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Black Futures

Black Futures

by Kimberly Drew, Jenna Wortham

Narrated by Kevin R. Free, Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin

Unabridged — 11 hours, 11 minutes

Kimberly Drew

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Overview

An archive of collective memory and exuberant testimony
A luminous map to navigate an opaque and disorienting present
An infinite geography of possible futures

What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?

Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham have brought together this collection of work-essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more-to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today. The audiobook presents a succession of startling and beautiful pieces that generate an entrancing rhythm: Listeners will go from conversations with activists and academics to memes and Instagram posts, from powerful essays to insightful infographics.

In answering the question of what it means to be Black and alive, Black Futures opens a prismatic vision of possibility for every listener.

*This audiobook includes a PDF of contributor biographies from the book.


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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Scaachi Koul

The book's curators, Kimberly Drew [and]…Jenna Wortham, advise that "like us, this book is not linear," nor is it meant to be read as such; you can enter and exit the project on whatever pages you choose. This freedom creates a literary experience unlike any I've had in recent memory—once you start reading Black Futures, you are somehow endlessly reading it, even long after you've devoured every page…With contributions from Black creators like Kiese Laymon and Solange Knowles, Samantha Irby and Hanif Abdurraqib, Black Futures succeeds in answering the incredibly heady question it poses for itself: What does it mean to be a Black person around the world, then, now or in the future?

Publishers Weekly

09/21/2020

Curator Drew and New York Times Magazine writer Wortham probe the meaning of Black identity and offer a “series of guideposts” to the future of the Black experience in this multifaceted and visually arresting anthology of essays, poems, and art. Political activist De’Ara Balenger energetically details the fight against voter suppression and the rise of current Black progressives including Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, while photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier combines text and image in her devastating portrait of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich. Other pieces highlight LGBTQ and Afro-Indigenous subcultures in the Black community, explore how agricultural knowledge passed down by enslaved Africans has provided sustenance and empowerment to Black Americans, incisively analyze the White House portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, showcase Black avatars from the video game The Sims, and ask, “what does it mean to teach history if Whiteness is not centralized in the classroom?” Bold graphics, vibrant artwork in a plethora of styles and media, and contributions from activists, scholars, and journalists across a wide range of experiences and perspectives showcase the multidimensionality of Black voices in America. This unique and imaginative work issues a powerful call for justice, equality, and inclusion. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Nov.)

From the Publisher

A dynamic mixed-media exhibition of Black creativity and culture . . . The work is vivid, juicy, thick—as fecund as all of Black culture—and equal parts anthology, scrapbook, and art xhibition. The editors and contributors make clear the ‘infinite’” nature of Blackness via more than 500 crammed pages of essays, art, interviews, and ephemera. . . . A must-own compendium illustrating the richness, joy, and power of the modern Black experience.”Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)
 
 “An intriguing and beautiful book meant to inspire . . . Punctuated throughout with photography and other artwork and using vibrant colors smartly, the book is as interesting visually as intellectually. In their introduction, the editors state that one of their intentions with this book ‘is to encourage readers to follow their interests into a deep warren of rabbit holes and discoveries.’ They succeed; every reader will engage with this work differently, and will be able to come back to it again and again for inspiration.”Booklist (starred review)
 
“[A] multifaceted and visually arresting anthology of essays, poems, and art . . . Bold graphics, vibrant artwork in a plethora of styles and media, and contributions from activists, scholars, and journalists across a wide range of experiences and perspectives showcase the multidimensionality of Black voices in America. This unique and imaginative work issues a powerful call for justice, equality, and inclusion.”Publishers Weekly

Library Journal

★ 11/01/2020

Edited by writer Drew and journalist Wortham, this collection brings together wide-ranging, often experimental writing and art responding to the question: "What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?" Contributions are gathered into overarching and overlapping topics, including Black Lives Matter, Black futures, power, joy, justice, ownership, memory, outlook, Black is (still) beautiful, and legacy. Selections include essays, interviews, dialogs, photography, recipes, poetry, video and film stills, plays, digital art, drawings, paintings, screenshots, and much more. Both the individual contributions and the book as a whole are nonlinear, playing with Western conceptions of linearity, temporality, and progress, incorporating linking and intertextuality to speak with themselves, readers, and others. Because of this, the book lends itself to reading in many ways. Many of the entries, such as Eve L. Ewing's "Affirmation" and Akinola Davies Jr. and Cyndia Harvey's "This Hair of Mine" span just a few pages, so the book can be read in small bites. Readers will find themselves noting passages to revisit and contributors whose other work they wish to seek out. VERDICT A significant offering for its timely, accessible documentation of writing, artwork, and thought around Black lives and Black futurity.—Monica Howell, Northwestern Health Sciences Univ. Lib., Bloomington, MN

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2020-11-05
A dynamic mixed-media exhibition of Black creativity and culture.

