Why Afrofuturism Is Taking Over Sci-Fi, Arts and Culture

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
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From “Black Panther” to “Rosewater,” Afrofuturism has been dominating at the box office and in book stores. It’s a widely known fact that “Black Panther” did over $1 billion worldwide and broke tons of records. However, recently, “Rosewater” author Tade Thompson became the second Black, African writer to win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, reported The Guardian.

So what exactly is Afrofuturism and why is it currently such a big hit? Coined by white author Mike Dery in 1993, Afrofuturism refers to the reimagining of music, art, science and technology through a Black lens, predominately by people in the African Diaspora, reported HuffPost.

The Afrofuturism movement dates back to the 1960s. However, today the movement is gaining more traction than ever. In addition to all of the work flooding the market from Black content creators, some of the biggest celebrities in the world including Beyonce, Rihanna and Janelle Monae have adopted Afrofuturist styles.

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But global celebrities are not the only ones taking part in the trend. In Miami, dance and cultural entrepreneur Traci Young-Byron is a well-respected icon who has been using Afrofuturist styling in her art for years.

Traci Young-Byron aka Supa Blackgirl. Photo Courtesy of Traci Young-Byron’s Facebook Page.

In fact, the founder of the young Contemporary Dance Theatre goes by the moniker “Supa Blackgirl.” It is not uncommon to see she and her dancers in Afrofuturist-inspired regalia. Her trends are so popular, she’s had fans paint original artwork of she and her husband as superheroes.

“I feel like art imitates life and I think it’s just so cool how we can become who we want to become through art and create our own spaces,” Young-Byron said when asked about her Afrofuturist-inspired art and style.

“We can be our own superheroes. We don’t have to wait for someone else to create them, we can create them ourselves. Once you know your self-worth, then you know what you mean to other people. You set the trend. Although I’m human, sometimes I feel like I’m out of this world, which helps me not have any boundaries in terms of creativity. Now our children have their own heroes to look up to, people who look and talk and speak like them. If you can’t find a hero, become one,” Byron said.

Fan art of Traci Young-Byron aka Supa Blackgirl and husband Jean Byron Jr. Photo Courtesy of Traci Young-Byron’s Facebook Page.

The uptick of current and upcoming movies and shows on Netflix including “Mama K’s Team 4,” “See You Yesterday,” etc. also speak to the popularity of the trend. As Young-Byron said, people like seeing themselves reflected in different sectors of society and Afrofuturism provides Black people, who are the number one consumer group in America, with that opportunity.

Though there is still a need for more diversity in the science fiction genre, proponents of Afrofuturism are hopeful with the demand they see for it.

“In the wake of the success of ‘Black Panther,’ and the success of Africans like Thompson and Okorafor, almost every publisher now wants to be able to say they are open to speculative fiction by Africans. That can only be a good thing,” said writer Geoff Ryman, who is a former Clarke award winner.