For the past year, on the second Friday of the month, groups have been gathering at Indianapolis’s Kheprw Institute to share an evening of conversation. Topics range from the hit movie Black Panther to rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.
These monthly community conversations are the heart of “Afrofuturism Fridays,” a discussion series that seeks to reexamine events of the past, critique the present-day dilemmas of the African Diaspora and create a space to imagine and dream of possible futures. Authors, artists and visionary experts on Afrofuturism help facilitate the conversations.
The idea for Afrofuturism Fridays started with the Kheprw Institute’s Maurice Broaddus and Imhotep Adisa. And, with the help of an INcommon Grant from Indiana Humanities, their idea became a reality.
“The Kheprw Institute looks at some aspect of Afrofuturism, be it book, movie, music, or visual art, and build a discussion around it,” said Broaddus. “We love literature and don’t get enough opportunities to talk about it. Yet we’ve managed to talk about the works of Octavia Butler, N. K. Jemison, Walter Mosley, Nnedi Okorafor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and many others.”
The first Afrofuturism Friday was so well-attended that it was standing room only. The topic was the Oscar-nominated film Black Panther (and the comic book on which it was based), as the term “Afrofuturism” became more widely known and used after its release.
“We discussed the history of the character in the comic book and the movie and applied the themes to what we see going on in the community today,” said Broaddus on the discussion. “It was a sometimes fraught conversation, dealing with various tensions in the community.”
The goal of the programming is to challenge Hoosiers to think about how technology and the humanities can work together to help create an innovative and better future, while keeping in mind how race, gender and other social constructs intersect.
“We learn from history, we learn from art, we learn from literature,” said Broaddus. “At the Kheprw Institute, we do people-centered work, the ‘human’ part of ‘humanities,’ and it is ideas and the room to dream for ourselves that are at the heart of what it means to create a better future.”
INcommon Grants provide Indiana nonprofits with up to $5,000 in funds to develop and implement public programs that use the humanities to look at the longer histories driving contemporary debates around immigration, gentrification, incarceration, policing, institutional racism, the legacies of segregation in housing and education, and more. The Indianapolis Foundation, a Central Indiana Community Foundation affiliate, provides funding for programs that take place in Marion County. For more information, visit www.indianahumanities.org/grants.
Indiana Humanities communications intern Marissa Weiner wrote this blog post. Marissa graduated from Butler University in 2020 with a degree in critical communication and media studies.