So as you know a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of the Black Speculative Arts Movement Conference, #BSAMFuturismo2017, at the Bronx Museum of Arts! Well, let me share with you some of the highlights from the day!
*Aesthetics and Actions in Afrofuturism/Black Speculative Thought:
Before I get to the above topic, I wanted to share this film that I had the chance to see —Òrun Aiyê, which was directed by Jamile Coelho and written by Cintia Maria. It is a stop-motion animated film that tells a candomble version of theYoruba creation story.
Since tomorrow I will be moderating the Astro-Caribbean panel, Midnight Robber Chronicles, which was inspired by Nalo Hopkinson’s speculative novel Midnight Robber, I thought I’d share an a British artist whose work centers on exploring the significance of Caribbean carnival.
According to Trinidadian/Irish- British artistZak Ove, Caribbean carnival, especially those in Trinidad, started as a mockery of European colonialists, but then became a declaration of “we can be anything” and “not just what we’ve been duped” into believing we are by these colonialists. It became an investigation through transfigurement and costume into all kinds of mythologies and into a sense of Africanism that had been subdued and suppressed through slavery.
I’m on Wattpad! As I continue writing my fantasy novel, I want to keep practicing my story-writing skills, therefore, I will be posting short fiction on there.
My first is called, “A Stitch In Time,” which follows a teenage girl who meets an unexpected guest who lives in her home and discovers that her mother is about give away a sewing machine with special powers, something this new guest also wants. If you like Anansi stories, you might like this one!
I’ll be honest. These past couple of weeks has made writing for me difficult. I was lacking encouragement to keep writing my fantasy novel and wavering back and forth between if being a writer mattered. But attending events like Writers Resist in Queens and reading my own work, reading from Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to a Slave is The Fourth of July,” and listening to the various other writers in the room helped to reinvigorate me.
Oppressive systems and tyrannical leaders gain power off of our silence, our complacency, our acceptance of how it imagines the world should be. Stories have helped to motivate people to keep going when times were dire. To believe in a different possibility of the world. Douglass, an abolitionist who was able to break through the chains of slavery through reading and writing, said that knowledge was the pathway to freedom. His desire to learn to read and write gave him the tools to fight the oppressive institution of slavery and determine a different future for himself. Enslaved people learning to read and write was a threat to the social order of the day. They gave the enslaved tools to question authority and to imagine something else, which is a danger to the status quo.
Welcome to Women’s History Month! We just left Black History/Future Month and a thought came to me to do a link between the two with a new segment called “Space:Queens.” In this new blog segment, I will be doing writeups and interviews focused on afrofuturism within my own home borough of Queens!
Growing up in Queens, it always felt as if the borough was treated as outer space. It’s reputation as a kind of wasteland was popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald calling it “The Valley of the Ashes” in The Great Gatsby, which Robert Moses later turned into Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Flushing Meadows Corona Park was home to the 1964 World’s Fair, whose focus was to showcase the latest and possible innovations of the day. Yet, most of the attention of the city has been focused on Manhattan and Brooklyn. I know many people who have said they didn’t like to venture out to the borough. I even wanted to move to Brooklyn once because I thought it was a central mecca for Black and Caribbean cultures.
But recently I have been exploring more and more of my borough and all the wonderful
surprises hidden in it. There is so much unexplored within Queens, which is why I decided to set my fantasy book (“The E”) in the borough.
Because of Queens’ treatment as an outer space region of the city, the history of the World’s Fair and technological innovation, the technological transformation of the Valley of the Ashes into Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and The Unisphere and NYS Pavilion having this retro-futuristic appearance, I am not shocked that the later two have been used in science fiction and fantasy film, including Men In Black, The Wiz (“Munchkinland”) and Tony Stark’s Stark Expo.
Starting this month, I will post features about Queens-related visionaries who are helping to change the borough, the city and the world and visionary stories about Queens! First up are Yvonne Shortt and Shante Paradigm Smalls!
The first in its trilogy, Nova Spark‘s apocalyptic, alien novel Dome is filled with characters figuring themselves out as their home disappears and a new questionable home arises that forces them to find the truth and what is real home.
Alternating between the point of views of a father and daughter, Sam and Emma, the story begins with Sam, who is having an affair and taking his life and family for granted. His daughter, Emma, who does well in school, is just as unenthusiastic about life, manufacturing drugs in a lab to sell to other students. But it is when Sam starts having dreams about the end of the world and is compelled to act on them to try to save Earth, his entire family, his wife, Kat, and Emma, along with thousands of others are transported to another world – one manufactured by a alien race, The Syrion, to simulate home. Yet what they soon begin to discover is that this new home is not home sweet home and more like a lab where they are the animal experiments.
Spark’s story is a narrative about how a crisis takes one out of their comfort zone or rut but can revitalize strained or dying relationships between people. The destruction of Earth and the suspicions about the Syrion brings Sam, Emma and Kat together again. It is also like an intergalactic versioning of history — the alien Syrions claim to “save” humans from their own destruction but it turns out that the former group may have actually caused the destruction of the other’s home or abducted them and quarantine them for their own desires, for experimentation, for control, for power. Sound familiar?
The quotation above is from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Here is a portion of the chant of the religion Earthseed in the novel:
Why is the universe? To shape God. Why is God? To shape the universe.
God is Change. God is Infinite, Irresistible, Inexorable, Indifferent. God is Trickster, Teacher, Chaos, Clay— God is Change. Beware: God exists to shape And to be shaped.
God is an ancient and universal concept for humans, but depicting God as change, Butler gave a futuristic, innovative face to God. God is old, but has the ability to mutate and adapt depending on the given circumstance, time and space. Recently, I sat down to think about the meaning of my blog name for myself. I had taken the name based on a blurb for a poet whose work I appreciate, Aja Monet. But as I thought about it I came up with this while working on a new collaboration, and it connects well with Butler’s words and her works in general:
“Time is a kind of network system where the past, present and future are in constant dialogue and interaction: our past gives foundation from which we build our present and future, our present gives foundation for our future, the present reconstructs the past, and the future reconstructs the present and the past. I am somebody’s past as well as somebody’s future and there is a responsibility in the recognition of that. I think traditional African cultures (or ancient Eastern cultures in general) honored that concept, but it was somewhat lost or repressed in mainstream European-based Western culture to forego accountability and to favor a linear and individualistic thought pattern.