Radio Atlantic: Goodbye Black History Month, Hello Black Future

Black Panther, Janelle Monáe, Tomi Adeyemi, and the Afrofuturist explosion, with Adam Serwer and Vann Newkirk

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Moviegoers across America are filling theaters to see, as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer describes it, “a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.” Wakanda, the setting of Marvel’s blockbuster film Black Panther, is suddenly everywhere, which means people the world over are seeing something that’s never had this widespread an audience: Afrofuturism.

“Blockbusters rarely challenge consensus, and Disney blockbusters even less so,” Vann Newkirk writes for The Atlantic in an essay about the film. “That’s what makes the final provocation of Black Panther so remarkable and applicable today.” But what is Black Panther’s remarkable provocation, and how does it apply to our world?

Black Panther is only one part of a sudden explosion of Afrofuturism into mainstream American culture, from a new visual concept album by Janelle Monae to Children of Blood and Bone, a forthcoming YA book series by Tomi Adeyemi that has already become part of a seven-figure deal. Adam Serwer and Vann Newkirk join our hosts to talk about what this genre encompasses, and what its newfound popularity means.