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What Is Afrofuturism?<br />

What Is Afrofuturism?

Has Janelle Monáe become the poster girl to a movement that started way back with Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney and Lt. Uhura?

Michael A. Gonzales

by Michael A. Gonzales, October 01, 2013

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What Is Afrofuturism?<br />

Space is the place!

the concepts of Afrofuturism.”

The late artist Rammellzee, who died in 2010 at the age of 49, was Afrofuturistic before his time. Beginning his career as a New York graffiti kid in the 1970s, he also rapped on the 1983 hip-hop classic “Beat Bop,” and was close friends with artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy and Lee Quiñones.

Ramm also created infamous otherworldly costumes, mind-boggling manifestos and wild-styled paintings that are highly sought and collected.

“It was like he stepped into one of his graffiti pieces and emerged with a different kind of knowledge,” says Oakland writer D. Scott Miller, the scribe behind the Afro-Surrealist Manifesto. “For him, graffiti served as a device for interdimensional travel, and those are the ideas reflected in his work.”

A fan of poet Henry Dumas and singer/songwriter Nina Simone (two artists he believes monumental in the Afro-Surrealistic movement), Miller’s ideas are also presented in the pages of Afrofuturism.

While much of Afrofuturism might sound highbrow, writer/musician Greg Tate, who currently teaches an Afrofuturism class at Brown University, is quick to point out that the disciple isn’t just regulated to the ivory towers and art-houses. “There is also a street element to Afrofuturism that should not be forgotten,” Tate states. “From RZA to Kool Keith to Grandmaster Flash shopping at Radio Shack, to drug dealers in the ’80s walking around with beepers, all of that is also a segment of Afrofuturism.”

Although the ideas and theories of Afrofuturism are still growing wild as weeds, steadily morphing with each new creation, Ytasha Womack says, “I totally believe Afrofuturism can be used as a tool of empowerment to embrace our culture as we push past limitations.” Indeed, as the Afrofuturist movement continues to flourish, the future is now.

More great reads from Michael A. Gonzales


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