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Rising with the Sun: Afrofuturism from a Poet's Perspective

We are in a time now where the black voice is most critical, we strive to be seen and heard, putting all of our energy, time, patience, and most importantly our talents into the world. Black voices are here for people to understand through words and creative expression. The stories we tell are ones that allow everyone to exist in the world of tomorrow, and for that, perhaps we will be more inspired to make that world a reality. A fresher, peaceful black reality, one that isn’t distorted by a false reality of security, comfort, and growth.

Black poetry writers came together with the Litquake Foundation on July 28 to express a creative vision of where during these difficult times do black voices get to continue to be heard and they strongly expressed how a poem filled with harmonic tone and deep-rooted power can still be able to reach those who are facing uncertainty.

San Francisco native poet, scholar, and activist Thea Matthews began moderating the event by first explaining what Afrofuturism truly means to the culture of the African diaspora and what it means for black voices futures.

“Afrofuturism, as we know, means exploring the intersection of the arts, science, and technology within the African diaspora. In times like these of unprecedented times of uncertainty and living in sheltering in place, what is the critical role of the black poet, the radical black artist where there is a future of black people?” Matthews said. “ We are dealing with multiple pandemics on the daily and we hope to deliver a pathway for black writers whose work through art, science, and technology can create a newer society, a new future that includes black people.”

Poetry isn’t just phrases but is about freedom of in-depth analysis of black power, power in mind, voice, and creativity. Times are changing and with it-the black arts.

Oakland poet James Cagney kicked out the poetry outcry by reciting his new pieces of poetry starting with the poem“Firecrackers”. The line “We pray just to breathe in certain spaces, and you expect us to pay weekly to get suffocated...” speaks volumes because of look at where the black voice is in the world. Look at how we are being treated in societal spaces. If black people can’t be comfortable and accepted in the general of spaces, how can we be comfortable anywhere? Why are we forced to suffocate as Cagney exclaims when all we ask is to live?

Cagney went to recite another piece called “ The Flames of Genesis” a poem inspired by the horrifying display of Donald Trump holding a bible as a mere prop instead of a symbol of faith. Cagney expresses through the lines “Every night I am murdered in my sleep, only to awaken radiant and naked, a means of white dawn and blood. This white genesis occupied by the proud illiterate after labeling the tree of knowledge a controlled substance...” emphasizes the new world that we now live in. A country full of ignorance and worship in the name of white supremacy, a white power that only sheds blood and proudly displays a lack of knowledge and good faith.

Black people are reclaiming their time and through Afrofuturism, we as a collective are able to reclaim ownership of not only our identity but our overall wellbeing as an individual.

Tureeda 'Ture Ade' Mikell, “Story Medicine Woman” and award-winning poet preached through her words “We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors...details derail through liberation..a theory waiting to be discovered to be real. Who will be the judge...whose liberty do we trust...?”

Racism can give black Americans the impression that in the past we were only slaves who did not rebel; that in the present, we are a passive people beaten by police who cannot fight back; and that in the future, we simply do not exist. And with Mikell’s words, this stands true, we are still trying to reach our liberation. We are still fighting for us. When will enough be enough?

The future of the black voice is for us to establish, understand, and continue to mend and build.

Movement worker, educator, and poet who organized against mass incarceration and extra-judicial killing of Black people throughout the United States, Tongo Eisen-Martin dived deeper into the idea of a better black future through his spoken word and the one key line that struck most was “Books behind my back and bail money paved into the streets..they let their elders beg for public mercy...”.

We can ask analogous questions of modern society, speculating what our world will look like after experiencing a triad of world-changing current events: the largest pandemic in a century, a social movement that challenges the institutions of policing and criminal justice, and an upcoming presidential election that almost certainly serves as a referendum on democracy in the United States (and the legitimacy of white nationalism-driven fascism globally). And what do we, as a black collective take from this?

Poets, artists, and many other creatives create because we are all here experiencing the same pandemic but not necessarily the same injustices on a daily basis. Where do we go from here? Do we just step aside and let the white perspective cloud our vision with false hope, a false narrative of what truly goes on in America, or do we as black people, reach in from within us, envision and create a better future where we are included?

Can it be a reality or is it simply a utopia that’s still and continues to be not within our reach as long as we behave to society?

If you wish to know more about the Litquake Foundation, Thea Matthews, James Cagney, Tureeda Mikell and Tongo Eisen-Martin, go to the respective links.

Watch the event!:

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