Despite the high levels of ridiculously violent and sexual content in manga/anime, the folks who participate are some of the nicest, most polite folks that I have ever met. Instead of battling constantly to hone their skills, many choose cooperate. No cliques/clans/squads on seek and destroy missions — just groups of people connecting because of their love of this wild and crazy stuff.

It would be easy to argue that hip-hop can/does perform a similar function. But there are differences.
It would be easy to argue that hip-hop can/does perform a similar function. But there are differences.

Engaging in fantasy stories that meld uber-tech and ancient myth may seem worthless, I met two brothas and a sista (who just accepted a full ride to MIT) who all speak fluent Japanese because of their love for these cultural forms. This stuff made folks voluntarily study one of the most difficult languages on this planet. While I am a hip-hop head, there is more than a little that I can do without. We can get into the silliness of an infinite regress argument about what hip-hop is and what it isn’t (not sure anyone is qualified to provide a definitive) but what can be agreed on is that there has been an enormous swath of cultural destruction done in hip-hop’s name. I will never take away or countermand the positive and amazing effects and affects that hip-hop has repeatedly imparted, but as Kool Moe Dee said, “Ya’ll ain’t living it like we lived it.”

But back to the original question.

There is more than enough African-Diaspora folk culture that American Black Folks could draw from: Every other chapter in Zora Neale Hurston’s The Sanctified Church would provide endless fodder for stories and cosplay.
There is more than enough African-Diaspora folk culture that American Black Folks could draw from: Every other chapter in Zora Neale Hurston’s The Sanctified Church would provide endless fodder for stories and cosplay.
Anything that comes from John Jennings pen is worthy of being presented on a larger African-Diaspora centered cultural canvas...
Anything that comes from John Jennings pen is worthy of being presented on a larger African-Diaspora centered cultural canvas…
Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal People needs to be a collectable card game, film, television show, and/or LARP as soon as possible.
Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal People needs to be a collectable card game, film, television show, and/or LARP as soon as possible.
Obviously.
Obviously.

Octavia E. Butler gave us some of the most important Black and Woman-centered Sci-Fi ever written. Steven Barnes’ and Tananarive Due have been putting in work for years, along with Nalo Hopkinson and others. David Walker’s new Shaft comic is a great example of what I’m getting at, as John Shaft is my generation’s Stagger Lee. Bernadin, Freeman, and Richardson’s Genius is the Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door update we need and most important social commentary, considering what is happening in our over-policed times. But these are products, and not the cohesive movement or economic and cultural powerhouse that manga/anime are.

There are the Lutte fighters in Senegal...
There are the Lutte fighters in Senegal…
...and Les Sapeurs in Brazzaville
…and Les Sapeurs in Brazzaville;
Anansi stories originating in West Africa and interpreted and presented through a Caribbean lens.
Anansi stories originating in West Africa and interpreted and presented through a Caribbean lens.

There is a wealth of African/African-American folklore and myth (which all this stuff is) that can be tapped into, but we all seem content with playing in creative sandboxes created by white men who had no intention of making their creations inclusive. Even when we laud or cosplay as Storm or Blade or Black Panther, we’re still supernaturally happy consuming table scraps.

I am not discounting the work of, say, Onyxcon or Black Science Fiction Society, and the tons of folks making art and culture from their unique ethno-cultural perspectives, but I think it is time for a hip-hop level of artistic explosion for and by black folks and other people of color. Whiteness in Sci-Fi et al should not be the default. I’m also not advocating divesting our time and interest from existing Sci-Fi, etc. There is room (and a need) for it all.

The sky is ours. The underworld is ours. There are automatons being built in the yards of Kingston. There are portals in your grandmother’s family bible. The magic is ours. Now, let’s claim it.

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7 thoughts on “It Is Time For AD (African-Diaspora) Pop [Part Two]

  1. Your plea is very heartfelt, but you need to be more specific on what artistic perspective you’d like your A.D.P. to manifest into. Manga and anime took decades to form what it is today and it specifically grew from a Japanese perspective. I recommend reading Fred Schodt’s book on the origins of manga. But it doesn’t concentrate on adult, action-packed stories. There’s an anime about college art students, another one about some youngsters who love playing jazz, and many more that are directed at kids themselves. Those play at earlier timeslots in Japan, separate from the more adult stuff.

    What you’re demanding needs to be created from a focused eye than can expand. Frankly, anybody can bring those stories above to the screen and it doesn’t have to be led by African-American artists. France has produced many notable animations with African characters and African-based stories. Nobody cared if black people were involved in its creation. Chico and Rita was directed by two Spaniards and it was great. It only applied in some cases like when Kirikou became a stage play, just like when the Lion King became a musical. One form of art expanded to include more diverse participation.

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  2. Real great post. I will most definitely re-read it. I like the comment about the Brothers and Sisters who were voluntarily studying Japanese. The speaking isn’t as hard as the reading and writing. That’s really impressive.

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