LSA kicked off their month-long 2023 Humanities Afrofutures event on Monday, February 6 with a discussion panel titled “Local Afrofutures: Communities and Connection.” The panel was moderated by DAAS Chair Matthew Countryman and featured local activists Yodit Mesfin Johnson, Rod Wallace, and Liz Kennedy. Each talked about the ways that their respective programs help to foster and create new futures and opportunities for Black communities.  

Johnson is the president and CEO of NEW Ann Arbor, a nonprofit enterprise that focuses on helping other nonprofit organizations reach their full potential. They provide financial consulting, leadership training, and anti-racism programs. They also allow groups to rent rooms or lease offices in their Ann Arbor building, and they recently announced plans for a new collaborative space that hopes to continue bringing community groups together.  

Wallace is the educational programs coordinator at Grove studios in Ypsilanti, where he helps to provide up-and-coming Black artists with studio time through programs such as the Amplify fellowship. Through Amplify, local African-American musicians are given 40 hours of recording time in the studio, as well as skill workshops and opportunities to talk with others within the music industry. Fellows are encouraged to strengthen their communities through service projects that help to continue the growth of local music.  

Kennedy is the program manager for Allied Media Projects, a network of people based out of Detroit who use different forms of art to uplift and connect communities. Her work with the Allied Media Conference has brought creatives of all kinds together to create art that liberates groups and individuals. She has also been involved in the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program, where she advocated for climate justice within Black and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Together, the three discussed their views on Afrofuturism and the ways to bring more opportunities to Black communities. Topics ranged from technology as a tool for equality, Hip-hop culture and rest, and uplifting youth voices. Though they each had their own knowledge and experiences, they all shared one consensus: Afrofuturism is tied to everyone’s future. Though everyone has work to do on their own part, liberation happens as a community.