Black Visions: Healing and Ascending through Afrofuturism

The Black experience in America has been consistently influenced by the lingering effects of racist systems and ideologies, from hundreds of years of slavery, to redlining practices, to police brutality and mass incarceration. However, Black people also experience joy and cultural vibrance. They contribute artistic expression, scholarly achievements, and daring innovation to this country. Global citizens will only benefit as they continue to embrace a future that allows Black people their rightful places as equals and leaders.

Because the African Diaspora has suffered various traumas worldwide, Black people are actively pursuing and facilitating healing and ascension in a variety of ways. These include the courageous sharing of their unique stories, while also proposing new ways of inhabiting and building communities that will better ensure equitable futures for all.

This two-part exhibit first highlights the often painful experiences of Black community members who face individual and systemic discrimination. As viewers gain insight into the experiences of their fellow Utahans, we hope they will be moved to make a commitment to freedom through action. The second part features Black UVU students’ ideas about how redesigning inequitable systems and acknowledging Black excellence will create a better future. These expressions are accompanied by stylized photography representing the bold innovation of Afrofuturism. 

Healing

The following experiences were submitted by Black community members in Utah of various ages, genders, and nationalities. As you watch the videos and click through the quotations, we invite you to reflect on how you can commit to renewed action in the fight for complete freedom and equality for Black people.

  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    I have been denied opportunities in my personal life that were offered to people of the same race of the ones offering the roles
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Belittled because I’m African and supposedly Africans can’t speak perfect English
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Working with predominantly white co-workers who would say racist things and randomly touch my hair without my permission
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Been on the back hand of a lot of jokes, been called a N word at local stores before
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    I go to a predominately white school, so I experience microaggressions a lot of the time. Also, some people at our school have said the n-word or profile and stereotype the black girls (me being one of them)
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Being made fun of for being dark, but told that it was a joke and i shouldn't get mad
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    I grew up in Cottonwood Heights. It was majority white…One thing I can recall is being teased for my hair. I was really into puffy, curly hair when I was in 3rd grade. On MLK Day, I went to school with a huge afro. I was referred to as Frankenstein the entire morning. The kids who called me Frankenstein, didn’t obtain any real consequence. I was upset and after that I began to notice how different I was treated compared to the other kids when it came to consequences. In Cottonwood Heights, I was teased about my hair, my dark skin, my character, etc. Even things like always having to be a certain character in a game we played bothered me. Black girls are seen as loud, crazy, bossy, etc. So when we played games I was the mean girl or the mother. Things as simple as that presented my difference. It was blatantly ignored or excused by the adults around. One thing that sticks out from my memory is something my sister experienced. Someone had broken into her locker and took a photo of her, me, and my mom and wrote “n*****” in big gold letters. Conveniently, the cameras near my sister's locker happened to be down. They didn’t take any further steps to find out who did it. I was still in elementary and didn’t know what meaning the word held until my sister broke it down for me. Now that I’m older, I realize that a lot of the people that lived in Cottonwood were fake nice or just held white guilt. We were the only black family in our neighborhood. They love to feel like saviors to the black community and it’s weird. As a smart woman said, they can’t be our saviors and our oppressors.
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    When I was in elementary, kids would tell me that my hair smelt like fish whenever I wore it natural. Growing up I’ve always been told how unattractive being black was and how unattractive I was for being black. I had a boy that I really liked ask me if I’d ever tried “bathing in bleach” that I’d be heard better if I wasn’t so dark. I’ve been called the hard N word more times in my life then I’d like. My skin color is fetishized so much that I often can’t trust people’s real intentions. I had teachers that would only seat me in the back of my class and only pair me with the only other colored person in class. I had multiple people tell me to go back to where I am from because America is too small for people like me and that my people take up space
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Being pushed through school systems and not given high expectations and mentorship to go with it
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Since I am biracial I get a lot of the “Wow, you’re the whitest Black person I know!” “You’re not like other Black people” “Why do you sound white” etc. it really disgusts me that the people around me think it’s a compliment to say that I am not Black or that I don’t act Black.
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    I’ve experienced racism from the police a lot the past couple months , as well as just little comments being made here and there from random people
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    I’ve experienced racism from the police a lot the past couple months , as well as just little comments being made here and there from random people
  • What experiences have you had with racism in your community?

    Not feeling included or enough in my classes and community among white people. I have been overlooked or “excluded out” because I do not blend in with my other classmates. I have had white males say, “I’m pretty for a black girl.
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    The struggle is real
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    It’s hard to understand why it’s happening to us why us especially since we’ve done nothing to deserve this

     

  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    Our experiences are real
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    It's hard being black. It feels as if since I was a child I've been looked at differently. I also have to work twice as hard as everyone else, because I'm three worst things to be in America: black, female and Muslim. All of these things, mostly being black, have caused me challenges in life
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    We always feel like we are at the bottom
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    We should not be judged by our skin color and that we are all beautiful, smart, and amazing people. There should be no reason for people to judge and use hurtful words/actions towards Black people. My experience has not been the best because of these people and if they think they are having a hard time/life, they should try being a black person for a week
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    BLM isn’t about putting black lives above others, it’s about being equal to everyone else
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    We are Human and can be met with empathy. We are not helpless and have always rose up and will, with or without assistance, continue to face adversity head on and WIN
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    We’re not all the same and we have feelings too
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    While we are similar in some ways, we are not the same. Also, privilege isn’t always having money or living in a nice neighborhood. It’s something as simple as not having to be conscientious of how you look when you walk on the street. Do you look normal or “suspicious”? Lastly, when being an ally, you’re there to support, listen, and learn. Not overshadow or take away from the message
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    I wish people understood that the black experience is so different to each individual
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    I wish people would stop trying to act like they understand what I am talking about when I share my experiences and they try to belittle what happens to me by saying it happens to everyone and brush me off
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    Other races have a lot to learn from Black people and have always learned a lot from Africans
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    Being Black is so amazing and so much fun, but Black people are one of the most hated races ever and for what? There is literally no reason for it, yet it is still so common. I wish people would understand how amazing and wonderful it is to be Black and to embrace that
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    I don’t think they could ever understand , but I wish they would give us our space and listen
  • What do you wish people of other races understood about the Black experience?

