Notes on 21st Century Blackness

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For the past year or so, I’ve been alluding to the need for Black people to connect in strategic ways in the 21st century. The history of blackness in the United States is complicated, tragic, messy and, yes, beautiful. Technology merely amplifies that within our different Black communities and without. As we move further in the 21st century, it’s important for us to make our moves as deliberate as we can to make sure our individual needs, wants, hopes and dreams are met and achieved. This call is tied to the ways we use the internet and how our communities engage with technology in very distinct ways.

The internet is kind of a big deal to everyone in the 21st century so far. These past 12 years we’ve seen tremendous leaps in activity over it: from governments to individuals, from institutions to grassroots. It’s both scary and exciting to watch how information spreads over these networks, to see which communities get it when (Gangnam Style is just now hitting South Los Angeles) and how that relates to the penetration of the internet in those geographical areas. It also shows how the distribution of information wealth falls.


So the internet is crucial to any 21st century strategy. I think our communities should work towards owning physical internet architecture, in addition to the web properties that sit on top of it. Pretty soon, the internet will be the primary mode of communication. It’s one thing to tell our stories; it’s another to own the networks through which they are distributed and amplified. Can you name one Black-owned mainstream media property in the United States of America? When was it founded? Who owns it now?

21st century Blackness is really about reimagining the institutions and structures that support our way of living. There’s a lot of rethinking to be done: how we fund our futures, how we feed our bodies, how we educate our minds, how we renew our spirits and more. The internet will play a huge part in all of it and the quality of our networks (digital and physical) is related to the quality and connectedness of our spirits. The internet is merely a tool for communication and information delivery. It won’t ever replace the human to human needs we have; it only amplifies them.

And currently, I sense our human connectedness is fraying and strengthening simultaneously as we adapt to the different way the internet connects us. At the same time I’m able to delight my parents with an English and Yoruba Christmas hymn, I am also deeply troubled and saddened by the recent deaths and rapes of two women in India and the increasing death toll of brown bodies on the streets of Chicago. Whether you call it ‘rape culture’ or ‘patriarchy’ or ‘monsanto’ or ‘azonto’ or ‘street fashion’: we are fragile at the same time we are resilient and creative.

21st century Blackness is also about reinforcing the connectedness of our spirits. Our 21st century Blackness cannot be owned or built without each other. Humans built the internet and other structures and institutions that liberate and oppress (sometimes at the same time) and humans of bone and muscle and flesh and spirit are building the future.

What I do with Afrolicious is rooted in seeing the humanity of Brown people and revealing it to ourselves first. Our Blackness is one of the USA’s most lucrative exports. It’s time we were strategic about owning those stories right down to the architecture that distributes it. Ownership doesn’t have to be exploitative. It can be wholly sustained by community organizing methods that have been used by our ancestors. But if we don’t know our own histories, how can we know what those methods are?

We have work to do. We’re building the future, yeah? A prediction is then a blueprint of our wants and needs based on the information we have now. What do you see for communities of color in the information age of 2013? Leave a note in the comments or send an email to info @ afrolicious . com.

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