Science, Now + Beyond

Afrofuturism helped me deal with the mental health issues that come with activism

Seeing black bodies across news feed and videos of people dying are a lot and sometimes I need to escape without completely ignoring these issues.

The world is not the friendliest place for a black girl like me.

No matter where I go I am subject to discrimination. I am hated for my skin color, for being a woman, for being fat, literally just for being alive. I always have to be cautious of how late I stay out, where I can vacation, or what activities I can participate in. If I don’t, I have to be sure that I’m fully prepared to be treated awfully or maybe even killed.

There are no breaks for a black girl like me and it’s disheartening to know that there isn’t one corner of this earth where I can go and be fully embraced for who I am. Colorism and sexism are so extremely pervasive, but I try my best to stay strong and fight to create a better world for the black girls who will come after me.

A lot of black people felt this same way and since we couldn’t completely wash our hands with the injustices of the earth for the sake of our future, we tried to imagine a new one. In this new figment world and genre, we could address the complexities of our existence as well as escape it, and that place was in Afrofuturism.

Afrofuturism has been defined in a myriad of ways. The Washington Post defines it as the combination of science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism with African and diaspora cultures, religious practices and history. It’s also been defined as a social, political, and cultural genre that projects black space voyagers, warriors and their heroic like into a fantasy landscape, one that has long been the province of their mostly white counterparts by the New York Times. I personally can’t even begin to define all the wonderful things that Afrofuturism is and does for the black community.

When I first heard about Afrofuturism, I was taking a communications course one summer and we had to analyze a piece afrofuturistic art. I’ve always been a lover art but this was something otherworldly. The art was strong but vulnerable, powerful and unapologetic mixed with everything from my nerdy dreams. I saw women with technological advancements that didn’t erase their blackness but embraced and enhanced it.

Graphic Artist Tim Fielder described how I felt perfectly stating that “Afrofuturism’s epic imagery offers youth a mirror. Kids are now able to see themselves in environments that are expansive, both technologically and in terms of social mores and gender.”  As I began to research more about Afrofuturism, it truly did aid in expanding my outlook on the world and space and start seeing more of myself in it.

Afrofuturism became a way for me to understand the injustices I faced in the real world while also escaping my own realities to imagine a better world for myself. A world where I could be free to express myself and just live. A world that didn’t erase my history but instead rectified it and worked towards a solution because it actually cared about me. I could discuss police brutality without the backlashing mental health effects that come with such gross imagery that circles the internet of black bodies being abused or the fear of it happening to me.

I could be the superhero who could avenge the fallen and change our world.

When looking at afrofuturism, it seems like the most dominant places where it thrives are in fields like art, media, writing, and music. My passions lied in science so it didn’t seem like the best fit for me. However, with time, Afrofuturism helped me see my career from a completely different angle. I want to be a part of this world and help it achieve the dystopian utopia we all imagine, but I have to make sure that black people are a part of this. Afrofuturism allowed me the escape I needed from this dismal reality while simultaneously helping me to focus my vision and change it.

At the end of the day, as much as we need escapism in this world, I have to do all in my power to make my afrofuturistic dream a reality.

I think everyone, especially activists, should take a dip into the afrofuturistic atmosphere. Explore the cosmos and address the problems of our real world in an imaginary one. The solutions you come up with could turn out completely outrageous, but it could also foster a completely realistic one. If not, it would at least spark creativity and lead to more representation.  It starts with something as seemingly small as Black Panther and ends with equality.