and the topic of Afrofuturism came up. A person there admitted that they thought it meant [depictions of] no white people in the future. In a lot of ways, I do see Afrofuturism as a correction of how rarely black people are portrayed in the future, for example, in the new Blade Runner movie.

Afrofuturism uses art (visual, music, film, literature, fashion) to create a framework to examine our present, that’s rooted in history and looks to the future.

-it mixes sci fi and social justice

-it imagines the future through art and the lens of black experience

-it’s rooted in black people having a better future for ourselves on our terms

Culture critic Mark Dery coined the term in 1994 in his essay “Black to the Future” where he was wondering why so few African Americans embraced sf to tell our stories. By his accounting, there was only Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Charles Saunders, and Steven Barnes writing in genre. (Coincidentally, 1994 marked the year I first started sending out stories).

To overcome the way society remains unequal, there has to be visions of a future where the problems are solved. Samuel Delany puts it this way: “We need images of tomorrow and out people need them more than most.”

Afrofuturism critiques the way the future looks today.

Afrofuturism provides glimpses of what this might look like.

In pop culture, Afrofuturism has been most popularly seen in music:

-Sun Ra began in the 1950s, using Afrofuture design and creating an entire cosmology for his work. He links his future self to his ancient ancestors in Egypt and believed that the future for black people could be intergalactic. His album “Space is the Place” (1973) is considered a seminal Afrofuture album.

-Parliament-Funkadelic, in the 1970s, envisioned a world where The Struggle is over and we’ve won. About their seminal album, “Mothership Connection” (1975), George Clinton said this: “We had put black people in situations nobody ever thought they would be in, like the White House. I figured another place you wouldn’t think black people would be was in outer space. I was a big fan of Star Trek, so we did a thing with a pimp sitting in a spaceship shaped like a Cadillac, and we did all these James Brown-type grooves, but with street talk and ghetto slang.”

-Outkast/Andre 3000 ruled the 1990s. One album, Aquemeni (1998), featured the song “ATLiens” (a portmanteau of ATL (short for Atlanta) and aliens). It illustrates OutKast’s feeling of disconnection with the world around them, the world they knew which had been created by the idea of race, but also their desire to celebrate their past in Atlanta. In one verse he says:

If not I’ll wait, because the future of the world depends on

If or if not the child we raise gon’ have that nigga syndrome

Or will it know to beat the odds regardless of the skin tone?

Or will it feel that if we tune it, it just might get picked on?

Or will it give a fuck about what others say and get gone?

They alienate-us cause we different keep your hands to the sky

-Janelle Monae is everything. Her albums will eventually form a seven-part concept series called Metropolis, partly inspired by the 1927 film. The storyline revolves around Cindi Mayweather, a messianic android sent back in time to free the citizens of Metropolis from The Great Divide, a secret society that uses time travel to suppress freedom and love. Her second album The ArchAndroid (2010) and features the song “Violet Stars Happy Hunting”:

I’m an alien from outer space (outer space)

I’m a cybergirl without a face a heart or a mind

(a product of the man, I’m a product of the man)

I’m a saviour without a race (without a face)

The video “Q.U.E.E.N.” from her album “The Electric Lady” (2013), plays like a mini-movie by itself.

But we see Afrofuture imagery in artists such as Missy Elliott, Beyonce, Missy Elliott, Grace Jones, Missy Elliott, Solange Knowles, Missy Elliott, Rihanna, and Missy Elliott.

As we turn to literature, Mark Dery’s lament was that Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Charles Saunders, and Steven Barnes writing were basically holding it down for all of us, but in actually, African Americans had been in speculative fiction for a while. Not too long ago, Kheprw Institute had a discussion about the history of African Americans in speculative fiction. Our work has always done this kind of examination. But the four were the modern giants:

*Charles Saunders – Imaro (1981), created a sub-genre that would come to be known as “sword and soul.”

*Steven Barnes – Lion’s Blood (2002) and Zulu Heart (2003) were alternative histories where an Islamic Africa conquers the world while Europe remains largely tribal and backward.

*Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren (1975) reads like the James Joyce of sf.

*Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower (1993) remains a potent classic. While after the 2016 election sales for the book 1984 suddenly spiked, those in the know pointed to Butler’s novel to examine how we find ourselves where we are. Set in the 2020s where society has largely collapsed due to climate change, growing wealth inequality, and corporate greed, a young woman named Lauren Oya Olamina possesses the gift of hyperempathy. She begins to develop a new belief system, which she comes to call Earthseed. Lauren believes that humankind’s destiny is to travel beyond Earth and live on other planets.

We point so much to Butler’s canon of work it inspired the recent anthology “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements,” a model of developing systems from themes of Afrofuturism.

We’re actually in the middle of a black speculative fiction boom:

N.K. Jemisin – The 5th Season (2015)

Nalo Hopkinson – The Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)

Nisi Shawl – Everfair (2016)

Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad (2016)

Nnedi Okorafor – Binti trilogy, Who Fears Death

Afrofuturist art is the intersection of a black cultural lens, technology, liberation, and imagination. It bridges the past and future to critique the present. It creates awareness, raising consciousness, and maps potential futures. It begins with a journey of self-discovery, exploring black identity. It involves a radical imagining as we break apart systemic baggage. It constantly asks “What future do you want to see?” as it imagines alternative visions of tomorrow. It allows conversations about race and oppression that people don’t know how to have.

Our goal with Afrofuturism Fridays is to create a space to imagine and dream of possible futures. We will build a better tomorrow together. And that’s why Afrofuturism represents hope.

Black Panther Countdown…

3 days to go: On the surface they see “Mr. Broaddus,” but never forget underneath I’m always…#blackityblackout18 #blackpanthercountdown

2 days to go: Less than 2% of teachers are black males. Don’t tell me representation is not important.#blackityblackout18 #blackpanthercountdown

2 days to go: Less than 2% of teachers are black males. Don’t tell me representation is not important.#blackityblackout18 #blackpanthercountdown

Wakanda Day 1: I keep thinking there’s something I need to see tonight…

Wakanda Day 2: My outfit is close, but I still think I’m missing something…

Wakanda Day 3: You know what I’m here to see.#blackityblackout18 #blackpanthercountdown

Indianapolis Peeps: Afrofuture Fridays and a Booksigning Saturday

First off, new Patreon stuff has been uploaded (with more coming tomorrow). For those wanting critiques as support levels, they’re now available. Check out my Patreon and thanks for the support!

Over at the Kheprw Institute, on the second Friday evenings of the month, I’ll be leading a discussion called Afrofuturism Fridays. Afrofuturism will be our framework to re-examine events of the past, critique the present day dilemmas of the African Diaspora, and create a space to imagine and dream of possible futures. Over a shared meal we’ll discuss such things as art (Jean-Michel Basquiat), film (Pumzi), literature (Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor), and music (Parliament-Funkadelic, Sun Ra). We will build a better tomorrow together.

Then on Saturday February 10th, I will be doing a book-signing at Barnes & Noble at The Shops at River Crossing (8675 River Crossing Blvd, Indianapolis, IN) from 3-5 p.m. They’ll have copies of The Voices of Martyrs and Buffalo Soldier there. It’s an “Ask an Author” event to benefit for the Indiana Writers Center. So if people present the “code” at check out (just say you are there shopping for IWC), 10% of the purchase will be paid to IWC. This actually goes any time through the whole day, not just the book signing and includes anything available in the store (coffee, toys, truffles, etc.). Hope to see you there!