Guest Column: Honoring Our History From Juneteenth to Afrofuturism

by Dr. Kim McMillon

Kim McMillon

In the last week, I and contributors to the Black Panther Tales of Wakanda anthology honored Juneteenth through Subsume Creative Juneteenth program on Friday, June 18. The event allowed us to acknowledge President Joe Biden signing legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, issued General Order No. 3, which announced that under the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.” African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth throughout the United States since then.

We are extending the conversation on African American self-determination and independence with a virtual  and onsite discussion on Saturday, July 3, 2021, at 11:00 (EST) and 5:00 pm (Paris Time) at The Red Wheelbarrow, 9 rue de Médicis in the Latin Quartier of the sixth arrondissment, in Paris, France. Jesse Holland, the Black Panther Tales of Wakanda anthology editor, will speak along with contributors Glenn Parris and L.L. McKinney. The program will center around Wakanda and the Voice of Black Empowerment. The event host is Nita Wiggins, author of Civil Rights Baby: My Story of Race, Sports, and Breaking Barriers in American Journalism.  I asked Jesse Holland why Black Panther became such an essential part of the Black American experience. His response speaks to the importance of acknowledging our past as African Americans. 

“For too long, those of a darker hue were swept in the background when humanity thought about the future: condemned to be window dressing, a pittance offered at the altar of diversity. We were fated only to be seen, not heard. No one cared that it was our ancestors who first looked up to the stars with wonder and looked down into their souls with reverence and awe. Instead, the cruel march of history swept those voices, those minds, those spirits into the void. But now, not only are we inspiring all of mankind’s dreams of the future, we are turning science fiction into science fact, teaching the world not only how to dream but of the things to dream for as we march together into the eternity of tomorrow,” stated Jesse Holland.

Jesse’s words, along with Juneteenth officially becoming a federal holiday speak to a changing America.  Perhaps not as fast as we would wish, but it is changing. The very fact that reparations for African Americans are now being discussed and taken seriously is a testament to America’s transformation.

However, we are still asking the question, “How does the Black race heal from over 400 years of oppression?” Healing is not always on a conscious level. Often, like depression, we can wake up, and suddenly the sadness is no longer there. As African Americans, our history is always with us, similar to our skin. We are Black and Beautiful. It cannot be changed. Nor do we want to. Instead, we can embrace, heal, and love all parts of ourselves and our history. One of the ways we do that is through our writings. Afrofuturism is an example of African Americans writing themselves into a new history that they have created, blessed, and celebrated.  

Black Panther Tale of Wakanda contributor Glenn Parris shared his thoughts on Afrofuturism.

“The concept Afrofuturism serves as a beacon of hope and pride for Africans within and beyond the borders of The First Continent, that man called home. Our stories incorporate remnants of ancient history. Tradition rekindled from the dark days of the middle passage to centuries of bondage, to assimilation to a foreign mindset as we subordinated to a culture that did not understand who we were. For 400 years, we have had to adapt to a hostile environment too cold, too humid, and bereft of our traditional foods. Without the benefits of our language, our reference libraries, our elders, our medicines endured. Thousands of those dark, cold nights found our forebearers gazing up at constellations of strange stars. For our ancestors, going back was like walking to the moon. Africans and African expatriates lamented losses of brothers and sisters, gone forever, or a homeland never to be seen again. Afrofuturism is the culmination of survival of that four-century journey. Stories bridge the gap with imagination, invention, and practicality. Harsh lessons learned that not every story had a happy ending, not every protagonist had to be a perfect hero, that compromise was a necessity of survival, and that every achievement could be taken and claimed by those who had voice and license over our minds and bodies when we did not. Afrofuturism spawns so many new stories that answer the “What if?” question left unanswered for generations with black excellence demonstrated in the past, present, and future as time has a different meaning where we come from. These are the Dark Stars of the Diaspora, the creators no one saw coming. Now young and old, we have a voice, we have a license, we have agency… and the world is hungry to sate the void created by the blight of slavery. No treasure can remain buried forever.”

Glenn’s last words have such significant meaning. “No treasure can remain buried forever.” An appreciation of the beauty in Blackness is a treasure to be revered. An item, like life itself is everlasting. One of the things that I cherish is creative voices that address racism, sexism, and identity.  Linda Addison, an anthology contributor, and the first African-American recipient of the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award®, speaks to the issue of identity and Blackness, stating, “I have been writing for a long time when the word Afrofuturism surfaced. I and other Black speculative writers/artists/musicians have been creating work that falls under that umbrella years before the word was used. When I was in high school, the big thing was Black Power, Angela Davis, etc. I was questioned more than once about why I was writing weird stuff and not about racism. I loved science, read all the science-fiction I could get my hands on, even though there were rarely any Blacks in them. Being the quintessential nerd back then was not very popular, but I knew I had to be true to myself, no matter how challenging. Discovering the magnificent storyteller Octavia E. Butler was life-changing for me—I was not alone in writing weird stuff! After being published in Dark Matter I (edited by the cosmic futurist Sheree Renée Thomas), and having my story right after Butler’s, I felt all the questions about why I wrote what I did were answered. Since then, I have written and published much poetry and fiction that  can live in the realm of Afrofuturism and continue to every day. More than anything, I am joyful that younger generations have a way to see themselves in speculative futures being created, and that they are creating these universes. Black Panther changed the world and society in so many ways, showing young Black children that they can imagine themselves in any future. To be a small part of that message is EVERYTHING to me!”

We are entering a new paradigm of Blackness that celebrates our history, legacy, and beauty as a people. Linda is right. Black Panther changed the world and how we view ourselves as Africans and African Americans. Please take a moment on Saturday, July 3 at 11 am (EST) to sit with us and discuss Wakanda and Black Empowerment. It is time to celebrate our history and heritage, Wakanda Forever!!! 

Wakanda and the Voice of Black EmpowermenHosted by Nita Wiggins Author of

 Civil Rights Baby: My Story of Race, Sports, and Breaking Barriers in American Journalism

With 

Glenn Parris,  Jesse Holland, and  LL McKinney

Black Panther Tales of Wakanda

Saturday, July 3, 2021,  11:00 am (EST)

5:00 pm (Paris Time)

ANTHOLOGY CONTRIBUTORS

Nita Wiggins, Paris, courtesy Lucie Cervante

L.L. McKinney

Glenn Parris

Linda D Addison

Jesse Holland

To register in advance for this virtual and onsite event, click on the link below.

https://tinyurl.com/49b4ude8

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the program.

FREE TO THE PUBLIC