The Written Image: Black Futures

From the January/February 2021 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” This is the question that editors Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham ask in the introduction to Black Futures, published by One World in December. In more than five hundred pages of poetry, artwork, memes, essays, lyrics, and other texts, Black artists speak to the “unique paradox” of the present moment: “We have never been more empowered and yet, in many ways, are still so disenfranchised.”

From the series Color(ed) Theory Suite by Amanda Williams. (Credit: Courtesy of the Artist, Amanda Williams)

Contributors include writers Eve L. Ewing and Morgan Parker, critic Wesley Morris, and artist Amanda Williams, who repaints abandoned houses in shades that mimic, for example, the purple of a Crown Royal whisky bag or the deep blue of a jar of Ultra Sheen—products long marketed to Black consumers—in her series Color(ed) Theory Suite (2014-2016). “Williams’s houses transform an otherwise bleak landscape into something rich and brilliant, and simultaneously raise an eyebrow at how colors are tethered to notions of race and class,” Wortham and Drew wrote of the art (above) in the New York Times Magazine in October. Throughout the book, “recipes,” culinary and otherwise, invite readers into the book’s project, each exercise meant “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.”