“Claiming Space: A Symposium on Black Futures—Past, Present, and Potential” Will Take Place Online Jan. 27–29

The Smithsonian will host “Claiming Space: A Symposium on Black Futures—Past, Present, and Potential” Jan. 27–29. This free virtual symposium is a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and National Museum of African Art.

This three-day program will include panels and keynotes about Afrofuturism, a reimagining of the past, present and future through a global Black lens. The symposium’s theme explores how the communities and individuals who build up and draw from Afrofuturism work together to claim and reclaim space—in the stories told of the past and in the visions imagined of the future. Informed by earlier generations of Afrofuturist artists and thinkers, including Sun Ra, George Clinton, Alma Thomas and Octavia Butler, panelists include scholars looking at the history of Afrofuturism and its applications to understanding the past and present, artists engaging with the future in their work today and scientists and technologists drawing upon Afrofuturism to build new inclusive tomorrows.

Learn more about each session on the “Claiming Space” website.

Full Schedule

Thursday, Jan. 27

  • 8 p.m. EST: “Space on the Page” keynote featuring sociologist and author Eve L. Ewing and Kevin Young, Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Friday, Jan. 28

  • 12:30 p.m. EST: “Aquatic Space: Water in the Afrofuturist Imagination”
  • 2:30 p.m. EST: “Terrestrial Space: Reclaiming Landscapes”
  • 8 p.m. EST: “Sonic Space: A Conversation with Vernon Reid on Music, Pop Culture, and Afrofuturism” keynote

Saturday, Jan. 29

  • 10 a.m. EST: “Cyber Space: Political Activism and Afrofuturism in the Digital Age”
  • 12 p.m. EST: “Personal Space: Afrofuturist Bodies and Beyond”
  • 2 p.m. EST: “Outer Space: Projecting Histories and Futures onto the Stars”
  • 3:30 p.m. EST: “Creative Space” keynote featuring visual artist and filmmaker Phoebe Boswell and choreographer and performer nora chipaumire in conversation with scholar Isolde Brielmaier.

The “Claiming Space” symposium is part of the Smithsonian Afrofuturism Series, where Smithsonian scholarship and collections address the topics of futurism and Afrofuturism from many angles. Not limited to fictional depictions of the future, the ongoing series examines who is imagining the future today, what the future looks like now and how issues like postcolonialism, climate change and urbanization impact that future.