“What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” Born of a social media exchange between curator and activist Drew and New York Times Magazine staff writer Wortham, this unique collaboration seeks to answer that question. The work is vivid, juicy, thick—as fecund as all of Black culture—and equal parts anthology, scrapbook, and art exhibition. The editors and contributors make clear the “infinite” nature of Blackness via more than 500 crammed pages of essays, art, interviews, and ephemera organized around broad themes that include “Power,” “Joy,” and “Black is (Still) Beautiful.” The “Invited to the Cookout” section features pictures of the social media posts that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement and a survival guide instructing “How To Survive a Police Riot,” which includes useful, pointed directives—e.g., “Be alert for spies and paid agents….Do not respond to unknown calls for action of mass meetings. Act as if your life depended on everything you do.” In “Power,” we learn about Dust II Onyx, a tarot deck that lovingly mines the power of Black custom and imagery, as well as the inventive legacy of African farmers: “Our ancestral grandmothers in the Dahomey region of West Africa braided seeds of okra, molokhia, and Levant cotton into their hair before being forced to board transatlantic slave ships.” Ziwe Fumudoh explores how the Twitter hashtag #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies revealed the unique humor and tradition of a Black holiday, and Teju Cole offers an essay about the photography of Roy DeCarava, who captured the civil rights movement with contemplative pictures that played with the shadow and light of Black skin. In addition to introducing readers to numerous unknown artists, the editors of the volume include a host of luminaries: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Samantha Irby, Dawoud Bey, Hanif Abdurraqib, Zadie Smith, and Kiese Laymon.

A must-own compendium illustrating the richness, joy, and power of the modern Black experience.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173206497
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 12/01/2020
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

Welcome to Black Futures, the first iteration of “The Black Futures Project” by co-editors Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. 

“The Black Futures Project” started a few years ago as a Direct Message exchange on Twitter and has evolved into a shared desire to archive a moment. In developing Black Futures, we sought to answer the question: What does it mean to be Black and alive right now? 

We sought to make sense of our unique paradox: We have never been more empowered and yet, in many ways, are still so disenfranchised. Social media has granted Black folks a platform to tell our own stories, but it has also made us subject to a new brand of surveillance and unprecedented co-option. How can we find innovative ways to define ourselves, for ourselves, without fear of erasure or the deterioration of the Internet? We feel part of a long lineage of projects, artists, activists, thinkers, and creators centered on the Black experience. We consider Fire!! magazine, The Black Book, The Black Woman: An Anthology, Conditions: Five: The Black Women’s Issue, the work of Kathleen Collins, and 9 More Weeks by Sinazo Chiya as some of our most influential elders.

Black Futures is not designed to be a comprehensive document. Blackness is infinite—a single book cannot attempt to contain the multitudes and multiverse. This is just one manifestation of a project that spans millennia. We are in a continuum of those who came before and those who will come after and make a dent in the archival project that is required of us as humans on this planet. We strove to nod to those we admire who are making history, and those taking history and doing something anew with it. We aimed for a perspective that was global, atemporal, not dominated by America and the West, not constructed by binaries, and as dynamic as possible for a print book.

We invite you to read this book alongside a device so you can search out names and terms that intrigue you. See where they lead. Our intention is to encourage readers to follow their interests into a deep warren of rabbit holes and discoveries. This is not an art book. This is not a scholarly journal. This book is a series of guideposts for current and future generations who may be curious about what our generation has been creating during time defined by social, cultural, economic, and ecological revolution.

Like us, this book is not linear. Like us, this book lives and breathes beyond temporal Western frameworks. There is no past, present, or future, nor is there a beginning, middle, or end. Start where you please. This book was brilliantly designed by Jonathan Key and Wael Morcos to have its own geography, a map that can be navigated however you see fit. There are color schemes and indices throughout to serve as tools, but we did not want to subject the material to a major order, or any suggestion of a hierarchy. This is an invitation to create Black futures alongside us. For example, throughout the book, there are geometric symbols designed by Megan Tatem that resemble a fractal teacup. Those indicate recipes, or instructions, for you to consider implementing beyond our book.

Our process: We worked together and independently to collect these submissions. On these pages you’ll find screenshots, original essays, manifestos, memes, artworks, poems, song lyrics, recipes, and creations of all types. Themes in this book will provoke you, entice you, enrage you, spark joy, and call you to action. Some of the connections are obvious, but many are not. We think that that’s okay. Wherever possible, everything in this book was made by Black hands. 

As you read, you may notice that some pages of the book are different colors. We made this choice with intention. Each color indicates a subgenre or theme that guided our collection process. Additionally, we wanted to ensure that there was as little white space as possible within the book. Pages that are yellow feature some key wisdom or observations of trends on social media. Pages that are black include prophetic prose and poetry. White pages indicate incendiary essays and artworks. You will also notice green pages, with a special geometric symbol designed by Megan Tatem, which indicate recipes. In some cases, it might be a recipe for something edible, like Pierre Serrao’s coconut bread recipe on page 452. In others, it might be guidelines for how to start your own Black art collection—see page 316. We invite you to see these pieces as exercises to inspire you beyond the book, to care for yourself, to start an archive, and to feed you as you create your own Black Futures.

Thank you for trusting us enough to come on the journey with us. 

In light, love, and solidarity.

Customer Reviews