content by

Tochi Onyebuchi

Homecoming: How Afrofuturism Bridges the Past and the Present

The first indication I’d seen that I was in the right place was the little Ezio walking down the line of people waiting to enter the Schomburg. He could not have been more than eight years old, but his Assassin’s Creed outfit shaped itself perfectly around his small frame. Later that day, that little black Ezio would be joined by Nick Fury, Falcon, and Blade. Wonder Woman would make an appearance. As would a number of new heroes—black bounty hunters in space, animal whisperers, men and women with swords as big as them.

The 6th Annual Black Comic Book Festival—filled with kids who looked like me gawking at comic book covers featuring kids who looked like us, filled with books and art and gloriously fly merch, not to mention its Black Power exhibition on the second floor featuring a scopic look at the movement as it existed in the States and as it existed in the world—that festival is exactly the kind of place I would have once thought beyond imagination.

That festival, this current moment, are only the latest iterations of the wave of Afrofuturism washing into the mainstream. What is Afrofuturism? A literary movement? An aesthetic?

With the music of Janelle Monáe, the speculative fiction of Nnedi Okorafor, the synths of Sun Ra, we have a growing collection of artistry that sees a place for people of color in the future. In the fantastic. And the Black Panther movie is only the latest entry in the pantheon.

[Afrofuturism is a Janus-faced endeavor…]

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