Afrofuturism – Amplifying Black Futures and Voices: A Resource for Change Workers

Billboard by artist Alisha B. Wormsley, on display in Detroit, Michigan for the exhibition Manifest Destiny curated by Ingrid LaFleur at the Library Street Collective – Originally published here.

This post is intended to acquaint readers, change workers and fellow social workers to Afrofuturism. While it remains as important as ever to learn about antiracism in the here and now*…a futurist perspective would suggest that futures thinking/practice can give a fresh view, new energy, new perspectives and new possibilities for both problems and solutions in the present day. These resources are gathered and offered with gratitude and respect to the Afrofuturists collected to expand our thinking and our practices. This is an evolving post – so updates may follow.

Consider this as jumping off points! Dr. Lakeya Cherry – Social Workers – Allies for Justice? (2020), Dr. Ibram X. Kendi – An Anti-Racist Reading List (2019), Rachel Garlinghouse – Stop Asking People Of Color To Explain Racism–Pick Up One Of These Books Instead (2020).

Afrofuturism can connect the problems we experience now with the past, our current reality and futures yet to be determined, but vibrant, living and robust.

“The liberated futures we want don’t exist as untouchable distant points out of our reach. When we focus on collective action, mutual aid, self-determination, centering the leadership of the marginalized, we defy linear time. We pull those futures into the present. Let’s keep pulling the liberated futures into the present over and over again, until that’s all there is.” Walidah Imarisha

What is Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by white author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora. (Broadnax, 2018). It is also considered an epistemology and encapsulates a liberatory connection of the history of Black thought, knowledge and artistic production from the past to re-imagined futures (Alondra Nelson).

This framework inspires deep and imaginative possibilities for other ways of thinking, operating and interacting with the world. It challenges “whiteness,” colonialism, heteropatriarchy and other “isms” by intentionally operating beyond them. By creatively expanding assumptions, boundaries and histories – Afrofuturism creates new kinds of possibility spaces and power. These very kinds of spaces are essential in generating post-normal solutions to contemporary challenges – and are guided by Black voices and imaginations.

This is an update and revision of an earlier post created last April, 2019.

In addition, since the original posting of this information, I’ve also found an MSW Thesis from social worker, Kayla Huddleston, MSW entitled Afrofuturism as Applied to Self-Perception: an Experimental Vignette Study which appears to be the first use of these frames in social work. It’s a terrific piece worth exploring – and it will inspire creative thinking about what might be possible.

Readings in Popular Media

Degrowing the future (2020)

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism – Open Democracy (2020)

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism – YES Magazine (2020)

What does the Afrofuture say? (2020)

Is Afrofuturism the answer to our current crisis (2019)

A beginner’s guide to Afrofuturism (2019)

This is Afrofuturism (2018)

Four thoughts on the future of Afrofuturism (2018)

Six Afrofuturist artists to watch that explore the modern African diaspora (2018)

What the heck is Afrofuturism? (2018)

Afrofuturism: A language of rebellion (2018)

Afrofuturism: Why Black science fiction can’t be denied (2018)

Octavia Butler’s legacy, impact and Afrofuturism celebrated (2016)

Afrofuturism: Reimagining science the future from a Black perspective (2015)


What does the Afrofuture say? (Interviews with contemporary Afrofuturists) (2020)

***GREAT PLACE TO START!!! Princess Weekes teaches Afrofuturism 101 in a new episode of “It’s Lit.” (2020)

Octavia Butler – Why you should read the Afrofuturist legend Octavia Butler (2019)

Lonny Brooks – Afrofuturism (2019)

Lonny Brooks and Jason Tester – Imagining Queer Futures with an Afrofuturist Perspective (2019)

Nnedi Okorafor – Sci Fi stories that imagine a different Africa 2017 (Designates as “AfricanFuturism” – not Afrofuturism.)

Ytasha Womack – Afrofuturism, imagination and humanity

Michael Bennett, Ytasha Womack, Wale Oyedije, and Aisha Harris – Afrofuturism: Imagining the future of Black identity 2015

Film and Music

8 Afrofuturist classics everyone needs to hear (2018)

Exploring where Afrofuturism in film: Where sci fi and mythology blur (2018)

What to watch after Black Panther: An Afrofuturism primer (2018)


Coronavirus and crisis and Afrofuturism: A way to envision what’s possible despite injustice and hardship (2020)

Afrofuturist Podcast

This American Life episode exploring Afrofuturism (2017). (Thanks Dr. Felicia Murray!).

