Literature

The Afrofuturist Books That Should Become Movies—and the Actors Who Should Star in Them

We decided to give the industry a head start on which Afrofuturist film adaptations should go into production and who to hire. You're welcome.

African and diaspora writers have been producing excellent fantasy and sci-fi for a long while now. Great authors like Octavia Butler and Nnedi Okorafor have been churning out good reads for years, and it is mind boggling how many novels written by such talent are yet to be adapted into films, like many of the works of their white counterparts.


Riveting titles like An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, and The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord, have made their mark in the genres of fantasy and sci-fi even beyond the genre of Afrofuturism. Black Panther is hopefully just the beginning of futuristic stories that center Africans. Its success is a huge indication that people are ready for more—and have been ready for a long time.

Our list of Afrofuturist books that should be made into films and the talents we think should star in them is not only an exercise of using our imaginations, but also a subtle nudge to the artists we know can handle the projects.

View the full list below.

1. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

For years, this classic has been read by the masses, its influential pages have been brought into school districts across the states, and copied by other storytellers throughout film and TV. Kindred tells the story of African American writer Dana, who is sucked back in time to a Maryland plantation before the Civil War. As Dana travels back and forth, readers are able to get an in depth exploration through slavery and its effects, while also becoming addicted to finding how Dana navigates her colliding worlds while also trying to ensure her existence in the future.

With that said, who better to play Dana than actress Condola Rashad?

Rashad is known for her amazing performances on broadway. She is the youngest actress to have received four Tony awards. She takes after her Queen mother, Phylicia Rashad so honestly, there's no surprise. If you catch her in the Showtime series, Billions, you will see she plays a character very similar to Dana. Although her character in Billions is more mischievous than Dana, Rashad carries a softness to her and a personality to fall in love with.

2. Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkins

Although Caribbean-Canadian filmmaker Sharon Lewis created the prequel to this title with her directorial debut, Brown Girl Begins, she set the stage for the next film which would be Brown Girl In The Ring. Hopkins created a fantastical dystopian world where we meet the unfortunate impoverished residents of Toronto who are ruled by a drug lord. Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother rise as leaders of their people with the help of spiritual magic to save their people from complete moral destruction.

We've already seen Black-Canadian actress, Mouna Traoré perfectly embody Ti-Jeanne, Measha Brueggergosman as Mama Ache, and Emmanuel Kabongo as Tony, so we'll just leave the OGs alone. However, we can fantasize about Nigerian-British Actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim as drug-dealer Rudy Sheldon. Best known for his roles in Black Sails, Hotel Rwanda, and Pirates of the Caribbean, Kazim can be cunning, intimidating, and strangely difficult to hate even when playing a villain.

3. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

This African folklore fantasy novel tells the intertwining stories of an alien ambassador, Ayodele, and three human protagonists. The protagonists, Adaora, a marine biologist, Nigerian soldier Agu, and Ghanaian hip-hop artist Anthony, each have different encounters with Ayodele as events unfold in the novel's riveting three-act structure. When Earth comes in contact with an alien fleet, violence ensues before the establishment of a post-capitalist Nigeria governed by aliens and their human subjects. Yet in all of the chaos, we discover each of the protagonists have supernatural abilities. If made into a film, this production would likely fall under big-budget blockbuster, and we've got just the right people in mind to do it the right way.

Zoe Kravitz is definitely an ideal Adaora.

Zoe can play a sweet, independent, and perceptive genius–traits of Adaora. Besides, she already has experience in the dystopian/sci-fi genre from starring in the adapted Divergent series. After the upcoming realistic sci-fi action film, Kin, she'll be especially down for this role.

Dayo Okeniyi would make the perfect, Agu.

Nigerian actor, Okeniyi has been incognito for way too long. He is most known for playing the fierce yet compassionate warrior-survivalist, Thresh, in The Hunger Games. He is definitely equipped to play the superhuman Nigerian soldier.


4. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

Think Game of Thrones but with the diversity everyone wishes existed a bit more. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a fantastical story about heiress, Yeine Darr, whose seat on the throne is compromised by her two cousins. Darr must face her opposition and the powerful enslaved gods they wield, all while solving her mother's abrupt murder. Luckily, this novel is the first installment of The Inheritance Trilogy, so the journey is not cramped into just one book. With that said, we wouldn't be upset if the series expanded into three films either.

After following Darr's story, it is hard to imagine anyone else but British-Guyanese actress, Letitia Wright, to star as Darr. We think its time to see her actively siege a throne.

For kicks, we highly suggest Ghanaian-British director, Amma Asante to direct this film, and master of drama, Shonda Rhimes to join the project. Asante is known for period pieces that tell the stories of black women who have been outcast by their families and communities, and Rhimes, who also has experience with period pieces. They're a perfect match.


5. My Soul To Keep by Tananarive Due

My Soul To Keep is a beautiful, scary, thrilling, supernatural love story– a must read. This first installment from Due's African Immortals trilogy tells the story of Jessica, a mother, and unbeknown to her, wife of an immortal being named David. When people closest to her become victims of murder, the veil over her normal world is torn down when she finds her very soul is at stake.

We think How to Get Away With Murder, and The Birth of A Nation's, Aja Naomi King would make a great Jessica. She would effectively play a strong-willed, compassionate woman, and it would be nice to see her star as a lead in an action, horror film.

6. After The Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun

After the Flare is the second installment to Olukotun's series. After you read the first title, Nigerians in Space, and move on to this second novel, you'll see why we highlighted this book as something that needs to get the green-light. This juicy, political thriller, is set in a dystopian future where an enormous solar flare crashes on Earth and disseminates most of the world's access to technology. The Nigerian Space Program's mission to getting a stranded astronaut back home seems impossible when its bickering, ambitious crew members discover an ancient artifact on site, which then summons supernatural forces. In the midst of the chaos, the terrorist extremist group, Boko Haram are on the move to obtaining the station's inventory. After the Flare explores space exploration, religion, and identity, and gives an interesting perspective on the fall of our current government.

We shook up our 8-ball and concluded that protagonist, Kwesi Bracket absolutely has to be played by Tobagonian actor, Winston Duke. I think we can all agree that after Black Panther, he needs his own film, and seeing him in a three film installment as a hero would be quite satisfying.

Zubaydah Bashir is a filmmaker and writer from South Orange, NJ. Follow her on Instagram @zu_thecute and visit her website to indulge in her blog and find out about her latest film and tv projects.

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These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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