    I wish people understood the challenges we still go through on a day to day basis and how tired we are not being treated equally in all circumstances
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    BLM is a movement for most, but a lifestyle to us
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I believe that what’s happening right now needs to happen. No justice, no peace. We’ve been quiet for too long
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    It’s shedding light on serious systemically racist problems in this country
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I feel proud of all of us, especially us younger ones, for standing up and getting so much recognition. But I also can't help but be slightly negative and think that we won't be able to change anything because that's how it's been in the past, we've always been ignored
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I think that BLM is a powerful movement. I love that the Black community comes together and fights for the same cause; and that the overall message is trying to achieve justice and equality in a place where it is promised but not reciprocated
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I support it. We need a change in the system
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I agree with BLM. But I think it has been associated not for it’s good but for the rioting and looting people have done in the name of BLM and not the organization
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I love that we’re seeing a lot more people join the fight. I like that people are beginning to realize this isn’t a trend, it’s the lives of our brothers and sisters
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    The BLM movement has helped shed light on what black people go through every day. It’s helping white Americans be held accountable in some sort of way. Black people deserve a better America
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I feel like it had to be done. Closed mouths don’t get fed and neither do they get justice
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    It’s necessary and it’s a part of a global movement to end policing and militancy. #endsars #freepalestine #blm
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I think it’s incredibly important. In a time like this we need police reform and we have yet to receive. It’s important to keep moving forward with it.
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    It’s hard to march everyday and still the same things are happening
  • How do you feel about the current BLM movement?

    I think the movement is amazing! It has grown tremendously and it will keep fighting until we see changes

Ascending

The experience of Black people is not only that of trauma and suffering. It is one of joy, passion, creativity, innovation, and forward thinking. Often a visual metaphor for the inventive world-building Black people envision is an artistic expression and ideology called Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism is defined as "the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a Black lens" [1] as well as "a fluid ideology shaped by generations of artists, musicians, scholars, and activists whose aim is to reconstruct “Blackness” in the culture. Reflected in the life and works of such figures as Octavia Butler, Sojourner Truth, Sun Ra, and Janelle Monáe, Afrofuturism is a cultural blueprint to guide society" [2].

 

The following photos are artistic portraits of Black UVU students and staff in the style of Afrofuturism. They are accompanied by expressions shared by Black community members explaining their hopes for the future and what the world might look like if more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) were leading the way. Black leadership and futuristic vision will help both Black communities and the rest of the world ascend.

What is your hope for the future?

black man with sunglasses

“Justice for all Black people that have died for no reason and a world where Black people don’t have to feel like targets.”

beautiful black women

“That there won’t be so many “firsts” for Black people because we’ll have already been at the table.”

Women holding a africa necklace

“That the future Black children of America have better opportunities than I do, and experience less racism in their lives. I hope they don't experience the fear I feel from systematic racism that I experience every time I see a cop.”

black man with goggles on

“That we can all live in harmony and I don’t just mean other races and Black people, I mean Black people with Black people as well.”

black women with box braids

“All people will accept their African roots, acknowledge African contributions and roots of all human civilization, and make sure that the continent and the diaspora are healthy and well.”

black man in hat with gold chain

“More Black leaders in the world and in the LDS community. I hope the next generation does not have to fight for equal rights, are loved by all races, and be able to empower each other in their communities.”

What would the world look like if BIPOC were leading the way?

black girl

“A lot more inclusive and compassionate.”

man in futureistic glasses

“It would be amazing! The cultural diversity, the beautiful people, the intellect. That would be such a dream to fulfill!”

black man holding his collar

“The world would be more just and equal. BIPOC are very optimistic people and have experienced terrible things. If they led, they wouldn't want others to have the same experience as them.”

women wearing futuristic glasses

“It would encourage more POC to lead and it would add a lot of diversity in a healthy way.” “The world would be more understanding. More seasoned lol.”

women with hair on top of her head

“Trust me when I say the world would be better. The systems right now were never made for us to succeed. We wouldn’t have to worry about being the minority or viewed as less.”

Women standing

“We would definitely have more peace, understanding, and empathy if more BIPOC where leading the way.”

A special thanks to The Black Student Union, The African Diaspora Initiative, and The Center for Social Impact for the curation of this exhibit.
Additionally, thanks to:
Breanna Lambert, community stories curator
Bryan Cooper, videographer
Clayton Mueller, photographer
My'Jah Mintze, makeup artist
Mohamed Eftin, Melanie Griffin, Israel Herring, Destini Perkins, models
The many Black community members who submitted experiences and expressions

Share a Reflection

Want to share your commitment to action in the fight for freedom or express how this exhibit made you feel? Need someone to talk to about your experience as a Black
person or person of color? Please submit your email and message below.

man with futuristic sunglasses

Reflections




[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/opinion-broadnax-afrofuturism-black-panther_n_5a85f1b9e4b004fc31903b95
[2] https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/what-is-afrofuturism