Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.
This is my holiday present for you! Part 2 will be up tomorrow and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!
Day One –
The Narrative as Technology
(Inspired by Womack’s Keynote)
Our stories are tools of survival
Our stories are tools of healing
They move us forward —
Our pirate spaceships
stealing legacies back
ships breaking through
the fiction of race
whose future will force it
to change shape
as it has done before
What would another world look like
if racism didn’t exist?
What would Tan-Tan do?
Explore technology’s dark side
Dark matter flowing through all creation
Looks into futures not pure not white
Get dirty Get wet
We are the creation on a potter’s wheel
A reflection made of clay
God, She must of had a dirty mind
Liked the feel of Her fingers molding life into shape
Are we sure the future goes forward?
Maybe its going is in reverse
The new becoming old again
Round and round again
And to imagine is to bend when now
Is coming around to knock you out
What do you see in your crystal mirror
Narcisuss in your pool
We, the mad scientists and the monsters
We, the science and the fiction
We have always wanted something more
To touch the dark mind of the cosmos
To see ourselves in it’s identification card
Have permission to live.
Next group of poems inspired by panel featuring Sean Jacobs, Maikoiyo Alley Barnes from Black Constellation, Derica Sields from The Future Weird, Derrick Adams and Christopher Shaw
The Narrative As Technology (Part II) — The Expansion of Perception
Too much consumption
can ruin your appetite
new languages —
Be hungry like the muni bird!
How do we recreate the pyramids?
How do we make tombs into portals to other world again?
What wisdoms of the world,
what possibilities have we lost
in our mad dash to prove our progress,
to leave the ancient behind
even as it courses through our veins
and shows up in our face.
Where we have been
Where we move forward:
What is the function of our art.
A State of Being:
I am a woman
I am a black woman
I am a sphinx
I am stardust
I am a galaxy of stars
I am the universe
I am everything
: Chimerical reaction
The Image of God as the Cowardly Lion
(How to Act Despite My Fears)
Find a way to move on
is the endless promotion
of a missionary preaching
survival: to outlive
the hollows of your wound
to dance within
despite your feet
trembling at each step
even that can shake the earth
can make its rocks cry out
find a way to speak your magic
even when you sell yourself
sacrifice yourself on the world’s pole
always be ready to dance into resurrection
The Scientific Method (The Theory of Consciousness’ Cycle)
“The mind which has conceived a plan of living must never lose sight of the chaos against which that pattern was conceived” – Ralph Ellison
Purpose- What do you want to learn?
How are Manifest Destiny, building a house and industrial society alike?
Research- Find out as much as you can.
Jesus told Peter the church would be built on the rock.
Peter means rock. Peter is the same man who rejected Jesus three times
Peter is the root of petrification — to turn to stone. To turn to stone out of fear.
Medusa turned men who feared her into stone. Looking at the wild mother did not turn them into stone, fear of her did.
The foundation of civilization is stone, is fear. The fear of the wild mother turning you into stone.
The monument is a standing stone. A statue. A tomb. A reminder.
The Status. The Institution. The Industry. The Structure.
The Fixed Image. The Dead Image. The Standing Statue. The Building.
The Extension Beyond the Living Self. The Technology.
Hypothesis- Try to predict the answer to the problem. Another term for hypothesis is ‘educated guess’. This is usually stated like ” If I…(do something) then…(this will occur)
We learn. We remember. We create. We build.
From fear. From insecurity. From the outside. From the dark. From the loneliness. From the wounding. From the void.
We all want to live forever. We all fear death. We all want to feel safe. We all avoid.
Experiment- Design a test or procedure to confirm or disprove your hypothesis. Design it in a reproducable manner.
Why am I writing this?
Experience tells me
that I fear my own mind
will eat me alive if I do not let it
express itself into form.
My mind fears forgetting.
My mind fears being forgotten.
Analysis- Record what happened during the experiment. Also known as ‘data’.
This poem is my record.
Is remembered by my heart.
I spread it everywhere so there are no outsiders.
I have decorated my cage
against the variable chaos
the white picket fence.
Conclusion- Review the data and check to see if your hypothesis was correct.
History repeats because we do not bother to investigate ourselves
Do not learn the roots of our own actions
Do not answer our own primal question
This is not a linear process but instead is a constant cycle of inquiry
I will do it again
Next poem inspired by the Spotlight Conversations with Samuel Suraphel of Mansa Colabs/Genii Games/Asa brand (“culture” in Yoruba), Deji Olukotun, author of Nigerians in Space and a digital rights activist, Shawn Peters, a filmmaker and cinematographer, who also describes himself as a mythmaker, and Ian Foster who works at The New School as a digital designer.
The cultural evangelist:
A flying messenger
carrying a nation of images
dispersing our reflections
a scattering of exiles
seeds dying to live again
the shapeshifters in new environments:
We, the ancient passed down
in new apps
the tech of story
passing through the technoveil
the scrying on the sceen
the flash of spirit when you plug into the cave:
We, greedy for fruits and carrying home on our backs
We search for the elders’ magic drum
like data thieves, We steal back our legacies
We shape the spirit twins of our souls
We form ourselves again in the dark room
of space, find the right exposure for our dark faces
recreate the wounds into a new brand, new senses:
This is the re-evolution of the camera
The alien finding new ways to capture itself
into the dark ground, to find light inside the earth
to find new, or is it old, blueprints in its foundation
to repeat them like spells as if
ancient patterns are woven into our skin
the vision originally created with us in mind
our skin showing all of its divine glory.
Next poem inspired by PastPresentFuture Keynote (Afrofuturism and #blackspring) by Adrienne Brown, which you can read here, and the PastPresentFuture Movements Panel, featuring Darrick Hamilton (moderator), Shannon Shird (activist, Progressive Pupil), Ashley Ellis (activist and mother), Gbenga Akinnagbe (actor and creator of Liberated People t-shirt line), Janisha R. Gabriel (Black Lives Matter and Speak My Name), and Nata Arinde (Amsterdam News).
I Imagine (The Fugitive Imaginings of a Black Spring Goddess)
She imagined a world where she could breathe
that her body was enough to stop bullets
that she had powers to make her visions realities
that she would see the world through the eye of space
see the world in its entirety not just herself
and see that she was the world, space and time too
that she could throw a dart at injustice
and make it disappear with love
like the charge in Cupid’s arrow
that she could feel
everyone’s story flow
through her body
and that she would die
and be born again each time
that she would let them whisper to her
she would let them use her voice
because she owed that to them
that she would use her voice for herself first
that she would consume her rage
before anyone else could
that she would call out those who abandoned her
that she would sew up her wounds like a quilt
her scars a secret code of a map
that she would search for futures
outside of cages
outside of auction block stages
outside of greedy watchful eyes
like the wave in a particle-wave theory
She imagined she was the wave
She was the ocean
She was the Earth
She was creator and creation
She was the Dark Universe
full of stars
She saw Herself