Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Spotlight on our advisor Ytasha Womack, an award-winning artist and author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture.
Longpath: What is a project you've been working on recently that brings you particular joy and energy?
Ytasha: I wrote the book Eartha 2198. The story is part of my Rayla Universe, a time travel/reincarnation Afrofuturist tale of self discovery story on Planet Hope, and this story follows Eartha Mandela, one of the iconic Neo Astronauts who, in an attempt to teleport to another planet, winds up being stuck on Earth. The story is the first of three and follows her attempts to get back to her home Planet and her rise as a dream master. I'm excited about the story because it mashes sci fi with fantasy and follows a mom on a mission who has to find purpose in being lost. There's the internal struggle around realizing that there may be some purpose to being in this circumstance and an an opportunity for growth in what seems like destiny unfolds.
Longpath: What is something you've read or watched recently that's given you new visions for the future?
Ytasha: I've been reading the African American, Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz. Although the book focuses on history, I've found that history that creates new insights and explains how we arrived at our present condition also opens new windows to transforming the future. I also enjoy exploring moments of resistance and resilience in the past and connecting the dots to transformations today.
Longpath: What does it mean to you to live like a good ancestor?
Ytasha: I recognize that there are people who lived lives before me and will live lives beyond me. In that sense, I stand as a bridge between times, standing as a link between two worlds. It's my responsibility to take my unique moment in time and channel the best of the past and the best of the future as it relates to my work to create a refreshed present. I believe in nonlinear time, a tenant in Afrofuturism. As a result I am aware that I can be influenced by the so called past and future equally. I explore this idea frequently in my Rayla Universe series.
Longpath: Who is someone from your past whose ways of thinking, being, and behaving inspire you?
Ytasha: I've always been fascinated by women who live lives that appear to be out of time. They defy the assumptions of the time and yet are very much of their times. I admire women who live lives unique to themselves. Ida B. Wells, the journalist who started an International Anti Lynching Campaign; Katherine Dunham, the anthropologist and dancer who studied dances in the Caribbean and Latin America and created a dance company that became a foundation for contemporary dance; and Eartha Kitt, the actress, activist, dancer who reinvented herself and lived a life not typical of black women of her time.
Longpath: If you were writing a letter to future generations, what's one question or idea you'd want to share?
Ytasha: I would emphasize the importance of valuing humanity. They have a great opportunity unique to their time to tap inner gifts. They should uncover these gifts and work to help humanity knowing they are part of a long trajectory of people exploring the passion that fuels them. Acknowledge those in the past and the future who walk similar paths.