OPINION: What is Afrofuturism?

What is Afrofuturism? / Held at Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 24th SeptemberWords by Juice Aleem

*Juice Aleem will be organising & hosting the AfroFlux – what is Afrofuturism? event as part of the B-Side Hip Hop Festival, free to attend at the Hippodrome on Saturday 24th September.  For more info, click here.*

You may have heard the term ‘Afrofuturism’ being thrown about a lot in recent years. And if not it’s been behind the scenes in many of your favourite music videos and sci-fi films.

In its purest explanation it’s simply a way of seeing Black people in the future. A future that too often forecasts an image with little to no melanated peoples: A way to escape the drudgery of the traditional all white male winning all the time narrative and it’s far more sinister real life big brothers of racism, sexism and colonialism.

Even groundbreaking TV projections such as the original Star Trek, only had Lt Nyota Uhura and Lt Hikaru Sulu as leading nonwhite characters. When yesterday has already been bleached of your presence the least one could expect is to see themselves somewhere in the tomorrow of a sci-fi TV show. After all, it’s not real is it? It’s just entertainment.

With the original peoples of many areas of the Earth slowly disappearing due to pollution, disease and warfare in this at times harsh real life of ours. We who have the will, creativity and ability, not only seek to protect our elder family, but project a tomorrow where our children are not hated or hunted for being of darker shade to what is deemed ‘mainstream’?

Today’s news and yesterday’s history books show a picture of Black and brown bodies being enslaved, beaten, choked, evicted, lynched, polluted, bombed and all-round disrespected. The today of this now has us in a place where Black women cannot go to school or work without being chastised for their natural hair and skin tones. And even then those same women are cursed again for bleaching and wearing hairstyles unalike their nature.

The mainstream media ask us to believe that Black, brown and poor people stab, shoot and even break their own backs once we come into contact with law enforcement. This is how the mainstream often presents Black people. Unless Juice Aleemsinging or playing ball there is often little way to swim out. Be basic or be invisible. This mainstream predicts a future with no Black people at all. Swimming through this tide towards freedom, a new way has had to be presented.

Afrofuturism is that new tomorrow. A blend of ancient myth and modern technology remixed to fit the future of those who travel it. There are many mainstream artists, activists and scholars who use its imagery and techniques but its peaks in the AvantJazz of Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman are a great place to become initiated. Other spaces it inhabits include Dub Reggae and Electro. The elements that have been left us flood into films such as Blade and musicians like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The heroes of these pieces are left to be themselves and experiment without having to continually explain who and what they are.

Imagine Storm of the XMen, flying solo to save the day with the sonics of Public Enemy as the backdrop. If you can imagine that then you are at least a small part of the way to understanding what Afrofuturism is.

Juice Aleem will be organising & hosting the AfroFlux – what is Afrofuturism? event as part of the B-Side Hip Hop Festival, free to attend at the Hippodrome on Saturday 24th September. For more on AfroFlux – what is Afrofuturism? click here.

Juice Aleem is a Birmingham based rapper & producer. For more on Juice Aleem, click here.