What Is Afrofuturism? Part 8: Rasheedah Phillips

Rasheeda Phillips from The Afrofuturist Affair discusses her definition of Afrofuturism:

Via Alicia McCalla’s Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Stories of Color

The Future is already Here. It’s just unevenly distributed.

William Gibson

The word “futurism” embedded in the term Afrofuturism denotes a forward-looking aesthetic or theme that envisions the prospective future of humanity. If popular media, literature, and film are any indication, the images that people typically draw to mind when thinking of the future generally involve either 1) post-apocalyptic scenery 2) highly-advanced technology or 3) interplanetary and outerspace travel.

Afrofuturism as a genre, however, does much more than pay lip service to some far-flung future that we can only access to in our imaginations, futures that are so drastically different from anything we know in contemporary times that we cannot possibly have any direct link to it, or futures that only our descendants will be able to enjoy or suffer in. I believe that, distinctive from other notions of genre-based futurism, Afrofuturistic concepts of sci-fi, fantasy, myth, and speculation bind both the past and future, delivering them to a Now in visual, literary, musical terms (and any other mode of expression that one sees fit to attach the Afrofuturistic lens to). Afrofuturism is visionary and retrospective and current all at once, in that it recognizes that time cycles and revolves. In this way, we can all participate in Afrofuturism daily, in everyday life, to allow for a perpetually accessible bridge between ourselves, our ancestors, and our descendants, between our futures and our pasts.

Moreover, Afrofuturism seems to recognize that the future can be as spaced out or as close as one chooses to define it, telling us that “it’s all relative”. The future is the next second, the next day, and the next decade.  Before we lived through yesterday and found ourselves in today, the future was today. Afrofuturism empowers the work of our ancestors by reminding us that we are their future, we are a part of the future that they helped shape because their experiences remain embedded in our experiences and give context to our choices. Afrofuturism is the conduit through which they can continue to speak and inform us. Under this interpretation (upon which reasonable minds can and do differ), I find Afrofuturism to be a potent platform upon which I can launch my own science fiction/science possibility stories and practices…

Click on the link above to read the rest.

2 thoughts on “What Is Afrofuturism? Part 8: Rasheedah Phillips

  1. Love the platform! I am wondering–what’s the following in numbers–the amount of Black people that contribute and support this genre–and whites, if any.

    My creativity/innovation/reminders/signposts/paths are nurtured within this genre. However, I have always felt uncomfortable focusing only on the Black that I am, because I am Black. I have always imagined crossing that PRD–Perpetual Racial Divide with my thinking, my deeds, and consequently my work.

    As I browsed the content of this site/links, I am inspired to join the struggle, but prudent–perhaps selfishly: only if there is that possibility of rewards for sincere committing creativity/innovation/reminders/signposts/paths–deliberately bias with effort because I am Black. Am I not Black in spire of the fact: the PRD?

    Nonetheless, I am here sharing, as I should. For we are as a race–the human race, lenders and borrower of reminders/signposts/paths to all that we intend to become—our individual-and-collective purpose-worth.

    1. Hi! Since afrofuturism and afrosurrealism are relatively new names (the first one in the 90s and the other in 2000s) and were spread around in mostly intellectual and arts communities, it is not that well known yet. However, with artists like Janelle Monae and Gnarls Barkley, more people are getting interested in the idea. What I want to do is use these concepts to explore and re-examine all African diasporic cultures from the more popular ones to the subcultures to the even lesser known ones. Although afrofuturism and afrosurrealism have to do with science fiction, mythology, fantasy, historical fiction, magic, technology, etc., I believe that all aspects of our cultures have elements of those within them. Many people, including large media corporations, think that Black people are not interested in those areas, but if you look at our cultures, we are, just look at Outkast, Parliament Funkadelic, Ultramagnetic MCs, Sun Ra, Earth, Wind and Fire, LaBelle, Betty Davis, Grace Jones, Kelis, and the list goes on.

      And about the idea of racial divide– just because afrofuturism and afrosurrealism deals with “afro-” or “blackness” does not immediately mean its exclusive, it just highlights parts of our culture that is often ignored or denigrated in mass media and society. One aspect of them is their emphasis on hybridity; all of our cultures, and other cultures as well, are hybrids and are mixed with other cultures. The two concepts blur the lines and say purity does not exist. Also, as I mentioned, it highlights aspects of our cultures that others think is not something we do, like being Black and skateboarding, liking rock music or being a witch. It is a way to explore our identities and realize that nothing is normal, we are all strange, aliens and cyborgs. If we don’t put an effort to highlight those things, they will go unnoticed because like it or not, we still live in a society with racism deep in its conscious. A lot of the information on my site I would not have known if I did not look for them because they are not often in the mainstream, so this is my contribution to getting the word out.

      Also, just because we talk about our experiences, points of views and cultures as Black people, does not mean it is separatist. Look at history, who was being separatist first? Why is it when we want to talk about our cultures specifically, it is seen as an attack. Other cultures get to do it, why can’t we. And no one is saying other races and cultures cannot come and learn (all kinds of people follow my blog) and all of the people on my blog work with a variety of people from all walks of life. But all I am saying is that we should be able to talk about that fact that we matter and all this blog is, is an effort to say we matter. No one else will do it for us, but us.

      I wish some could look at my blog without thinking I am being exclusive only because I choose to focus on this and just be open to learn about other people, but I just have to be me and do what I feel is right for me. But thanks for the comment!

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