Academic Literature

Oxford Afrofuturism Bibliography (2017)

Academic Coursework

Afrofuturism course overviews from Kalamazoo CollegeUniversity of California RiversideDuke University, andUniversity of Chicago

Organizations/Think Tanks

Afrofutures Strategies Institute

Black Quantum Futurism

Afrofuturist Society

An Incomplete List of Afrofuturists to Follow (Alphabetical Order)

Toni Adeyemi

Reynaldo Anderson

Lonny Brooks

Adrienne Maree Brown

Walidah Imarisha

Alondra Nelson

Rasheeda Phillips

Nnedi Okorafor (Designates as “AfricanFuturism” – not Afrofuturism.)

Ytasha Womack

Ethics and a Social Work Futures Lens

In response to many questions during my recent presentations on the future of social work for the National Network for Social Work Management, I received a significant number of questions regarding the social work code of ethics and how to learn about and/or get involved in efforts to revise the NASW code of ethics. I reached out to incoming President of NASW, Dr. Mit Joyner, and she responded with the following note. With respect and appreciation, I share this information to encourage all social workers to get involved and help create the future you’d like to see for social work.

“NASW has numerous committees that monitor and update the NASW Code of Ethics.

 Just as CSWE monitors the Curriculum Policy Statement via a mandated review every 8 years; NASW has a similar process for review of all policies by the Delegate Assembly that occurs every three years. The DA is a representative, decision-making body through which NASW members set broad organizational policy, establish program priorities, and develop a collective stance on public and professional issues.
The Delegate Assembly is comprised of 220 elected volunteer delegates, including the National Board of Directors. In addition, the NASW CEO and executive directors from each chapter are nonvoting delegates, making a total of 277 delegates.  

Again the Delegate Assembly meets once every three years and approves all policies published in Social Work Speaks. The National Bylaws state: “The membership shall act through the Delegate Assembly in all matters except as otherwise provided in the Bylaws.”  Delegate assembly members are volunteers so I would encourage anyone who is interested in participation to first join NASW and then run as a delegate to represent their local NASW chapter. 

Again in response to your email, NASW as member association ensures that the NASW Code of Ethics is constantly reviewed and updated by the membership.   Last major revision occurred in 2017 and was implemented in 2018. 

NASW’s next  Delegate Assembly Meeting in November 2020 and will considered new recommendations.  Those recommendations are currently being discussed and reviewed by the NASW membership prior to being voted on during the delegate assembly that is set for November. 

In summary, yes NASW has an opportunity for member engagement to review all policies including the code, yes the NASW Code of Ethics is a living document that is revised after input from social work members (last major revision 2018), and yes there is an established process via the Delegate Assembly, and yes we would love for other social workers to promote and engage in this vital work  and yes individual social workers  can lead the review by serving  as an elected delegate.”

2018 NASW Code of Ethics

Article from The New Social Worker Fall 2017 covering the most recent changes to the social work code of ethics.

NASW resources for understanding the new social work code of ethics

Two Upcoming Opportunities to Talk Futures with Me!! (Updated July 13, 2020 with link to the finished webinars)

Note: Links to completed webinars have now been added below! It has been a very busy season after being a very strange time. Like so many…life got very slow, and then it seemed to speed up all at once. As the springtime gets into full swing and we are all adjusting to new Covid-19 realities, there is much interest in futures-related topics. The future is definitely here. Opportunities to learn and engage with futures thinking are plentiful – and many are discovering the benefits to a futures lens as we enter what is hopefully a recovery and reconstruction towards a post-covid 19 world.

In then the next couple of weeks – I’ll be doing a couple of open and free national presentations on how social work might be part of that, and wanted to share them in this space.

