Afrofuturism exists as an intellectual platform for building vast, imaginative worlds, but it also fosters real, physical spaces that nurture Black creative expression. From artistic collectives formed during the Black Arts Movement of the ’60s and ’70s, to various musical, artistic, and dance communities that developed during the hip-hop of the 70s and 80s, to the formation of the Black Rock Coalition in the 80s and 90s, building real communities has been an essential element of Afrofuturism and its growth as a cultural movement.
Cultural critic Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) wrote extensively about the emerging jazz avant-garde of the 1960s, detailing the rise of “New Black Music.” Baraka noted the traditional African forms and “blues impulses” of this music, but highlighted its abstract and metaphysical qualities. This emergent free jazz movement sought new directions in sound and style and distinguished itself from its predecessors by an openness to the avant-garde and to new technologies, like the electronic fusion jazz popularized by Miles Davis.
Electric Jazz: Synthesizers
Miles Davis and members of his performing group expanded their sound by using synthesizers
Electric Jazz: Electric Valve
Miles Davis’s Electric Valve Instrument gave the trumpeter even more musical sounds to choose from while touring and recording in the 1980s.
Made up of celebrated authors, activists, and artists such as Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni, the Black Arts Movement (BAM) represented the Black avant-garde in the post-civil rights era. The artistic side of the Black Power Movement, BAM was the second great renaissance of radical Black expression following the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Producing works that examined the full spectrum of Black identity, BAM helped define the Black aesthetic by creating a cultural dialogue between African ancestral traditions and modern approaches to dance, literature, and art.
By the late 1960s, Chicago’s South Side had one of the most eclectic and vibrant jazz scenes in the country. Brimming with avant-garde artists, including the members of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AFRICobra), Chicago was home to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a musical and cooperative organization designed to “promote, foster, and nurture Black creatives and artists."