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Afro-futurism: Finding My Black Girl Magic through Art and Expressions

What some may call weird, I call ethereally magical. My first encounter with this cultural style was about a month ago in my Literature, Film and Society in Africa course. We had to read “Binti” (something I’ve had yet to do) and we watched “Pumzi,” a short film created by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu. I was taken aback as I watched the first few minutes of this short, but all I could do was stare. I loved it. Everything about it. From every character having a bald head, to men and women wearing the exact same outfit, to the grey dots aligned on the main character’s head along with her lively futuristic makeup. I began to indulge in a category that I’ve never imagined before: Afro-futurism.

Afro-futurism is an aesthetic culturally tied to Black people that combines science fiction, magical realism and African history. Mainly tied to science fiction and cosmology, Afro-futurism does more for me than I could ever imagine. Pictures speak louder than words and pictures in this genre allow me to re-imagine my life in a futuristic world with my African traditions that we have been far removed from. Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott and Grace Jones. These Black artists have helped me find my Black girl magic through their music and photography. This genre has exposed me to diverse types of music such as neo-soul and funky fresh and futuristic hip-hop, clothing and popping hairstyles. It gives me a sense of self and realism which helps me find myself.

Searching for yourself in this white supremacist, patriarchal society can be pretty difficult for a Black girl from Detroit with West African roots. But somehow, at the age of 19, I found myself looking more into an enchanting space filled with caricatures that 13-year-old Fatou would have labeled as “weird.” And this space is so enchanting that I also find myself stepping outside of my comfort zone, wanting to participate in events and engage with so many new people who have the same interests as me. According to afrofuturism, “…another way of looking at Afrofuturism [is] by making reference to how a family tries to end a cycle through self-actualization. Younger members imagine a future where they are no longer tied to their reality.” As young, Black millennials progress throughout this country, we find more ways to connect with dreams that are completely different from our realities and the ways we grew up. Still holding onto cultural ties, I create a fantasy that I imagine my future self in, removing myself from the ugly truths in my current reality.

Afro-futurism is everlasting. With more Black millennials taking interests in African cultures and anime, afro-futurism inspires to empower the Black community. We learn about ourselves, our history, our culture. And it is not limited to one specific country. Stemming from Africa, Afro-futurism helps me find my Black girl magic through multiple Black cultures and countries, from Africa to the Caribbean islands. The beauty in this genre is untouchable and will continue to influence how we view ourselves as Black beings. Florence Okoye, a UX designer and Afrofuturist, once said, “Afro-Futurism is an exploration and methodology of liberation, simultaneously both a location and a journey.” Every day, I continue to find my Black girl magic. My journey through afro-futurism has been liberating, but it is not done. This is only the beginning.

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