This coming Tuesday, May 19 (at 9 a.m. PST), I’ll be interviewed by Kathi Vian, Futurist with the Institute for the Future and one of my mentors in futures work. I’ll be talking about both the new project that I’m doing to build futures thinking capacity in social work, as well as my work with my Portland State University Futures Collaboratory on an interdisciplinary campus-wide futures project. This is a free “Foresight Talks” webinar and you can find out more and register for that here. Link to finished webinar!

On May 21st, May 28th & June 4th, I’ll be doing a series of three webinars for the National Network for Social Work Management on futures thinking in social work. These were intended to be “in person” sessions and a keynote at the spring NNWSM conference in New York City – but like so many good things – it has gone online. All of these sessions are 10-11:30 a.m. PST. Link to finished webinars!

Webinar 1: Futures thinking for post-normal times: A new resource for social work

Webinar 2: The process of foresight: How futures practice can enhance social work practice

Webinar 3: Evolving on purpose: Possibility spaces for the future of social work and social justice

You can read more of the details and register for these free sessions here!

Hope you can join in!!

Evolving General Futures/Foresight Resources on Covid-19 – April 10, 2020

I have received a number of requests to share an interdisciplinary cross-sector version of my futures covid-19 resource list (beyond social work) – so have developed a specific version that just contains three sections (Link here):

  1. Futures thinking during the Covid-19 chapter
  2. Scenarios for the future – what happens next
  3. Impact of pandemics on history

If you’re interested in the more indepth resource list specific to social work, public health and human rights you can still access that link here. These resources are updated regularly.

A Futures Lens for Covid-19 – Resources for Social Workers, Change Agents, Educators and the Helping Professions

My last blog post was an opportunity to link what is happening with Covid-19 to a futures lens in the social work profession.

In the subsequent weeks, it becomes more clear than ever that the coronavirus will be a powerful teacher in ways that stretch our collective sense of what is possible.

For many reasons, I’ve been reflecting on a futures game that I was asked to develop by the Dean Goutham Menon last April for the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work meeting that spring. In this game, I came up with numerous scenarios for social work educators to consider – both utopian and dystopian – and some in between.

The relevant question to the players was – which of these scenarios is most likely to happen, and which is social work as a profession most ready for? One of those scenarios was a global pandemic, based on my own work tracking plausible futures noted by practicing futurists and the disaster preparedness communities. But certainly, no one could have predicted how quickly this would become relevant if not dominant in our thinking and our lives. Since then, I’ve had the chance to play the game with hundreds of other social workers, social work educators and community members. Each time we played, we used our imagination matched with our intellect to meet the challenge presented and considered how our profession might need to reach, to grow, to change to meet the moment should it present itself. Futures work, as I’ve said previously on this blog – is about cultivating collective imagination, agility and intelligence. If you’d like to explore and/or play the game yourself – you can download it here.

Lately, there have been numerous social and historical commentators discussing the degree to which pandemics throughout history have changed the world – important contributions. This has led me to consider how social work itself as an idea, as a project, as an institution, as a profession – might itself change due to what is happening.

Perhaps this is a pivotal moment in the history of social work as we know it.

How will Covid-19 change the social work profession? Expand us, evolve us, strengthen us, test us, challenge us, improve us, threaten us, force us? Let’s allow this moment to envision what our evolution might look like to best meet the times we live in.

What do you think? Futures thinking invites us to dedicate a part of our work to these questions even as we respond to the urgent and immediate needs of the communities we work with.

For those that are teachers are learners, I’ve continued to gather social work-relevant links and items here. They include a hearty dose of covid/pandemic-specific futures thinking. All of these resources link us to thinkers, reporters and scholars who are exploring or doing work in areas I think are relevant to and useful for social workers. They can help us inform and explore…what comes next for us and for the things that we care about.

This document will soon be transitioning to a crowd-sourced living resource so that we can continue to strengthen learning networks and communities that help us grow and be responsive to the challenge of our times. Stay tuned.

As noted previously, also follow me on Twitter at @lauranissen for more information and search the hashtag #SWcovid19 for additional ideas and resources.

Ingredients of Futures Agility – Learning Organizations and Communities of Practice. Are we ready to take our collective learning to new heights? Can we afford not to?

It has been said, that we might as well be “starving at the banquet” of the information age.

