I sent the below email today to my first year students explaining why I cannot deliver my intended ‘Afro-Futurism’ lecture just yet. It is important to be honest, direct and transparent with our students because as Black scholars, lecturers and educators we need to prioritise our mental and emotional health, even if that means withdrawing our labour.
The original email involved correspondence between a student of Colour and I, who then urged me to send this to their entire cohort.
Dear Stage 1,
I hope this email finds you well.
I would like to explain and respond to a query raised by a fellow student, asking, ‘where is the afro-futurism lecture? Part of my reply is in direct response to them but also to foster a culture of transparency to you all.
In this current time of global unrest sparked by Black Lives Matter movement, not fully disclosing would be dishonest to hers and perhaps your own query. More importantly, I do not want to deny how I truly I feel; this is because oppression functions on dishonesty, lack of transparency and non-truth telling. Oppressive cultures also aims to disconnect you from your body and feelings as being divorced or existing separately from our social reality i.e. propagating ‘distance’ and ‘objectivity’ as positions to be upheld within academia.
So, why is the ‘afro-futurism’ lecture not yet uploaded, a completely valid question to ask? Truth be told, I cannot bring myself to teach a lecture that requires me to pretend or give the impression that I have hope for myself as a Black person and for Black people more widely. Afro-Futurism is lecture that aims to connect the historic and contemporary oppression Black people experience and to imagine/dream of a future where our liberation is possible. With the current events taking place regarding the disposability of Black life, I am genuinely concerned if there will be Black people in the future. In the UK Black people are 4 times more likely to die from Covid-19, in the USA Black people are 3 times more likely to die from Covid. I also live in the London borough of Newham, it is one of the most economically deprived boroughs in the UK, with one of the highest populations of People of Colour and also the borough with the highest Covid related deaths in the UK.
And then we have police brutality and the gruesome death of George Floyd. George Floyd death and the countless others (Brazil has one of the world’s death rates of Black people by the police) have haunted me these last few weeks and many Black people. As your only Black lecturer, , to do a lecture which requires a suspension of belief that Black people have a future where our current reality is dominated by our hyper mortality and necro politics. Thinking about doing this lecture literally fills me up with dread and anxiety because poor Black (and Brown) people are dying due to systemic racism. I am unsure what the threats on my life will be from a day to day basis will it be medical racism or police brutality?
I know there is sentiment of disappointment regarding disruption to your learning this year due to the strikes and online learning, I am mindful I have now contributed to this feeling. However, I hope you can appreciate where I am coming from and apologies if you were looking forward to the lecture, in theory I was too. On Stage 2 there will be opportunities to teach this lecture (Unit 8 and 10) perhaps it will be best for a later date when I am in a much better headspace.
If would like to know more about either Black Lives Matter or Afro-Futurism, please see the resources below.
Thank you for understanding,
Pumzi [short film]
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter UK: https://www.lazyoaf.com/blogs/story/black-lives-matter-resources