Below is Mo Barbosa’s introduction and the rest of Themba-Nixon‘s keynote speech, “Certain Blacks: Future Frames from the Liberated Zone” from the Design Studio for Social Intervention’s Black History Month Series:
Makani Themba is clear black water into which our dreams of ourselves plunge and are rejuvenated, beautiful and full of humanity. Trails of wisdom dust fall from her curled salt and pepper hair and the force of her analysis pries open eyes and bares our thinking to truth and challenge. Her rumination on Black Liberation and the Black Future, and on the sequence of the freedom of mind and ass, that is thinking and being, posits the question of Black Freedom. To it, I add, does black come before freedom? Do our conceptions of either – black as intrinsic, uncreated, a convening identity that brings together people across culture, language and time – and freedom – as an endpoint, a final state beyond the current struggle – dictate a sequence? And most important, if we are free, does being black matter?
Thus to understand black freedom we must define what is black and what is free. Makani Themba intimates that the most important work of art is to help people imagine what it is like to be free. That freedom must become part of our thinking is preceded, possibly, by freedom being imagined, designed, explored, thought about and thought through, felt from the inside and pushed out through the soul. But what about black. Black must be imagined in the positive, complete with its legacy and lived experience in tact; formed, inclusive, defined and forward, continually creating itself and connected to the past and the future.
And, to understand “black future” we can place this same black against the imagination and hopes black people have had and the imagined freedom that is placed temporally beyond today and at the end of a perceived struggle.
While we are clear that Black must exist for black future and black freedom to exist; is it also true perhaps, that freedom and future must exist for black to exist.