One of the Problems in Afrofuturism is the lack of Afrocentric Black Superheroes.
The lack of Afrocentric Black heroes in Afrofuturism may possibly stem from the fact that the Black Superheroes in Afrofuturim appear to be a means for the assimilation or inclusion of the Black Diaspora in established Western Science Fiction Narratives.
This can be seen from the success of movies like Black Panther where the truly Afrocentric Hero, Killmonger is potrayed as a Villain.
In most instances, Black Superhero Characters in Afrofuturism and Science Fiction in general simply exist as an exercise in ethnic diversity.
The desire for Black people in the Diaspora to see Black Superheroes reflecting themselves in Western Society as a recognition of Ethnic diversity is evident in this passage:
“…all a result of the obvious absence of people of Color in the fictitious past/future-that seeds were planted in the imaginations of countless Black Kids who yearned to see themselves in warp-speed Spaceships too..” (Ytasha L. Womack In “Afrofuturism: The World Of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture”.)
The above quote is taken from the opening chapter of the Book ‘Evolution of A Space Cadet’ in which the Author describes her childhood fascination with ‘Star Wars’ expressed in her dressing up as Princess Leia on Halloween.
However, due to the absence of substantive Black Characters in Sci-Fi, she always felt the lingering feeling of exclusion because of a lack of Black representation in American Science Fiction.
The drive to create Black Superheroes in Afrofuturist works therefore came at least in part, from the desire to fill the Black representation gap within American Sci-Fi.
To my mind, this raises the question whether the Black Superheroes in Afrofuturism are simply an exercise in filling the Pop Culture gap, or on a more fundamental level, if they are an extension of the struggle for Political integration from Slavery symbolised by the Civil Rights Movement into the Cultural realm?
There can be no doubt that the problem of Black underrepresentation in Sci-Fi is a legitimate cause of concern.
Part of Black Panther’s success is that it catered directly to the need for Black people to see Black Superheroes that represented them on Film.
However, the question remains whether in the final analysis the Black Superheroes of Afrofuturism amount to more than a struggle for inclusion within the Framework of established Sci-Fi narratives or whether they actually articulate an Afrocentric worldview which contributes to the Science Fiction Genre.
From this perspective, the Black superheroes of Afrofuturism’s ‘Afro-aesthetic’ are at least in part a Cultural device for inclusion in the narrative of the dominant Western Science Fiction Genre rather than an effort to redefine Science Fiction from an Afrocentric perspective.
As a result, the lack of Afrocentric Black Superheroes in Afrofuturism means Black Superheroes in Afrofuturism must exist to do more than include the Black diaspora as Participants in Eurocentric Science Fiction narratives.
It would perhaps be useful to remember that Afrofuturism’s aspirations should not be limited merely to Cultural inclusion via an Afro-aesthetic guise, but also to actively broaden the underlying narratives and issues within Sci-Fi in order to re-imagine the Science Fiction genre through an Afrocentric lens where it is valuable to do so.
As a result of these drawbacks in Black Diaspora Afrofuturism, there is an emerging movement in African Futurism which seeks to use Science Fiction as a means for imagining Black Futures beyond the limitations or desires engendered by Western Society .
All in all, Ytasha L. Womack’s “Afrofuturism: The World Of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture” remains a seminal work on Afrofuturism, and if you havent read it you can get it on Amazon here.