Co-written by Katrina Reid
In the 1980s there was the AIDS pandemic in Africa and the U.S. And before that, the people on the continent of Africa survived pandemics from Tuberculosis, Yellow Fever and Malaria.
Not to mention the spat of viral hemorrhagic fevers like: Lassa fever, Ebola virus disease, Rift Valley fever, Marburg virus disease and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever — highly contagious and fatal diseases, which have the theoretical
potential to become pandemics.
And yet, Africans thrive.
The Tuskegee Experiments that contributed to the rampant spread of syphilis, while not qualifying as a pandemic, was spread by the U.S. government.
There’s the current pandemic of pregnancy-related fatalities for Black mothers. Then there’s the ongoing epidemic of lead poisoning in cities like Flint, Michigan, stemming from environmental racism. And not to mention the prevailing belief that our bodies experience less pain, and the subsequent malpractice that occurs due to that bias.
And yet, Black folx in America survive.
As you continue researching, you’ll find examples of these kinds of experiences amongst Black people in the Caribbean, South America and around the world.
And yet, Black folx, the world over, continue to exist.
While other folx of various backgrounds have experienced traumas related to these and other systems, there is a unique way we as Black people experience existential threats like pandemics, including COVID-19. Navigating and adjusting to them, is embedded in our history and survival.
Afrofuturism is a way of imagining possible futures through a Black cultural lens. It offers a unique way of re-imagining a way forward.
How? Pick one of four ways:
1. Black Optimism
There’s an eternal optimism in Afrofuturist stories that you need to have. No matter what happens in the future, we’re still here. It acknowledges the expectation of our seemingly unlikely survival. Black people will live to see the future.
Take our feature film, Willow, for example.
In Willow, that optimism is played out in a revolution that happens offscreen — before the main protagonist, Willow, is born. Just as white supremacy fed on the bodies/communities of Black and Indigenous people in our reality’s past, so did the slave masters, factory owners, landlords, cops etc. feed on BIPOC folx for power in this reality. Until the tables turned. At an eventual price.
2. Black Ingenuity
Black optimism is almost synonymous with ingenuity in this sense. The unwavering belief in a brighter future for the next generation, and understanding the sacrifices/resourcefulness demanded for that liberation, is part of what motivates countless gains in our community.
The problems facing our protagonist in Willow can’t be solved with a “Macguffin.” They have to be solved by resourcefulness — working with what you have — from the political-savant-turned-savior President Sasha K. Obama II, to failing writer-turned-temp-social-media-assistant Willow.
Even in Willow, we’re able to imagine a world where we do abolish the police, albeit briefly. However, the freedom to give life and details to thought experiments/ultimate goals like abolishing the police, isn’t just liberating, it’s enlightening to those unfamiliar with these sort of complex/abstract concepts. Take it from a filmmaker: sometimes it’s better to show, rather than tell. If people can see Alternatives to Incarceration (ATIs), Cure Violence programs, Universal Housing, Harm Reduction initiatives and other restorative justice programs at work, rather than racist caricatures from conservitive pundits, then maybe we’d be having a different conversation right now.
3. Collective Organizing
The way we’re funding it is meant to exist outside of the film industry’s usual model. In other words, our success is dependent on a collective effort: we get support from both from the communities we serve, and the organizations built to serve them.
In fact, Willow is part of an initiative sponsored by a non-profit organization, The Notice Foundation, Inc., which develops and supports narratives from BIPOC/Queer/Marginalized communities.
And that’s not just through furthering representation of BIPOC in “white spaces,” but by continuing to encourage their employment in positions of power throughout the entire filmmaking process.
We’re also requiring that the production hire 90% BIPOC folx, hire locally, work safely (according to SAG-AFTRA safety guidelines) and to host an ongoing series of panel discussions and workshops for BIPOC/Queer/Marginalized folx in media.
This project is meant to serve as a guide point, a Green New Deal for Hollywood’s problem with white supremacy, queerphobia and misogyny.
Afrofuturism is about imagining a future where all of us are present. All genders. All sexualities. Every class. It’s not truly Black optimism, unless every one of us makes it to the barbecue in the future. And that concept walks hand-in-hand with intersectionality.
In the world of ‘Willow’, there’s universal healthcare — a legacy that was built on by the Obama Administration. But why is that an example of intersectionality? Because a lack of access to healthcare plagued the Black community in both realities. And yet, addressing that issue of access to healthcare in turn helped everyone — including those not targeted by medical racism.
In the same way, the concepts explored in Afrofuturist works like ‘Willow’, reveal solutions that can liberate universally.
Now imagine combining Black optimism, Black ingenuity, collective organizing and intersectionality into one story? That’s what we’re bringing to the table with ‘Willow’. And we’re not alone. This is only the beginning.
Follow our journey at: bit.ly/willowhorror
Paul A. Notice II is an Emmy Award Winning Producer, Director and Writer. Paul currently runs The Notice Foundation (aka The Notice Blog), a non-profit production company that develops narratives and documentary work from perspectives & people from marginalized communities. They’ve recently directed the “Pass Me That (Vaporizer)” music video for Grammy-nominated artist Mykal Kilgore. Right now, Paul is fundraising for their first feature film, an Afrofuturist thriller called 'Willow'.
Katrina Reid is a director and performing artist, as well as a producer at The Notice Blog. They collaborate with a range of artists, who explore performance across dance, theater, ritual, and film. Her recent credits: collaboration with Heather Hart for Queens Museum, and 1st AD for Mykal Kiglore’s “Pass Me That (Vaporizer)” music video.