Consider this lesser-known vignette from 1968: Captain Kirk, a white character, and Lieutenant Uhura, a black character, share an on-screen kiss in "Star Trek." At a time when 80 percent of Americans opposed interracial unions, this moment transcended contemporary societal norms, envisioning a future where racial equality was a given. This anecdote is a fitting prelude to my thoughts on Black History Month, a time typically dedicated to retrospection. Yet, I find myself resistant to the conventional stroll down memory lane. No matter how glorified, the past is not a destination I yearn to return to. Instead, this month presents an opportunity to reflect on our historical triumphs over America's oppressive structures and consider the implications for our current situation.
Historically, Black History Month has been a counter-narrative to the misleading portrayal of African Americans as passive observers in the annals of civilization. Yet, while essential, the repeated celebration of figures like Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and George Washington Carver inadvertently diverts our attention from the ongoing struggle for equality.
This dichotomy is stark: As we pay homage to our past, we risk neglecting the present issues that continue to challenge us.
Here lies an uncomfortable reality: the major systems that dictate our lives in the United States are predominantly under the control of a demographic that fails to represent the diverse fabric of our nation. This concentration of power should be exercised with a sense of maturity and empathy. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
This year, I propose a shift in focus. Rather than dwelling exclusively on the past, let's turn our attention to the concept of power — understanding it, strategizing to acquire it, and using it to shape our future. This requires confronting some hard truths: the alarming statistics regarding our education, judicial treatment, economic status, and social standing. These figures don't paint a rosy picture of our future; instead, they signal a need to reimagine our trajectory radically.
However, this is not an invitation to wallow in despair or succumb to afropessimism. Instead, it's a call to embrace Afrofuturism — a forward-looking approach that diverts our energies from past traumas to construct an alternative future for our people and progeny.
Our history is far from over, and the game is still in play.
This Black History Month, let's pivot towards 'Afrofuturism Month' — a period of embracing our potential and crafting a better future.
Let's draw inspiration from Malcolm X's assertion that education is our passport to the future. We must invest in our collective progress, analyze our current position, and chart a path forward with optimism and realism.
This vision, admittedly ambitious, is rooted in the resilient spirit that has sustained us through the darkest chapters of human history. We dare to dream because it's woven into our very fabric and why we enjoy our freedoms today.
Thus, the proposition is this: culture is our compass. While policy development and NGO activism are crucial, they often need a solid cultural underpinning. The Black Power movement was a political uprising and a cultural revolution engaging people through art, music, iconography, and imagination.
I advocate for Afrofuturism, a cultural paradigm that envisions future and alternate realities through a Black cultural lens. It's a powerful tool, especially when mainstream future-focused narratives often exclude or relegate us to subservient roles.
I envision a future for my children of freedom and boundless possibility.
I acknowledge the realists who might see a call for a cultural movement based on black futurist fiction as insufficient. Yet, this is not to discount the importance of supporting black businesses, engaging in local community affairs, or building our own educational systems. All these strategies are necessary.
As we shift our focus from a retrospective Black History Month to a forward-looking Afrofuturism, we must reorient from the established voices of the past to the vibrant, emerging voices of the young. The youth, after all, with their inexhaustible energy, boundless creativity, and a natural flair for language, style, and cultural innovation, are charting the course to tomorrow. This isn't just about paying homage to the next generation; it's a strategic move. Our historical movements have thrived on the youthful zeal that challenges norms and imagines the unimaginable.
As we celebrate 'Black Future Month,' we should deliberately bring these young trendsetters, the vanguard of our progress in diverse domains, to the forefront. Their narratives aren't just tales of potential; they are testimonies of a present actively being redefined. By amplifying these young voices, we're not merely acknowledging their current contributions but strategically positioning them as architects of a future that aligns with their vision, which is as audacious and avant-garde as they are.
Let's keep our eyes fixed on the horizon. Let's ensure our every action and every day contributes to a future where we're not just participants but pioneers and leaders.
An award-winning writer, speaker, and blogger, Chris Stewart is a relentless advocate for children and families. Based in outstate Minnesota, Chris is CEO of brightbeam, a nonprofit media group that runs campaigns to highlight policies and practices that support thriving kids. He was the founding Director of the African American Leadership Forum, was an elected member of the Minneapolis Board of Education, and founded and served as the CEO of Wayfinder Foundation. Above all, Chris is a serial parent, a Minecraft enthusiast, and an epic firestarter on Twitter where he has antagonized the best of them on the political left and right. You’ll often see Chris blogging at citizenstewart.com and “tweeting” under the name “Citizen Stewart.”
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