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Current Exhibition

Earthseed: Afrofuturistic Visions

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”-George Washington Carver, scientist

This exhibit was inspired by the concept of Afrofuturism and its presence at the University of Michigan.“Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.     “I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator, and Afrofuturist.― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture 2013Reflected in the life and works of such figures as Octavia Butler, Sojourner Truth, Sun Ra, and Janelle Monáe, Afrofuturism was coined by Mark Dery in 1993 but birthed in the minds of enslaved Africans who prayed for their lives and the lives of their descendants along the horrific Middle Passage. Taylor Crumpton “Afrofuturism Has Always Looked Forward” Architectural Digest 8.24.2020It envisions bold, brave possibilities and describes a far-ranging genre combining science fiction, fantasy, and history to imagine a liberated future from a Black perspective.
The title is taken from the Earthseed series of books by Octavia Butler, a science fiction writer and recipient of Hugo and Nebula awards whose daring prose has resulted in many regarding her as the mother of Afrofuturism. Influenced by the writing of Toni Morrison and Samuel Delany, Butler’s works such as Kindred and the Patternist and Xenogenesis series spoke to themes such as Black injustice, climate change, time travel, and hierarchical systems in illuminating and innovative ways.  

The art displayed in the exhibit blossomed from the imaginations of our students. Over the summer of 2022, upon emerging from a pandemic that shook our planet to its core, staff from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies engaged in a number of sessions where students of  African descent created vision boards to express their goals and dreams for the future. They wished to proudly display the gifts they brought to the university community as they prepared for the upcoming school year. In the face of all they had endured over the past few years, they stood ready to proclaim in the words of author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist Grace Lee Boggs:“Another world is necessary. Another world is possible. Another world is happening.” 

"The new dawn blooms as we free it / For there is always light, / if only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it." Amanda Gorman

Curators: Elizabeth James and Danielle Williams

Curatorial Assistance: Chanelle Davis, Shivangi Puthiyedath, Sadaf Inamdar

Design: Helen Garbarino

Narrators: Elizabeth James and Sloane Campbell

Visual and Audio Tour Experience

Click the buttons below to be guided through this exhibition. Click the "+" to expand the sections.   

Sessions #1 and #2

The first and second sessions were held on July 16, 2022, during the Summer Bridge Scholars Program (SBSP) Wellness Conference. The Department of Afroamerican and African Studies offered two breakout sessions during the Wellness Conference entitled Mirror, Mirror: Reflecting on the Superhero in YOU! The breakout sessions were designed to be connected to an area defined by the U of M model of wellness. Over 100 participants were engaged in decorating reflective sheets with words of affirmation as they entered the university’s student body.  

Session #3

The third set of vision boards was created for this exhibit on August 9, 2022. Every summer the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) hosts the Summer Bridge Scholars Program (SBSP) for incoming first-year students. In addition to SBSP scholars taking classes during the program, they were paired with a unit or department on campus based on their interests and met weekly with their connection to learn more about that office's mission. During the summer of 2022, Elizabeth James and Chanelle Davis hosted 12 scholars and led an interactive workshop series titled "Sankofa: Learning from the Past to Define Your Future." Over five weeks, the students explored social identities, the history of Black studies, and the power of storytelling and oral traditions. Scholars wrapped up the Campus Connection by forecasting their experience at the University of Michigan with vision boards. 

Session #4

The fourth set of vision boards was created on August 31, 2022. The Department of Afroamerican and African Studies offered a Vision Board workshop during Black Welcome Week. A small, but dedicated group of students and staff gathered to generate a set of vision boards to celebrate their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year.

Session #5

The fifth set of vision boards was created on September 10, 2022. The Black Student Union Executive Board at the University of Michigan held its annual retreat and as a bonding activity designed vision boards to assist them in setting goals for the year. Upon completion, the BSU E Board engaged in a lively discussion about their vision of themselves and their futures.

Mizan by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Title: Mizan

Artist: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Donation by the Institute for the Humanities

Part of the To Be Heard, public mural projectSeptember 28-October 16, 2022Locations: Angell Hall, Trotter Multicultural Center, Modern Languages Building, Shapiro Library and the University of Michigan’s Central Campus.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh utilized community engagement, public art, and social practice to listen to and amplify the voices of marginalized groups, particularly women and non-white students at U-M. Through class workshops and interviews, Fazlalizadeh engaged with Black and brown, queer, and women-identified students on the ways that they experience race and gender on campus, and explored how students are treated based on their identities. The engagement culminated in four oversized murals to be installed on Angell Hall, the Modern Languages Building, Shapiro Undergraduate Library, and Trotter Multicultural Center. There were also several cutouts of life-size drawings, including this one,  posted in the ground on central campus.