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GIF from Janelle Monae's music video, "I Like That."

Black to the Future II: Afrofuturism Should Be Put Into Practice as Much as It's Consumed—But How?

We close out our month exploring Afrofutures with an in-depth essay on the real possibility of putting Afrofuturism into action.

"I'll love you when there's space, and time."

—Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer

Recently, I've been immersing myself in Afrofuturist ideas, culture and art more than ever, a not-so-secret, long-term act that began as stimulation and imagination, but I hope will evolve into true nerdiness. This immersion includes, but also transcends, the desire to want to see other black people in media and art; I'm looking for answers on how to be a better human, right now—in thought, in movement and in our environments.

I'm seeking a guide on how to make dreams come true. Mandates on how to influence social change, free love, sex and liberation from all isms. Commandments on conjuring up one's true self, amidst the ashes left behind from the fires of cultural standards, systemic oppression and casual discrimination. Answers and apparitions of what the future can be like, for us.

Digesting more Afrofuturist art and media has been extremely accessible lately, more than before, because its visibility has increased. What once was a niche genre that only few can pinpoint is now a pop culture movement that inspires, empowers and amazingly, sells. There have been excellent representations of Afrofuturism across the waves of pop culture this year, from the iconic Black Panther, to the proud emotion picture and album "Dirty Computer," to young adult literature like Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone and transformative art by Lina Iris Viktor and Crowezilla. These manifestations are just the beginning of a winding list of creators who are bending the lines between fact and fantasy, urging us to find the wrinkle within our realities and step into the other side of truth and self-actualization.

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Music
Janelle Monae's "Dirty Computer" album cover

Janelle Monáe’s 'Dirty Computer' Is a Battle Cry For Those of Us Who Refuse to Surrender

Janelle Monáe's latest offering sends an unfiltered message of love, inclusivity and resistance.

A computer is an electrical system that processes and encompases information, then somehow translates it into a medium that we can understand and utilize. It holds our files, our histories, our secrets, our goals. It remembers.

A computer is also a person who calculates. An intelligent being that records, internalizes and projects information and ideas. But unlike the first computer I described (the inanimate one) human computers have the gift of free will. To think, love, feel and be themselves. They never forget what authenticity is. What it is to instruct themselves, and not be manipulated by an outside force.

The metaphor of computer as human is instrumental in Janelle Monae's musical storytelling. Janelle is no stranger to teetering between the fine lines of reality and "digitalism:" for the culmination of her career, she's narrated through a mechanical protagonist—Cindi Mayweather, a cyborg who loves a human—but we had yet to truly learn who Janelle is, in our dimension.

Dirty Computer, Janelle's most personal and outspoken masterpiece to date, explores what being an unconventional, queer and authentic "computer" (a person that processes and transforms concepts, or just a creative, expressive being) means in a society that is inhumane in it's laws, standards and prejudices.

In Janelle's emotion picture and album, this translates to being a "dirty computer": when society claims that the most humanistic and natural parts of your expression, existence or love-making are an abomination. With technology rapidly advancing and social media harvesting our data and personalities, it seems inevitable that we'll become one with the digital landscape we've curated and constructed so meticulously.

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Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

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