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STEFFANI JEMISON & BLACK UTOPIA

STEFFANI JEMISON & BLACK UTOPIA

If we can understand the Great Migration at the turn of the 20th century as a radical spatial imaginary, through this lens, the Black city can be framed as an active collective imagining of utopia. A Black utopia, the pursuit of black humanity and economic growth, a presaged us-ness as full citizens of this America.

The Great Migration, like Reconstruction and contemporary post-racial politics, embodied the promise of America’s benevolence, staging the Black city to fall short of its deliverance of a Black utopia. Fostering a calamity of hope akin to the preacher man’s unholy repetition, “Just Hold On My Brothers and Sisters! A change is sure to come!” As Isabel Wilkerson explains, migration from the south, “… grew out of the unmet promises made after the Civil War and, through the sheer weight of it, helped push the country toward the civil rights revolutions of the 1960s.” And still, fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, America has sustained its legacy of racial dystopia, inciting another generation to proclaim their humanity in protest. Will the inconvenience and backlash of Black rage further stagnate the road towards truth and accountability for America and her future?

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Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, Panel One, 1947.

Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, Panel One, 1947.