Blog Post #1

What Happens When We Get There?
by Malick Ceesay

Blog Post #2
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It is clear that space is an important theme in an Afrofuturism piece. However, lately I have been curious about what space means in relation to Black death, or more specifically, Blackness in the afterlife. Humans have theorized the universe beyond our geosphere for thousands of years, yet, only so many humans have actually had the opportunity to go beyond and see earth from the outside. There is beauty, yet, limitations to what is known outside our earth, which allows capacity for the imagination to run wild.

I have come to realize that our associations with Black death in Afrofuturism tend to be used as a tool to invite the topic of space into question, versus showing us a direct representation of afterlife existence. In addition, when space is utilized as a theme, it is either portrayed as an elevating light or unfortunate one. Elevating to say in the words of Sun Ra’s Space is The Place, that space could represent a higher calling for us, particularly for Black folk. But then, unfortunate to say that for Reginald Hudlin’s The Space Traders, that to hand over an entire world’s population of those of darker-skinned over to aliens, is an example of a way in which the black body is disposed of, and continuing the cycle of displacement since the Middle Passage.

But my biggest question is : what does space mean for us once we get there? What happens when we are in space, Sun Ra? What happens when dark-skinned folk reach the belly of these UFOs, and further, these alien habitats?

Growing up with divorced parents, my father raised me culturally-muslim. When death was described in Dara (Qur’an) school, we were taught not about the fear of death, but the fear of what comes after. Even so, when someone in the muslim community died, the grief period was brief, as we resumed with the idea that death is playing only a small role in overall fulfillment of one’s soul or energy that carries into the next life. But there was never specificity of what that fulfillment looked like, pushing it to be more of an open book in our understanding of the afterlife. I notice these parallels in Sun Ra’s work as well.

Obviously these Afrofuturists intend on providing some open ends, to allow us (as viewers) the chance to further explore and imagine these possibilities; pushing us to further ponder on what fulfillment and freedom look like for Blackness beyond earth. However, I find it difficult to imagine other possibilities when I look at pieces like The Space Traders, where it seems like the inevitable does not bring us any Black joy or excellence.

Whether Hudlin ever thought of Black joy throughout the adaptation or not, I have come to learn that the reason why the afterlife is not as clearly depicted in Afrofuturism works, is because artists seek to see optimism through the struggle we currently face in our society today. Despite Lauren Olamina’s upbringing and current dealings, the optimism is in Earthseed and the new community that is built out of it. While Kendrick Lamar gets shot off of the light pole and falls to the concrete, the camera returns to him simply smiling - reminding us of the phrase, “we gon’ be alright!”

The reality is that we are stuck on this earth until the right technology advances us beyond our imagination. But until that day comes, all we can do is imagine. When it comes to Black Death, this is something that remains prevalent in our everyday lives, and is often publicized to the max. But what I am reminded of is that Afrofuturist works contain themes around activism, revolt, and resistance from systems that continue to remind us of the insufferable and oppressive, and yet, the perseverance of Black joy and excellence in juxtaposition.

I think the preacher said it better than me, when he said, “my people were brought here involuntarily and involuntarily is the only way they’re gonna take me out.” I believe Afrofuturism has a particular way it likes to go out: through space.