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!
Conor Tomás Reed did a post describing “Caribbean Futurisms” and listing a few books that would fall under the term as well as other sources for Afrofuturism, in which I was included:
“Considered within this conditional crux, Caribbean cultural forms have developed a conscious capacity to play with time and space, especially within the last century. For example, a Caribbean novel can leap “forward,” as well as “backward,” as well as speculatively vault “across” times, because its people have been integral to the creation of how human activity is narratively measured. As well, a Caribbean novel can traverse lands from around this world and others because its people, their ancestors, and new generations travel these vast distances.
Divination (n): the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.
Divination, Science and Technology, Transhumanism and Futurism:
Definition, including implied ones, are important because they affect our perceptions. That is true for some modern perceptions of divination. The way many think of divination is as some ancient practice associated with magick and witchcraft where people read signs on chicken bones, sheep intestines, tea leaves or any other natural substance and that it has no practical application to our lives now. But is that the truth, or is that modern dismissals of practices done in spiritual systems outside of Abrahamic religions, and Western scientific misunderstandings of practices created by ancient people and of people of color who mostly do these. Last night, I went to CCCADI’s Roots and Stars event about divination and below are some notes I took from it:
As a writer and entrepreneur, De’ Kridge tells of his inspiring and triumphant story that has led to the formation of his own spiritual mythology and language through his project, “The Power In M!O!R!E!.” Read his story below in my interview with him (Note: read carefully, it may be a lot to take in):
1) Your idea for The Power In M!O!R!E! is compelling. Can you introduce yourself, what you do and how you came to this point in your life?
On this intrinsic journey to claiming a purposeful life, over the last seven years, I have anchored most of my motivation to paying homage to my Great-Grandmother—Ma. Ma was THE one consistent affirmation of love, wisdom, spirituality, compassion, and personal accountability in my life. She use to say, “Trust what you think, and what you feel about people.” The additional seeds of Self-Worth-More, Ma deliberately planted in my mind and heart: hope, forgiveness, inspiration, lending, and of course, change—all of which I am still watering daily.
I am De’ Kridge. De, is the easy version. I was born on the island of Trinidad—of the famed twin-island Trinidad & Tobago, known for the Steelpan/Carnival/and more than one Miss World. I am an entrepreneur/writer, with many additional skills.
Rewind: I first came to the US in 1970. I was thirteen years old. Unknowingly, that first passage has become one of those lifesaving gifts from one of my aunts—The Nun – from which I first became inspired to imagine beyond the confines of my physical dystopia.
Fast forward to around my nineteenth year of who am I? I hated my life! Stuck in emotional dystopia: angry, afraid, and full with resentment for feeling ashamed about being born to so little—and my greatest burden then was the taunting shame of my mother’s rejection. I simply wanted to surrender: cross to No Dream and die from the reality of not being inspired. But my futuristic imagination would not pre-play my doom. I remember making a conscious decision to document everything. I have come to describe that moment as a preordained, quantum beginning—an epiphany if you wish.
I have reasoned, that I made a cognitive decision back then: I would not give up and become shattered from the emotional-darkness of childhood ills, and then simply die as one of those people doomed from conception. However, although I had that epiphany, crossing from that place I have named Oblivion to an isolated junction—inspired and alone with a sense of distant certainty—I was indeed “The Applicant” to choose to effect-and/or-attain my dream—my oaath—self-recognition of my firstworth. That reconnecting to my first-worth-faith, or firstfaith if you wish, did not accompany all the emotional intelligence I needed for mastering tasks-to-goals, and goals-to-my-firstworth. No way!
In fact, the necessary-emotional-intelligence I needed would come in drops, as if from a leaking faucet, and I would struggle for years, learning how to effectively use My Motion! My Order! My ability to RiiThink! And my intent to positively Effect!
