October 28, 2016

Afrofuturism: A Voyage on Campus

Kosmo Blu (aka English Professor Pamela Fletcher) leads an exploration through the history and importance of futuristic writers of color. Photo by Ryan Johnson '19

“There is no limit to the things you can be.” This refrain, mixed with the jazzy beats of “Space is the Place” by Sun Ra & His Arkestra, greeted visitors in Whitby Hall last Thursday. That evening, English Professor Pamela Fletcher allowed students and community members to meet Kosmo Blu of Blutopia.

Presenting herself in a monochromatic scheme of blue (hair included!), Kosmo Blu (aka Fletcher) started her presentation “The Visionary Imagery of Futuristic Writers of Color” by explaining bits of this sci-fi universe she has constructed within her mind.

An accomplished writer herself, although none of her publications have been of the futuristic variety, Professor Fletcher adventured through Afrofuturism, discussing the impact and importance of futuristic writers of color throughout history. Groundbreaking authors of color hundreds of years ago built a base for artists of color to build off of in order to create literature, films, and even comics that reflect their experience that have been a mode to kindle discussion about social justice issues and race in media.

From the great works of Octavia Butler to analyzing the messages within opera classic Madame Butterfly, Fletcher brought to light the messages and realities from far off places that are wholly relevant today.

Fletcher spoke of her personal experience of not being interested in television as a child, as she “didn’t relate to anyone on the screen.” This changed when she encountered Star Trek, and was introduced to two characters of color: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, communications officer, and Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the space ship. But it was Lt. Uhura in particular, a black female in a position of power, that single handedly made Fletcher a self proclaimed “trekkie.”

“I consider the inclusion of these characters a radical act, especially during the racial turmoil of the time,” says Fletcher. “And now, in 2016, when it comes to writing ourselves into the future, writers of color are radically seizing the public imagination to construct and control the imagery of our future and our humanity in this racially-charged 21st century.”

Fletcher will be offering an English Seminar this coming spring titled, "Black to the Future: Black Fantasy and Science Fiction."

By Ryan Johnson '19