Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly 002 - Black Space Agency” art exhibition and community programming inspired by the legacy of the Fair Housing Act, Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements, and the space race in North Philadelphia during the 1960s. Opening on Thursday, April 12, 2018 and running through Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at Icebox Project Space, Black Space Agency featured an art installation and five community-based events. Featuring art works by Betty Leacraft, Black Quantum Futurism, Bryan O. Green, and Sammus, Black Space Agency addressed issues of affordable and fair housing, displacement/space/land grabs, redlining, eminent domain, and gentrification through the lens of afrofuturism, oral histories/futures, and Black spatial-temporal autonomy. Community programming was produced in collaboration with Youth HEALers Stand Up!, All That Philly Jazz, Metropolarity, and Brewerytown-Sharswood Neighborhood Advisory Committee and included:
- Black Space Agency Opening Reception w/ Black Quantum Futurism performance
- Black Space Time Matters Movie Day + Metopolarity Sci-Fi reading and Open Mic (Screening Afronauts by Francis Bodomo + Cosmic Slop: Space Traders)
- Housing Futures: Landlord-Tenant Rights workshop with Brewerytown-Sharswood Neighborhood Advisory Council
- Blue Note Salon: Art, Jazz, Activism in North Philly w/ Faye Anderson of All That Philly Jazz and artist/activist panelists Josh Graupera, Tieshka K. Smith, Mike O'Bryan, Stormy Kelsey
- Youth Housing Visioning Session w/ Youth HEALers Stand Up!
In North Philly in the 1960’s, Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, a civil rights leader and minister at Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church, established Progress Aerospace Enterprises (PAE) shortly after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. PAE was one of the first Black-owned aerospace companies in the world, with Sullivan stating that "when the first landing on the moon came, I wanted something there that a black man had made." An innovator of its day, PAE had strong connections to the Civil Rights and Black liberation movements, affordable housing, economic stability, passage of the Fair Housing Act, and the space race. Sullivan also founded the Zion Gardens Apartments affordable housing project and Progress Plaza, Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc., and other innovative organizations and programs. In 1968 and 1969, the Civil Rights movement and space race would collide, with a lot of popular resistance to the Moon landing and the space race from the Black community, such as the Poor People’s March at Cape Canaveral; as well as critiques of the lack of diversity in NASA employees, and the destruction and displacement of Black communities in order to build subsidized housing for NASA employees. Partly in response, NASA became involved in the design and applicability of spaceship materials in “urban” housing, and created campaigns to increase diversity in employment. Much of this resistance and engagement with the space race from the Black community has been largely erased in popular memory.
Black Space Agency aims to restimulate memory of all of these interconnected events and underexplored history, make the threads visible and show how they reach into and overlay the present and future(s) of affordable housing, Black liberation, and the fight for space and time in our communities. The project specifically locates these inquiries within the context of uncovering time and memory in North Philly, asking what seeds memory, unburying quantum, Afro-diasporic histories, and envisioning what tools are needed to create liberatory Afrofuture(s).