So much to know, to decide, to act upon…with the stakes increasingly high to GET IT RIGHT. And yet…how are we doing learning together in our organizational contexts to prepare for these endeavors? How do we integrate good information, new trends, results of signal scanning and mapping? How do we calibrate a changing basis for the way we determine cause and effect in the increasingly complex world around us?

As often as not, so many report feeling mostly overwhelmed – with data, with information, with ideas…. How do we keep up with all there is to know for now, let alone how to prepare for what is next? How do we make sure that our plans and actions are not merely “reactions” to what is happening around us, or the result of our fears, but rather the result of the collective learning that we are each engaged in? How can this knowledge we are generating be better pooled, organized, and focused for the good of all? Does this result in both power and agility? I would strongly suggest that it does. And commitment to boosting our organizational learning, as well as our commitment to communities of practice, can help us get there.

Along the way of learning about, and working with groups and organizations about future readiness, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the loosely related topics of “learning organizations” and “communities of practice” are essential concepts and frameworks for our success moving forward. Yet surprisingly, there is an absence of urgency in the way we talk about it – almost as if these ideas are luxuries rather than keys to competitive advantage or successful community building (depending on your perspective).

The truth is the way we learn together needs to be revised to afford us the kind of capacity, creativity and energy that is needed to result in the necessary agility required by the future and what’s required to succeed in the “VUCA” world.

This is true of both of the organizational settings I’m most connected to – social work practice in both private and public settings, as well as across higher education.

Yet because of our level of “busy-ness” our shared learning doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. I look with fascination at organizations that have committed deeply to this idea by positioning a “chief learning officer” whose literal job it is to assure that a) learning is happening that is strategic and intentional and b) that this learning is shared and focused and directly embedded into larger strategies of the organization. I’m sad to say, these kinds of positions don’t often show up in the places where I’ve worked – this role is often earnestly distributed among many and prioritized by almost no one. Without a deeper commitment, this gap inhibits the kind of ideas, energy and potential that we need right now. I believe learning together is our most vital investment for the future – and that it should be prioritized.

There is truly pressure on everyone to “plan strategically” for what comes next. I would suggest that every bit as important as planning can be – equally important is to focus, amplify, reinforce and strengthen the ways that we seek, consume, share and apply what we are learning. This includes “sharing the learning load” and “cognitive overwhelm” we are all experiencing by organizing ourselves better not just as an “implementation team” as so often happens in busy organizations, but as “learning teams” to make sure that our implementation is regularly, indeed inherently, well-informed along the way. This isn’t about just “learning more effectively” in episodes, but rather changing up what we do so that work and learning are so deeply intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable.

The concept of the “learning organization” was first introduced in 1970 by Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline.” He defines this as the organizational quality of continually seeking new information by the members, and using this knowledge to intentionally evolve and transform. Senge suggests that there are five qualities including systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning. There have been numerous iterations, variations and evolutionary versions and applications since the introduction of this durable model – and it was prescient in terms of implicitly anticipating how the complications of the coming years, would require new ways of operating.

Futures thinking and evolving towards future readiness – combines these ideas in ways that keep a keen eye on what lays ahead. Futures thinking is a practice that requires learning- not just a philosophy. Increasingly, I look at boosting our “organizational learning quotient” as among the most important organizational survival skills for whatever comes next.

Can we really afford NOT to be a learning organization at this point in history? In my estimation – our ability to learn effectively as well as collectively, and evolve accordingly based on our learning – is among the most important ingredients of the agility much discussed as a hallmark of “future readiness.”

Additionally, I’d suggest that understanding “communities of practice” is a way to understand broader and evolved ways of thinking about how within-organizational learning, as well as trans-organizational learning occurs in the modern world. While definitions vary somewhat, most definitions of a community of practice is a collection of people who intentionally learn together – whether in a shared organizational space or, generating even more bandwidth, beyond it. This is aided by technological reinforcements and connections that boost intelligent networks among interested learning partners whether near or global. I believe that these complex learning networks are increasingly demonstrating new ways of solving problems collectively (think about the new to our decade term “crowd sourced” as a cursory example), and that we’ve only begun to see what they will accomplish in the years to come.

