How Afrofuturism mixes science fiction and social justice

Video produced by Benjamin Michel.

The night club is in Oakland. The dance floor is packed. Streams of various colored lights illuminate the room. Wall projections show a traditionally dressed Ethiopian woman. At the center of it all is DJ Selam Bekele, an Ethiopian painter, musician, filmmaker and Afrofuturist.

Bekele described Afrofuturism, a growing artistic movement, as a mix of science fiction and social justice. The movement uses elements of fantasy and magical realism to examine narratives from the African diaspora and construct stories of the future. “I’m seeking to break through definition and break through time … to find stories that go beyond that and speak to the human spirit,” she said.

Afrofuturists are doing more work than ever in the Bay area, she said. “Afrofuturism is especially prevalent in the Bay area, and I think that it’s a response to lack of place and lack of belonging for the black community,” she said. “I think what I’m trying to do creatively is to create platforms of home and remove the stigma of not necessarily being in one place in one time, and not necessarily having one place to call home.”

Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.