Skyways. Stars. Voice. Water. In Afrofuturism, and in the ways that we teach it, the elements that often people the world-building of science-fiction and fantasy narratives–spaceships, a magic chant, a river charged with preternatural possibility–are also the ones that hold and have held liberatory potential. In Afrofuturism, as we wade in the water and the sky becomes a map, these freedom giving rituals become not just markers of the way Black ancestors across diasporas claimed liberation, but rememories that we continue to walk into again and again as they mark present and future narratives with possibility.
The term ‘afrofuturism’ was coined by Mark Dery in his 1994 essay, "Black to the Future." In the piece, the term is defined as "speculative fiction that treats African American themes and addresses African American concerns in the context of the twentieth century technoculture—and, more generally, African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future."
It is worth naming that, although Dery's definition provided an “official” name for the innovations that Black writers and artists were making within speculative fiction, Afrofuturism as an aesthetic, philosophy, and a method of liberation existed before Dery coined a term for it. His naming of Afrofuturism does not, to quote the Pratt Institute Libraries' guide to Afrofuturism, “define the full scope of where it has been and where it's going.” As indicated by the Pratt Guide (a helpful platform for those searching for public library resources in the NYC area), a more targeted and generative definition by author and critic Ytasha Womack best describes what Afrofuturism is and how it functions:
"Afrofuturism is a way of looking at the future and alternate realities through a Black cultural lens. Black cultural lens means the people of the African continent in addition to the Diaspora, the Americas, Europe, etc. It is an artistic aesthetic, but also a kind of method of self-liberation or self-healing. It can be part of critical race theory and in other respects it’s an epistemology as well. It intersects the imagination, technology, Black culture, liberation, and mysticism. As an artistic aesthetic it bridges literature, music, visual arts, film, and dance. As a mode of self-healing and self-liberation, it's the use of imagination that is most significant because it helps people to transform their circumstances. Imagining oneself in the future creates agency and it's significant because historically people of African descent were not always incorporated into many of the storylines about the future. ”
The texts that represent Afrofuturism here are by no means conclusive; more to the point, they are only a beginning. We encourage you to imagine other aesthetics, philosophies, and songs that call towards Afrofuturism for you on your own or with trusted creative allies. These texts here are ones that often, we have found, form building blocks for curriculum that center Afrofuturist frameworks, and exist here to offer assistance in how to Rememory ourselves in pasts and futures that Black people are not supposed to exist in; think of them as dream-guides. In them, we hope that your dreams are encouraged to be technologies of cross-generational transformation, and creativity that nourishes yourself and your communities.
This assemblage is by no means exhaustive; more to the point, it is only a beginning – an opening. We encourage you to imagine and to share other aesthetics, philosophies, and songs that speak to its matter.