A Symposium on Black Futures - Past, Present, and Potential

Claiming Space: The communities and individuals who build Afrofuturism up, as well as those that draw from it, work together to claim and reclaim space—in the stories we tell of the past and in the visions we imagine of the future. This Claiming Space Symposium examines the ever-expanding reach of Afrofuturist thought across oceans, into land reclamations, up to the stars, through cyberspace, and inward as Black visionaries look to the infinite space within.

Jump to a Panel: 

Space on the Page

A conversation with authors Dr. Eve L. Ewing and National Museum of African American History and Culture Director Kevin Young

Aquatic Space:  Water in the Afrofuturist Imagination 

Criss-crossed and re-inscribed by the brutality of the trade in captured and enslaved Africans, as Greg Tate notes, the Atlantic Ocean has also been imagined as a “realm of possibility.” This panel will explore realms of resilience above and below liquid surfaces across disciplines and media.

Discussant: Alexis Pauline Gumbs

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Terrestrial Space: Reclaiming Landscapes

Perhaps most frequently associated with the great expanses of oceans and sky, Afrofuturist movements have also given rise to the speculative cities, reclaimed monuments, and transformed landscapes and communities that will be the focus on this panel.

  • Tauheedah Shukriyyah Asad, Temple University and Synatra Smith, Philadelphia Museum of Art / Temple University Libraries - A Philly Jawn: Curated Black Geographies
  • Julian Chambliss, Michigan State University - Recovering Black Speculative Space in Eatonville, FL
  • Eto Otitigbe, Brooklyn College
  • Lisa Yaszek, Georgia Tech - A Brief History of Megacities and Social Justice in Black Science Fiction

Discussant: Emanuel Admassu, AD—WO, Columbia University GSAPP

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Sonic Space: A Conversation with Vernon Reid on Music, Pop Culture, and Afrofuturism

A one-on-one conversation between National Museum of African American History and Culture curator Kevin Strait and musician, artist, songwriter, and guitarist Vernon Reid about his career, his work in experimental music, Black popular culture and the concepts of Afrofuturism.

Cyber Space: Political Activism and Afrofuturism in the Digital Age

The Black Lives Matter movement began as a hashtag and through the further utilization of digital technologies has grown into a global network of activists, using technology to organize, protest, and shape the public discourse about race and the societal institutions and structures that support racism. This panel will explore political and social activism in the digital age, and the Afrofuturist platform of technology being repurposed as a tool for community building and liberation.

  • Claudia Alick, Calling Up Justice - Resisting Genocide Through Digital Connections
  • Reynaldo Anderson, Temple University - Afrofuturism: Theory, Praxis, & Movement
  • Trisha Barton, Education Technology Consultant - Speculative STEM Curriculums 

Discussant: Ytasha Womack 

More Videos About Cyber Space

Personal Space: Afrofuturist Bodies and Beyond 

Technology has come to shape how we live and communicate, to the point where our biological and social lives are now intertwined with the technologies we take for granted. These technologies have political assumptions built into them, but can also be inscribed with new politics by users. This panel explores the use of cyborgs, superheros, and other Afrofuturist figures in shaping the technopolitics of body and soul.

  • Lauren Bernard, Columbia University - Black Screens, Black Voices
  • Elizabeth Chin, ArtCenter College of Design - The Laboratory of Speculative Ethnology 
  • John Jennings, The University of California at Riverside - Before Black Panther

Discussant: Ingrid LaFleurThe Afrofuture Strategies Institute

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Outer Space: Projecting Histories and Futures onto the Stars

Space is a canvas onto which we project ideas about the future, but space is also literally a place in which post-colonial power structures are defined. This panel will explore the Afrofuturist interventions attempting to reimagine space and questioning the standard assumptions behind imagined futures in space.

  • Timiebi Aganaba, Arizona State University - Africanfuturism in the Space 5.0 era
  • Elizabeth Hamilton, Fort Valley State University - Narratives of Fugitivity 
  • Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, University of New Hampshire - Interplanetary Black Feminism 
  • Danielle Wood, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Questioning designs for human space endeavors through a Black Queer Feminist Lens

Discussant: andré m. carrington, University of California, Riverside

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Creative Space 

Ultimately, it is individual bodies that will propel our collective future. Join visual artist and filmmaker Phoebe Boswell in conversation with choreographer and performer nora chipaumire as these two visionary women discuss embodied expression, creativity and what the future might hold.  Moderated by acclaimed curator and scholar, Dr. Isolde Brielmaier.


More Videos from Participants

These panel discussions premiered as part of the Claiming Space: A Symposium on Black Futures - Past, Present, and Potential, which took place January 27 through 29, 2022. 

The Smithsonian Afrofuturism Series is a collaboration between the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of African Art. 

Smithsonian scholarship and collections address the topics of futurism and Afrofuturism from many angles. Each of the three collaborating museums brings a perspective on the topic including:

  • The prevalence of Afrofuturism in science fiction and how visions of the future affect space exploration and today’s technological landscape
  • How technology is used to enact or enforce existing power dynamics, or to resist those structures
  • How the sources and impact of Afrofuturism are rooted in Africa’s and the African Diaspora’s arts and history as well as their global influences

Not limited to fictional depictions of the future, this collaboration will examine what the future looks like today and how that future addresses issues like postcolonialism, climate change, and urbanization.



Past Programs and Projects A Conversation on Black Futures Watch on Demand Sonic Futures Watch on Demand Heroes: Principles of African Greatness Online Exhibit What is Afrofuturism? Watch on Demand