J usticeAid believes in justice and the power of art to bring us together in the fight for a more equitable nation and world. This year, in parallel with our fundraising for Black Voters Matter, each month we will highlight Black artists in order to uplift those whose voices have been muted, and whose visions can help us all see ourselves as we really are, and as we could be.

This month we celebrate Afrofuturism, a term coined in 1993 to describe the work of Black scholars, writers, and artists who use science fiction, fantasy, and larger-than-life Black heroes to explore the past and envision an optimistic future.

Music

Janelle Monáe
Parliament-Funkadelic (P-Funk)

In the 1970s, George Clinton and his band Parliament-Funkadelic took Afrofuturistic concepts to new heights within funk music. With their flamboyant costumes, elaborate stage shows, and sci-fi-inspired lyrics, they created an immersive experience for their audience, paving the way for contemporary artists like Janelle Monáe who continue to challenge societal norms and celebrate Black culture. A self-styled “android,” Monáe’s concept albums tell a story of rebellion and the fight for liberation in a post-apocalyptic future. Sources: Culture Bay and The Edge.

Film

In contrast to the Clint Eastwood shoot-em-ups, we recommend a modern drama of Black cowboy legacy and gentrification in Concrete Cowboy.

Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy is a 2020 American film directed by Ricky Staub based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which was inspired by the real urban African-American horseriding culture of Philadelphia, and in particular, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club–an organization devoted to inner-city horsemanship in North Philadelphia whose history stretches over 100 years.

Art

Manzel Bowman

This NexGen artist’s futuristic digital imagery is inspired by African kings and masks, gold and gems, and the African people themselves. In Divination, Bowman reminds people of the African heritage—rich in color, meaning, and creativity. He uses his art as a tool for Black empowerment, celebration, and a negation of harmful stereotypes applied to our race. Follow Bowman on Instagram.

Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Pictured here is the silver, spacesuit-inspired costume that Nona Hendryx wore while performing with Labelle in 1975. Hendryx was similarly bedecked in a metallic suit at JusticeAid’s 2022 spring benefit concert for SMYAL, that was a tribute to the music of Bessie Smith.

Credit: Gift of Marvel Studios and The Walt Disney Company, © Marvel

Featured Writing

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006), renowned author in speculative fiction, is considered the “mother of Afrofuturism” and the first science fiction author awarded a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. Kindred is a visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now. Listen to an interview on NPR’s Code Switch.

Photo: Courtesy of The Octavia E. Butler Estate.

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