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Before Dawn: W.E.B. Du Bois, a Pioneer and Advocate of Afrofuturism

With Molefi Kete Asante, Sheree Renée Thomas and Peggy Piesche

Part of "THE COMET – 150 years W.E.B. Du Bois"

Contrary to the widespread Eurocentric idea that Africa and the inhabitants of that continent had no history or could not have an independent future, W.E.B. Du Bois always stressed the significance of Africa for the future of the world. At the beginning of the 20th century alleged technological progress and the industrialization of European metropolises associated with it led to global white dominance, and people of color were forced to contribute to its wealth. Modern thought placed black people outside humanity, where they lost their individuality and identity. By integrating the past, present and future of Africa into his academic, political and cultural discourses, Du Bois set the course for Afrofuturism, a discourse in which alternative worlds can be newly negotiated in relation to racism and social belonging by means of elements from science fiction. But Afrofuturism is about much more than reconquering the past, it is also about redefining the past of the future.

In his keynote, the renowned Afrocentrist and activist Molefi Kete Asante will present his idea that centres Africans in their own narratives and forms the starting point for Afrofuturism. Afterwards Natasha A. Kelly, in conversation with him, the science-fiction author Sheree Renée Thomas, and the Afro-German literary scholar Peggy Piesche, will speak of the significance of W.E.B. Du Bois’s works and effects for an Afro-diasporic future in Germany.

The evening will come to a close by announcing the winners of the writing competition “Prophets of Wakanda,” in cooperation with the project “Indaba” from EOTO e.V., at which the best Afrofuturist short stories by Berlin youth will be awarded prizes. EOTO e.V. is a place in Berlin-Wedding for research on Afro-diasporic literature, philosophy and culture. Dela Dabulamanzi and Lara-Sophie Milagro by LABEL NOIR will present the texts, accompanied with music by Jokaa.

Molefi Kete Asante is an activist and intellectual, currently professor and chairman of the department for Africology at Temple University, USA. He is also the president of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies and Professor Extraordinarius at the University of South Africa. Asante has published 84 books, including “The American Demagogue, Revolutionary Pedagogy”, “The History of Africa”, “Classical Africa”, “An Afrocentric Manifesto”, “The Afrocentric Idea”, “As I Run Toward Africa”; “African Pyramids of Knowledge”; “Facing South to Africa”. In addition he has published more than 500 articles and is considered the most published African-American intellectual of our time, as well as one of the most prolific authors of the African world.

Sheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning writer, poet and editor from Memphis, USA. She is the author of “Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press)”. In 2016 she received the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2016 and her Shotgun Lullabies (2011) were described as “a revelation”. Thomas has edited two volumes of black speculative fiction called “Dark Matter”, which first categorized W.E.B. Du Bois’s work as science fiction, and has won two World Fantasy Awards. Her works have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals, including Apex Magazine, Callaloo, FIYAH, Jalada, Strange Horizons und Harvard's Transition. She is the associate editor of “Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora” (Illinois State University, Normal) and co-editor of “Trouble the Waters: Tales of the Deep Blue” (2019 Rosarium).
Past dates
November 2018
English with German simultaneous translation
A project by Natasha A. Kelly in collaboration with HAU Hebbel am Ufer. Funded by: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.