Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Considering we’re most of the way through the first month of 2017, this is a much belated post but it’s been hard to sum up a tumultuous year. On the other hand, it was also a year of collaboration and new beginnings for us as we moved base to the Midlands.

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January saw us collaborating with How We Get To Next to produce a series of articles on Afrofuturism and black technology. Looking back it was so great to hear such a range of voices from people all around the world interacting with AfroFuturism, sometimes overtly in the case of Reynaldo Anderson envisioning a new manifesto for an AfroFuturist movement; sometimes using AfroFuturism to critique how technology will intersect with race and gender and sometimes not using the term at all, whilst still working on the ground to create a new present (and future) for their community.

Our first major event of 2016 was Future|Journeys, a day of panels and workshops co-produced with Writing on the Wall as part of their science fiction themed literary festival. Taking AfroFutures_UK to Liverpool, meeting the brilliant Ytasha Womack and working with the WoW team was definitely one of our highlights of 2016 though little did we know there’d be more to come!

What did you enjoy most about 2016?

Enjoyed learning about a history not touched on at school.

What are you looking forward to do in 2017?

Would like to do more of that on my own with focus on the Caribbean experience, which feels slightly different from the African diaspora.

–Charlotte Bailey

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And then… stuff happened. Here in the UK, we had the EU referendum and upon a small majority voting in favour of leaving the EU, we witnessed an increase in public hate crime and further legitimisation of right wing populism which had already been trending upwards, let’s be clear. The toxic legacies of racism, xenophobia, colonialism and classism were again coalescing and it was both worrying and fascinating seeing the inadequacies of our political and social systems fully exposed. Seeing what we’ve always known to be true about our society became apparent to the mainstream was certainly something to behold and honestly there were times it was hard knowing how to react. Racism and xenophobia have not disappeared in Britain and that it took a referendum for the general public to realise how deep seated these issues are was disturbing but somehow not unexpected.

 

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Nikky Norton at Future Stories

When we were envisioning July’s Future Stories, we wanted to take our present and think about how we could make the futures we wanted. Inspired by narratives and design thinking to make research accessible and tangible, hosted as part of the European City of Science, Future Stories was all about asking the big questions, examining how media, mental health and history need to be transformed to represent our community’s needs and perhaps even transform our community in turn.

What did you enjoy most about 2016?

Meeting so many amazing activists from every walk of life.

What are you looking forward to do in 2017?

Where to begin? Putting radical social justice to practice in design, tech and science.

–Florence Okoye

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September we were invited to be part of the AfroFlux festival, a celebration of Afrofuturism as part of the B-side hip hop and street art festival in Birmingham, hosted by the legendary Juice Aleem. Being part of the panel discussing what afrofuturism is and the role it has to play in the empowerment and liberation of black people, felt like being welcomed to our new home city as we were both challenged and inspired.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, October was the busiest month for us – in fact I think we’ve only just recovered from it. First there was Cosmic Ashoke, co-produced with ArtivistUK and held at the Southbank as a celebration of poetry and futuristic blackness. There was our second annual conference, The Black Maker, which focussed on examining the intersection of technology and blackness and last but certainly not least, PAC45 Foundation LEADERS IN THE REVOLUTION: Woman and Youth Conference in Manchester. The 2016 Pan-African conference was definitely in a close tie with Future|Journeys as the year’s highlight. It was such an honour to be included amongst so many dedicated activists and we can’t wait to continue pursuing our shared goals for liberation and social justice.

There’s not much else to say for 2016 that hasn’t been said already. It was a year of shock, of revelation, of hard work and hustling, of meeting new friends and saying goodbye to heroes. Let’s see what awaits us in 2017…

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