Earthseed Project Tells Story of Afrofuturism’s Past and Present
Posted November 16, 2022
Wakanda Forever, the recently released Black Panther sequel, is driving conversation about Afrofuturism. And nowhere on campus is that discussion being more closely followed than in the Earthseed lab founded by Associate Professor Susana Morris last year.
Morris, a scholar of Black Feminism and Afrofuturism, developed the project during the 2021–2022 academic year to create a digital media hub delving into Afrofuturist art, music, literature, film, fashion, and design. Among the students helping lead the project is Brandy Pettijohn, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Digital Media.
“What we wanted to do was create a repository or digital space where people could go and get information about the breadth of Afrofuturist work,” said Pettijohn. “So, I constructed a timeline that goes back to the 19th century to African American poet Phyllis Wheatley and extended it to clothing designers that are coming out of Ethiopia today. It was meant to drive the conversation beyond literature and broaden it out to music, plays, and astronauts.”
Earthseed defines Afrofuturism as “an epistemology and cultural movement that melds art, science, and technology to imagine and create what acclaimed science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany calls 'Black livability.'”
Undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research is featured on the lab’s online portal. The hub also includes an extensive bibliography of Afrofuturist work and a detailed interactive timeline of the history of Afrofuturism as an epistemology, intellectual field, and cultural movement.
The team pays special attention to women, nonbinary, and LGBTQIA people in Afrofuturism, who are often overlooked in the field. Authors such as Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delaney, and musicians including Sun Ra and Lee “Scratch” Perry are featured as some of Afrofuturism’s brightest stars.
Earthseed also served as an opportunity to create conversations with contemporary scholars of Afrofuturism.
Pettijohn created a podcast and interviewed several professors, including Stacey Robinson, an Afrofuturist artist and associate professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Isiah Lavender III, English professor at the University of Georgia; and Lisa Yaszek, Regents’ Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication who has written and edited journal articles and books on Afrofuturism.
“Afrofuturism is really an epistemology, a practice, and it’s a way of looking at Black livability—that Black people deserve to have joy and to thrive,“ said Brooke Bosley, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the digital media program.
Bosley helped Morris with research on Afrofuturism and gentrification and how the movement applies to design and digital media.
Trinh Bui, a fourth-year Literature, Media, and Communication major who designed the hub, says she hopes Earthseed busts stereotypes about representations of people of color in science fiction and fantasy and inspires young people to strive for greater possibilities.
“The limit doesn't exist, regardless of what society says, especially in today’s racial climate,” Bui said. “Afrofuturism allows us to see better representation for Black people, which can open people’s minds and improve our society.”
To learn more about Afrofuturism, visit the Earthseed website.
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