Futures readiness means getting serious, disciplined and intentional about engaging in reflection and committed restoration about our organizational learning capacity and beyond.

To advance dialogue on these concepts, I did a search and put this list together for study and conversation. As always, it is in process and more will be added. For my own practice, getting clear about these ideas was essential.

Let’s keep learning together – and let’s help our organizations and learning networks greet the future with a new capacity for embedded and focused learning.

World Futures Day – March 1, 2020 – Opportunity to Get Involved

Please note!!

Join 24-Hour Round-the-World Conversation to Celebrate World Future Day, Hosted by the Millennium Project

FEB 27, 2020

Join 24-Hour Round-the-World Conversation to Celebrate World Future Day, Hosted by the Millennium Project

Press Release ( – WASHINGTON – Feb 27, 2020 – World Future Day is March 1. This will be the seventh year that futurists and the general public will conduct a 24-hour, round-the-world conversation on the future on March 1 at 12 noon in whatever time zone they are in. Each year, total strangers discuss ideas about possible worlds of tomorrow in a relaxed, open, no-agenda conversation. Futures research is shared, collaborations are created, and new friendships are made. 

The Millennium Project, a global foresight participatory think tank, will host this conversation on the future in collaboration with the Association of Professional Futurists (APF), Humanity+ UNESCO’s Global Futures Literacy Network, the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), and the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF).

“Anybody can pull up a cyber-chair at this global table and join the discussion on ZOOM at:,” says Jerome Glenn, CEO of The Millennium Project. “Whatever time zone you are in, you are invited at 12:00 noon in your time zone. People drop in and out as they like. If people can’t come online at 12 noon, they are welcome to come online before or after that time as well.”

Each year, for the past six years, global thought leaders have shared their views about governing artificial intelligence, inventing future employment, building space elevators to orbital cities, reducing climate change, guaranteeing safe water and energy, fighting transnational organized crime, developing future forms of democracy, countering information warfare, incorporating global ethics in decisionmaking, enforcing safety standards for synthetic biology, and the future of humanity. Who knows what will be discussed this year? Comments can be added at #worldfutureday.

“This year, we will be joined by Vint Cerf, Internet Pioneer at 12 noon Brussels time,” according to Glenn.  

Members of the press are most welcome to join the conversation asking questions to this diverse group of future-oriented people; however, ​Chatham House Rule applies: you can quote, use material, but not cite the source. “So,” Glenn continues, “come online and join the conversation with others working to build a better future.”

Co-sponsoring organization contacts:

Association of Professional Futurists: Jay Gary
Humanity+: President Natasha Vita-More,
UNESCO’s Global Futures Literacy Network: Riel Miller 
The Millennium Project: CEO Jerome Glenn,
World Academy of Art and Science: Chairman, Gary Jacobs
World Futures Studies Federation: President, Erik Ferdinand Overland,

PRESS CONTACT: +1-202-669-4410 Jerome Glenn, The Millennium Project or email contacts for organizations above.
Source : The Millennium Project

Heres the link.

Big Ideas for Social Change Champions – Idea-Palooza!

I think inspiration matters. Where do our big ideas for change come from? Often they come from frustration or anxiety about things we see around us that we know should be different. Sometimes they come from history – and the lessons of those who advanced progress but didn’t yet “solve” the challenge. As scholar of social innovation (my dissertation back in the day was about macro level creativity and innovation in social work), I continue to be fascinated by how to build our inventory of innovation spaces that reflect our social work values, ethics and priorities. This is part of why a futures/foresight approach has been so valuable to me. These spaces are full of possibility. They can honor context, values, culture, history – but they inspire deeper types of questioning and more expansive ways to anticipate, explore and create with regard to what comes next, and building the requisite knowledge and power in co-creating the futures we want.

One of my favorite teaching/consulting tools is to look to “innovator” communities to scan and be nourished by good work going on in these circles. Looking through these kinds of links – refreshes my sense of how problems are framed and how solutions might be built. I’ve been building a list of some of my favorite “go to” spark-worthy sites and happy to share it here. What are some of your favorites? What inspires you? Has there ever been a more important time to reinforce our own and each other’s sense of hope and possibility for a better world?

Here’s the link!! Come explore!!