“Planet Earth: sound of guns, anger, frustration. There was no one to talk to up on planet Earth who’d understand, so we set up a colony for black people here. See what they can do on a planet all on their own, without any white people there… Another place in the universe, up under distant stars.”
So muses Sun Ra as he wanders through the imagined landscape of a distant planet in his 1974 film Space Is the Place. The film is perhaps the first thing that might come to mind when you think of Afrofuturism, representing a sort of quintessence of the ideas of a man who essentially created that movement (even if it didn’t get named as such until decades later). It unites the main ideas of Afrofuturism: interrogating the nature of racial oppression and imagining a version of the future where black people and culture are free of such oppression, in Ra’s case by decamping to another planet entirely. Afrofuturist ideals are interesting in that they’re both expressions of utopian futurism and principles deeply grounded in history — the parallels with emancipation are obvious, and the vision of the real world as a place of incessant oppression remains as depressingly true as it was 40 years ago.