She saw things…she imagined…can you imagine a world where there’s no price on dreaming? What I love about Black speculative fiction is how its existence subverts the world on a literary level. In Dr. Walter Greason’s seminar, we defined Afrofuturism as “mapping the Black imaginary”. Solange’s visual from “When I Get Home” opens this post because Solange Knowles has been one of the most significant artists doing that across disciplines. What was most striking about Solange’s rebirth in music in 2016 was the full register that she used to express the healing cycles that Black Americans were and still are going through.
When I Get Home hit a different type of note.
This was gentle, loving, playful, a summation of the touring and movement work she’s done with Black folks in museums across the countries. Think about the statement that makes…that Blackness is archival. I see that value expressed a lot in formation of Black Twitter, Black owned bookstores, Black reading lists, syllabi, music databases, the possibilities are endless! In my notes from Greason’s seminar, there’s also a definition of defining America though the process of decentralizing Europe. This has been the action sprouting from the collective subconscious since Black people were kidnapped to the United States of America.
Under the seminar’s definition, Afrofuturism asks how Black Diasporic people are carving out autonomous spaces? I’m asking how are we coming home to ourselves?
I’m asking from an anarchist, futurist, post-contemporary, queer, spiritual, and womanist perspective.
(I know that sounded like word soup, but basically this blog has radical intentions.)
Historically, it’s best to look at the late 60s, because we’re about a generation removed from the smaller, community organized initiatives that exploded into national programs.
As a girl born and raised in the Hill District, a Black community in Pittsburgh, I’m obligated to give my first shoutout to the Freedom House, an autonomous community effort to provide effective medical transportation for all communities. That’s right, Freedom House is the reason for the existence of ambulances and civilian first-responders today! The average person in the U.S. may not be able to afford an ambulance ride nowadays, but back in the 1960s, police were first responders.
Even Stevie Wonder could see why a cop answering a Black person’s medical emergency at anytime is a horrible idea. Taxis weren’t really tryna go to the Hill, so what made cops any different?
So what do 26 unemployed Black men do? Link up with a trained physician at University of Pittsburgh to help train themselves in emergency care and create the blueprint for public paramedics worldwide?
That’s exactly what they did. Nowadays, an ambulances costs over twice what any American civilians can afford, most folks take Ubers to the hospitals (also a framework invented by Black folks from my neighborhood that corporations capitalized off of, but that’s a convo for another day). Check out this NPR article (with an audio option) for further mapping.
Everyone loves the idea of the Black Panther Breakfast Program, started in 1969 to feed and empower young children for free in Oakland, California, can’t help to see the correlation between the Breakfast Program and free breakfast and lunch programs that were intended to feed children year-round. This essay on History.com holds a similar approach to mine. Erin Blakemore details how shortly after the federal government declared war on the Black Panther Party, dismantling the free breakfast program (along with free community health clinics, free legal clinics, and community ambulance services), which not only makes you wonder what kind of citizenship Black Americans are offered if their federal government can act so violently towards us, but makes the national absorbing of these efforts a double edged sword.
This also makes me consider Shirley Chisolm, who was not only the very first Black woman to run for President, but a Congresswoman who legislated similar programs. This “Unbought & Unbossed”, first generation Barbados immigrant from Brooklyn was suppressed over and over again by her colleagues, because her impact was very intimidating for the Nixon Administration. In 1972, when she formed WIC program, a federally funded initiative to push food resources to low-income women and children, she was funneling revolutionary thinking right into the State’s legislation. This was local, collective organizing expanded.
Considering the legacy that Shirley Chisolm left in 2005, it doesn’t always feel as loud as it should be, considering that about 10% of the American population has received food stamps.
The Black Imaginary has always materialized with the collective in mind, but how can we further protect it to benefit our communities with these national reaches? How can we protect the labor of our survival from being consumed by a violent State? Dr. Walter Greason is the acclaimed creator of the #WakandaSyllabus, and a key conflict in the MCU version of Black Panther is how do folks of the Black Diaspora protect our greatest resources…how do we protect us?