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Afrofuturism in South Philly now

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Who knew that the mystery of the Black Conscious cosmos was in South Philadelphia and could be found on a casual stroll? Afrofuturism with TS Hawkins and Lois Moses.

Apparently, the Painted Bride Art’s Center and TS Hawkins (author, performance poet, art activist, playwright, and member of the Dramatists Guild) and Lois Moses (multidisciplinary artist) did as, together, as part of the Bride’s “Power to the Prompt” conversations, bring Community Capital: a curated Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience to the streets Thursday, October 14, starting at 3 pm.

This Curator’s Tour begins at the William Still Historical House, 625 South Delhi Street, and marches forward in a mostly self-guided fashion, so that all participants can become part of the experience with others while gaining deeper insight from the curators. 


From its press notes, this curated Afrofuturism tour asks, “What happens when others of the world silence your tones to cacophony their worth?” then answers the question by stating that “This experience illuminates an intersectional poetic expedition of sound and unearthing through the streets of South Philadelphia. Letting ancestors guide permeable possibilities, this walking tour opens multiple dimensions of storytelling that ignite the expansion of mind, body, and spirit! Journeying fixed and beyond, participants will have the opportunity to connect with intergenerational voices searching for an equitable community one neighborhood at a time.”

TS Hawkins and dM spoke before the October 14 event.

A.D. Amorosi: When I think of Afrofuturism in Philly I think Sun Ra, Moor Mother, Black Tribbles and Labelle. What is Afrofuturism to you specifically in Philly? 
TS Hawkins: When thinking about Afrofuturism, I’m drawn into the interviews of Whoopi Goldberg speaking about her character “Guinan” on Star Trek. Goldberg’s impassioned need to ensure Black bodies could picture themselves in and with a future struck a chord for me at a young age. Later in life, being introduced to Octavia Butler further deepened the desire to solidify Black and Brown voices for generations beyond. Using poetic narrative and multimedia components, Community Capital: an Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience is a rhetorical rebellion addressing the continued gentrification of a neighborhood that was established on the backs of Black and Indigenous bodies. 

A.D. Amorosi: Why and when did you begin to work on the concept of an Afrofuturism tour and why in South Philly? 
TS Hawkins: Painted Bride Art Center’s “Power to the Prompt” conversation sparked the need for this project to take flight. Having been asked “if you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change in your neighborhood?”, my answer was almost immediate. As a person who is Black and Queer walking through the gentrified streets of South Philadelphia, it’s beyond unsettling to feel unwelcomed, unheard, unseen. Having learned of the history of Philadelphia, it’s disheartening to walk the streets of a community where the neighbors reflect an erasure of Black and Brown cultures. The goal of Community Capital: an Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience is to honor the ancestors and pave a way for voices of the now and distant future to see themselves reflected back to them.

A.D. Amorosi: Tell me please about aligning yourself with Painted Bride. 
TS Hawkins: TS Hawkins has worked with the Painted Bride in the past through the “Souls of Black Folk” project where Hawkins created a poetic vignette titled, They’ll Neglect to Tell You. They’ll Neglect to Tell You was expanded into a choreopoem that has had further development with 1812 Productions’ Jilline Ringle Solo Performance Residency and Theatre Exile’s Studio X-hibition’s New Play Development.


A.D. Amorosi: What is next? Will there be other Afrofuturism tours in other parts of Philly and when? 
TS Hawkins: The goal is to definitely expand the walking experience to include more intergenerational and intersectional voices. Extended gratitude to Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon (Historian), Marie Laster (Walking Guide Illustrator), Morgan Charéce Hall (Research Assistant), Timothy Shepherd (Music Composer), and Dr. LaMont McKim (Collaborator) for lending their time and talents to the project! In the immediate future, TS Hawkins and Lois Moses will be speaking at the 2022 LMDA International Conference to highlight Community Capital: an Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience for literary managers and dramaturgs from around the world.

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