Why Afrofuturism Can Help Us All Right Now—An Intro To Artivism

June 4, 2020

The death of George Floyd last Monday has fueled fierce protests across the nation. I support these efforts in solidarity.

But for those who aren’t able to participate in the protests, or simply want to do more, please consider reading as a form of resistance.

I first discovered Afrofuturistic fiction about a year ago. My brother Calvin and and I live in different states, and whenever we see each other, we “trade” books with one another. As white liberals, we quickly learned that Afrofuturism is an amazing tool to learn about the black experience and identity. Plus, it is incredibly entertaining!

So, what is Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism offers visions of the future through the lens of a black person. Think science fiction which includes elements of African culture.  Check out this helpful article for a brief intro into the genre.

Why Afrofuturism is so powerful

Afrofuturistic literature grapples with racial issues in an accessible way. Often, preaching to people can have the opposite effect to the one intended, and deter or upset them. And this is especially true when it comes to exposing how the foundations of a country are rooted in racial oppression. Afrofuturism disguises moral, ethical and racial conversations as entertainment. Many of us know that media consumption influences us. Clearly, folks are internalizing what they take in. So, without further ado, I would like to offer some Afrofuturistic reads.

Binti

The first piece of Afrofuturistic literature I picked up is Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. And seriously, I struggled to put it down. Binti offers colorful imagery, magic, mystical creatures and alternate life-forms which span across different universes. The story of Binti draws on Himba tradition, as the role of otjize is central. And Binti addresses myriad prejudices, not exclusively race. If you are looking for a fun segue into the genre, this is a great pick.

The Ballad of Black Tom

Written by Victor LaValle, this shorter read is a retelling of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook, but from the perspective of a black man. I admit, this read is a little heavy. But, it is perfectly suited to address the moral bankruptcy of police brutality against black people.

Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone is fantastic. Tomi Adeyemi manages to strike the perfect balance between despair and action, vulnerability and strength. Just a side note that this read is a bit graphically explicit for my taste, generally speaking. But, giant cats, rage against systemic violence, magic, and adventure keep me coming back for more. Be sure to check out the sequel when you finish, titled Children of Vengeance and Virtue.

A somewhat tangential but important final note:

Support these amazing writers and support indie book stores! My favorite local bookstore is happy to get whatever books I’m after in stock. Personally, I find it rewarding to feel good about where my money goes. But if purchasing the books for keeps isn’t an option, see if your local library is offering online e-book rentals or curbside pick-up.

Have you checked out afrofuturism?

 

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Photo: Calvin Lupiya via Unsplash

R. Coker
R. Coker is a legal professional and independent scholar. She enjoys spending time with her animal companions, reading, writing and exercising, especially yoga.

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