Saturday was jam-packed with lectures, panel discussions and readings and I am still trying to process it all. Lasting from 10 in the morning to around 6:30 in the evening, the festival started with the futurist and professor of management, Nat Irvin II, discussing the importance of futuristic thinking. His son is actually Nat Irvin III, who works with Janelle Monae in the Wondaland Arts Society. Irvin, who is blind in one eye, asked us whether or not we were thrivals, people who thought about and learned about the future. Going through the history of technological and scientific advancement of the world, he said we have come to the hybrid age, where man and machine are coming together. He said we have also come to an age where we have to pay attention more to ourselves because we have such a major effect on the rest of the world. Next, he gave us a quiz to see how much we knew about the world and what has already happened and it was an eye opener. So much of the things that we thought would have happened in the future has already happened and ideas that we thought would never have happened have already come to pass or are in question. The whole discussion culminated in him asking us to change our view of the future and identity, and using vision, insight and connecting with other’s ideas to open our eyes to the future. Read his work, “The Arrival of Thrivals.”
Then the panel discussions began. The first one was with writer Marcus Dowling, comedian Elon James White, musician Vernon Reid (check out his podcast with W. Kamau Bell, “The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture“) , playwright Dominique Morrisseau and writer Sierra Mcclain. Their topic was how to be progressive and still pay rent, focusing on how to insert oneself into a capitalistic economic structure, which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and still be true to onself. The panelists discussed the importance of stronger lines of communication between independents, being stubborn and passionate, thinking outside the box, accepting failures, connecting with audiences and supporters and using the basics of business, like marketing and planning but tailoring them to your business. Also, the panel mentioned that the audiences’ have a responsibility to support the artists with monetary support beause as White said, “I gotta eat.”
Next, was a reading to promote the New Black Fest, called the Black Literature ringshout. Axel Avin, Jr. read a passage called “I’d Rather Go Blind” from the book A Taste of Honey by Jabari Asim.The next lecture was from DJ 2-tone Jones and his work on the “Shaolin Jazz” project (more on that later this week) in which he combined the vocals of the Wu-tang Clan with Jazz samples. He spoke about how the project originated Gerald Watson’s project,” The Classic Series,” and the various parallels between hip-hop and jazz. After, poet Tyehimba Jess did a fascinating presentation of his arabic poetic form, ghazal, based on the two minstrel performers, George Walker and Bert Williams.
After a short break, we were back with writer and musician, Greg Tate, who had a conversation with visual artists, Wangechi Mutu and Sanford Biggers, about their influences in their art and how their background, as an East African and an African-American, respectively, impacts their art. Some of the main points of that discussion were the concept of pan-africanism, the african diaspora reaching a larger platform, the politics and poetics of ethnicity and identity, code-switching, shifting identities and the collage nature of identity (reconnection, re-healing, renaming and remixing). Howard Duffy, an urban designer, gave us a lecture on going hyperlocal and making sustainable communities that provide neighborhoods with most of what they need.
After we listened to another reading promoting Black Fest. Danielle Brooks read an excerpt, “The Bridge Stories” from Tiphanie Yanique’s “How to Escape a Leper Colony” (the first major publication from an author from the Virgin Islands). A. Sayeeda Clarke, who I posted about earlier, showed her short film, “White” and had a small discussion with Shadow and Act‘s Tambay Obenson. During the discussion, Clarke mentioned that the lead actor, Elvis Nolasco, will be one of the leads in Spike Lee’s new HBO show, “Da Brick.” Sian Morson, Wayne Sutton, Crystal Campbell and Kenyatta Cheese did art and technology in which they discussed how technological advances can be disguised as art and how new media art differs from old art. Cheese also brought up an interesting point about hip-hop music being a precursor to hacking because people were taking what they have and “making do” with it (by the way, his cousin is DJ Cheese, who made scratching popular).
The day came towards an end with a panel discussion with Amanda Seales (aka Amanda Diva), Toure and Baratunde Thurston about “How to Be Black.” Toure read an excerpt from his book, “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackess” and Thurston gave us a preview of his upcoming satirical book, “How to Be Black.” In the discussion, they spoke about the multiplicity of identities within blackness, how different generations dealt with blackness and racism, and what unites black people. The second to last presentation was from Ali Muhammad, previously from Vibe and now of 21st Century Hustle, spoke about the entrepreneur mindset and the importance of “seeing it, doing it and being it” when it comes to starting a business. Finally, we ended with Lynette Freeman’s reading of the excerpt, “The Land of Beulah” from Danzy Senna’s “You Are Free.”
As you have read, this day was a long day, and I was too tired to even go to the after party. But I will say that I will definitely go to the festival next year; I learned so much!