'...to take root among the stars.'
"The destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars."
This proclamation, at once direct and mysterious, is one of the central tenets of Earthseed, the religion created by a Black teenager named Lauren Oya Olamina in the seminal Octavia Butler novel Parable of the Sower. The fictional Lauren and the real-life Butler share something in common—a propensity for extending the wisdoms of Black girlhood and Black womanhood into a prophetic vision of a future, one that doesn't eschew or whitewash the entanglements of the present world—of identity, of loss and sorrow, of the tiny acts of creation in which we engage every day just to survive—but embraces them. And it is this type of quiet-but-mighty prophesy that also characterizes the work of multidisciplinary artist Krista Franklin, whose impact on the worlds of Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism is immeasurable.
In my own life, too, Franklin's impact is immeasurable. As I watched her, awed, from the vantage point of my adolescence in Chicago, she was the first Black woman contemporary artist to ever enter my consciousness, the first person from whom I heard the term "Afrofuturism." Hearing that word was like learning the phrase déjà vu for the first time—that revelatory moment when something you've known intimately is newly articulated to you. In my growing up, I had longed to reconcile Blackness with the themes and images I so loved in the literature and popular culture dealing with speculative or fantastic worlds: themes of the epic, of the infinitely unknowable universe, of non-linear time, of the future, of the strange things that lurk beneath our immediately-accessible consciousness. Franklin's work surfaces these slippages of reality, revisits tropes of Black womanhood in the last century to grant us a vision of the next one, and makes legible the near-invisible threads that tether us to the stars.
Eve Ewing is a poet and sociologist of education. She earned a BA from the University of Chicago, an MAT from Dominican University, and an MEd and PhD from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, was published by Haymarket Books...