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Black to the Future: Afrofuturistic music from Sun Ra to Janelle Monae

Napoleon Maddox and Mildred Fallen at Island Frydays on Short Vine

The writer Mark Dery first coined the term ‘Afrofuturistic’ in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future” to describe a new cultural phenomenon but what exactly is Afrofuturism? 

Michael Gonzales of Ebony Magazine calls Afrofuturism “a cultural catchphrase to describe the world of tomorrow today in music, art, theater, politics and academics,” but the more I tried to further define the term, the more I discovered that Afrofuturistim is a concept that, by definition, defies definition.

Afrofuturism bridges so many aspects of our culture, from African mythology, art and hip-hop to politics, comic books and science -- Ytasha L. Womack Afrofuturism: The World of Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Culture

Afrofuturism can be said to be a continuum that permeates and penetrates, it influences and is influenced by everything from art and music to television and comic books.  Some of the shapers of the Afrofuturistic concept include such names as Sun Ra and George Clinton as well as Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura).

On Tuesday, January 27 at 7pm,The Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance (MBSFA) will be holding a discussion called Black to the Future: Afrofuturistic Music from Sun Ra to Janelle Monae.  The program will be held at Sweet Sister Splash, on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine.

To find out more about the event and the concepts behind it, I met up with presenters Mildred Fallen, a local writer and host of the show Deeper than Atlantis on Soul Public Radio, as well as Napoleon Maddox, a local musical artist and the key figure behind the hip-hop group IsWhat?!.

Special thanks to Island Frydays on Short Vine for allowing us to meet and conduct the interview.

"Longview" and "Love" by IsWhat?! from the album Things That Go Bump in the Dark

Jim is a Northern Kentucky native and a father of three. In his spare time, Jim likes to read, play ice hockey and watch foreign films. He currently resides with his family on the East side of town.