Afrofuturism can be defined as a movement in literature, art, and culture. It is a subculture which seeks to highlight the plight of the black people. Although it started as a small colligation of an uprising, it has expanded into a fully-fledged subculture that is recognized and practiced by most Africans and African Americans (Lavender 12). It is manifested and communicated through music, written literature, paintings and other works of art. The term was first developed by Mark Derr who is known as the founder and father of Afrofuturism (Lavender 14). He was responsible for defining the term and setting the values, norms and traditions that should guide the use of the subculture.
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It began as a genre of music called Afrofuturist music which was popular in the 1950s (Adlakha 2). It was followed by Afrofuturist stories that were composed by African American storytellers including Charles Chesnutt and Edward Johnson (Bould 5). By the 1960s, the subculture was popular such that it had attracted and assimilated into jazz and popular music which had already been firmly established in American society. Afrofuturism is still evolving; it is at the middle stage of evolution. It is not yet on its advanced level but it, with the growing membership, is guaranteed of advancement in future. One of the factors responsible for its longevity and attraction of more members is that it is passed from generation to generation. Afrofuturism is practiced not only as a subculture but a way of life.
Characteristics of the Subculture
Afrofuturism is one of the most unique subcultures in American history. It is rich in the values, traditions, and norms of the African American community. It is also original since it draws its principles from the African American culture (Bould 8). The process of joining the subculture is not complex, all one needs to do is to follow the values, norms and traditions of the subculture. It is not discriminative of any particular people; anyone can join it if they wish to do so. One of the greatest motivations towards joining this genre is that its members are accommodative and it is aimed at enhancing unity in the community.
Afrofuturism also seeks to encourage gender equality. It does not discriminate against any of the genders. Although African American culture was largely associated with masculinity in the past, the development of Afrofuturism led to women being incorporated into the practice of the culture (Lee 6). Despite the subculture being often linked with the African American race, it accommodates members from other races as well. Members of the genre are drawn from all the socio-economic classes. However, most of the ideals, norms, values, and traditions are largely from the African American community. Afrofuturism’s consumer culture is largely controlled by African American culture. Afrofuturists are known to be conservatives, hence, they are less likely to consume fancy and luxurious products. It is associated with the production of indigenous products such as cereals and grains. Capitalism has a profound influence on the development of the subculture as it encourages members of it to fight for the recognition of their property rights.
Stereotypes and the Media
One of the most dominant stereotypes held against the subculture is that it belongs to members of the African American community. Although it is largely driven by norms, cultures and values of the community, it involves participants from all the races and ethnic identities. This stereotype has affected the way people view the subculture with people who are not African Americans shying away from joining it (Broadnax 11). Besides, one of the other derogative prejudices held on members of the subculture is that most of them are often engaged in crime. This has facilitated hate crime against participants and has painted a bad picture of the subculture. Most of these stereotypes are propagated through the media, especially social media. At some point, I also used to believe that the stereotyping was true until I interacted with a member of the subculture who was not from the African American community. After my encounter with the participant, my perception of Afrofuturism changed; I began to understand and appreciate the role that it plays in enhancing ideals of equality, justice and unity in the society.
The subculture utilizes its media presence; it often appears in the media with Afrofuturists communicating the ideals of the subculture to the audience from the screen. The media has been highly cooperative and responsive to the values of the subculture. Its treatment of Afrofuturism is with respect and dignity of its members. It has represented the subculture as a culture rich in values, norms and traditions of the African American community. Despite the media being one of the channels used to spread propaganda against the community, it has also played an important role in communicating and spreading Afrofuturism. It has had a profound influence on the development of the culture with most of the participants recruited and joining the subculture through the media.
Connections to Mainstream Society
Afrofuturism is a representation of both ideals of the past and of mainstream society. It has played a crucial role in passing the African American culture from one generation to the next. Through the subculture, Americans and the world at large have been able to understand and appreciate the African American culture (Lee 16). Fortunately, the culture has not been resistant to change and it has utilized mainstream media to pass on its values, norms, and traditions across the globe. Mainstream media has enabled the subculture to reach a wider audience and through it, Afrofuturists have been able to recruit more members (Broadnax 9). Despite it is used as a platform to propagate some of the derogative stereotypes, it has also enabled Afrofuturism to develop. Mainstream media also guarantees its future and that the subculture would not be extinct or assimilated into other cultures. Afrofuturism has become an important part of the mainstream society and is still practiced in contemporary American society.
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After exploring Afrofuturism as a subculture, I believe it is not a form of resistance to mainstream culture but a reinterpretation of the culture. It is a manifestation of new styles of expression. Although it forms around the values, norms and traditions of African American culture, it is open to members from any community, race or identity. It has been adopted into mainstream culture but it stands on its own as a unique subculture that has been passed from generation to generation. It was challenging researching on the topic since there is few literature on the subculture. However, what caught my interest in the subculture is that a person does not have to be a member of the African American community to join it. Generally, the process of investigating the topic was smooth; I chose peer reviewed journal sources that were written and published currently. This assures the reader that the sources used are reliable and credible.
Adlakha, Siddhant. “Beyond ‘Black Panther’: A Brief History of Afrofuturism.” Mashable, 2018.
Bould, Mark. “Afrofuturism in the New Wave Era.” The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, 2019, pp. 396-414.
Broadnax, Jamie. “What The Heck Is Afrofuturism?” HuffPost, 2018.
Lavender, Isiah. “Contemporary Science Fiction and Afrofuturism.” The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, 2019, pp. 565-579.
Lee, Patina. “Afrofuturism and Black Identity in Art, Culture and Politics.” Widewalls | Modern & Contemporary Art Resource, 2016. Web.