Black Speculation and Hope

In a 2020 interview focused on Afrofuturism and the Covid 19 pandemic, scholar Alondra Nelson said, “I think it’s important to remember that the Afrofuturist tradition in arts and letters and music is really writing with and up against the possibility of black annihilation — the sort of possibility that the world could end, but that there were always sort of spaces of possibility. And so I would want us to remember that the most marginalized and the most vulnerable communities, time and time again, over generations, over hundreds of years, have created beauty and resilience in life again and again. That’s a gift that black culture has brought to the world again and again, that I think certainly should be appreciated and embraced in this moment and done in such a way that people, many people who are the essential workers, who are African Americans should not be left to suffer.” As we enter into a third year of this pandemic, we should remember that Black culture is adept at making a way out of no way. My undergraduate literature professor Leon Forrest frequently lectured about the blues aesthetic apparent in Black peoples’ cultures. He said reinvention, the ability to take fragments of cultures, cosmologies, and circumstances and turn those seemingly disconnected and discarded scraps into art or meaning, is the superpower [my word] of Black people. It’s how we get ovah.

We have always speculated a future in which we were liberated and self actualized. Our resilience is integrally connected to our creative and imaginative spirits. At the same time, we recognize the toll of generational suffering in our communities, families, and bodies. Poet-scholar Margaret Walker reminds us “We have been believers yielding substance for the world/…Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has her-/alded the dawn.” Hope

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