I have an otherworldly memory from my young boyhood in Kingston, Jamaica. This was in the late 70s, and our family had recently moved there from New York City. I was navigating so many cultural shifts. It was Christmas time (my first without snow), and we were walking through a shopping plaza. Through the crowd, I heard a lively, hypnotic African drum pattern with a staccato flute or “fife” punctuating it. I looked towards the source of the sound and gasped. A small menagerie of bizarre humanoids were dancing by. I gaped at them. One had bull horns on their head, another was a dancing patchwork quilt of whirling multicolored flaps of cloth, and yet another had a horse’s head. They were all very colorful, and completely outlandish. No human faces could be seen. Neither I nor my younger sister had context for any of this. These entities seemed to have just danced through a portal from another dimension. My sister and I looked quizzically at each other and shrunk closer to my parents.“What’s that?” I asked.“Oh, that’s Jonkanoo,” Dad said with a smile. That didn’t help me understand the surreal scene, but it let me know that this was a known phenomenon that people were familiar with, and it had a name. So I wasn’t hallucinating. I looked around and saw other children cautiously stepping back; other smiling adults; and a lot of people just kinda going about their business like nothing unusual was happening. I learned later that Jonkanoo comes from a mixture of Akan (Ghana) and Yoruba (Nigeria) masquerade dance traditions, and is celebrated around Christmas time in Jamaica, as well as other Caribbean countries. But at that moment, I felt like I had been transported through the looking glass into the West African/Jamaican version of “Alice In Wonderland.”
All over social media, Cosby rape apologists are passionately decrying his conviction. It doesn’t seem to matter that he admitted to putting Quaaludes in the drinks of the 62 women he violated. He framed drugging the women in a cavalier manner because apparently everyone used to do ‘ludes in the 60s. You know, no big deal. He just forgot that really essential part of allowing the women to consent to drugs and sex before chemically rendering them immobile and unable to say yes or no. He even joked about slipping mickeys in women’s drinks in a 1969 comedy routine. He clearly felt an unquestioned entitlement to these women’s bodies. And somehow, the voices of 62 women are eclipsed to many by the perspectives of one powerful man who wanted to drug women and assault them, but not have any consequences for those actions.
Anyone familiar with Pepe Le Pew from the Looney Tunes cartoon menagerie will get the same image in their head. A male skunk merrily bouncing towards a terrified female black cat who had the misfortune of somehow getting a white stripe painted along her back. The premise: Pepe thinks she is a female skunk now, which apparently makes it okay to relentlessly harass her, despite the most desperate of refusals and uber-clear non-verbal cues from the cat. Each episode is the same: Pepe nonchalantly stalks her for the whole show, flirting with a French accent, tries to hold her against her will and kiss her, while the cat scrambles out of his arms time and time again, scrambling for sanctuary from her insistent, clueless pursuer. It doesn't help that Pepe is a stinky skunk whose scent wilts flowers as he walks by. Occasionally, the cat will retaliate by laying in wait around a corner with a large mallet, or maybe perhaps rig up an Acme anvil to drop on Pepe’s head. Even after being smashed in the head by the cat, Pepe doesn’t get it. He smiles and says in his thick faux French tones, “flirt.”
Afrofuturism is fast becoming the Harlem Renaissance of the 21st century. Ingrid LaFleur, who ran for mayor of Detroit on an Afrofuturist platform, defines Afrofuturism: