Kimberly Drew And Jenna Wortham Celebrate The Spectrum Of Blackness In New Book
L to R: Jenna Wortham (photo by Naima Green) and Kimberly Drew (photo by Tyler Mitchell)

We’re so used to reading and reflecting on history and what our ancestors endured that we sometimes forget that our children’s children will soon be reading about us. As our country faces one of the biggest racial reckonings of our lifetime, Black folks are constantly working to define, protect and love ourselves. Our experience has always been challenging, to say the least, but we steadfastly continue to create, sing, write, cook, grow, build and find the strength—and even the joy—to persevere and liberate ourselves.

But who’s documenting our collective journey? That was the question Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and cohost of the podcast Still Processing, had for Brooklyn-based writer, curator and activist Kimberly Drew in 2015.  Like any good millennial, Wortham slid into @museummammy, aka Drew’s DMs: “It must be said I love your Instagram. You are a DREAM QUEEN!”

Yasmin Elnour,
“Mother Sudan Is Watching,” 2019

Their subsequent exchange led to a life-changing friendship and Black Futures (One World Hardcover), a brilliant archival project that delivers a wide-ranging portrait of our lives, available December 1.

“We decided to link up for lunch and had a conversation about what cultural preservation means in a moment like this,” says Drew. “So many Black creatives are making such incredible things. What can we do to bring light to what’s happening?”

Courtney Alexander, “Dust II Onyx, A Melanated Tarot: Ain’t Je-Mammy (Queen Mother/Empress),” 2017

As they embarked on commissioning pieces from more than 100 bold and dynamic Black contributors, they sought to capture the essence of being alive as a Black person right now.

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Black Futures is “an exploration and record about this moment in contemporary Blackness—what we’re all celebrating and what’s at stake.”Jenna Wortham

Throughout the 544 pages—a time capsule that includes full-color art by an all-Black team and is published by a Black-led imprint—readers will discover how infinite and nonlinear Blackness is. In Wortham and Drew’s Letter From the Editors, they state, “On these pages you’ll find screenshots, essays, manifestos, memes, artworks, poems, song lyrics and creations of all types. Themes in this book will provoke you, entice you, enrage you, spark joy and call you to action.”

E. Brennen Buckner, “Wendy Twerkin’ for BiBi,” 2019

“There are many paths forward,” Wortham says of the book. “We’re not trying to say that we have our arms around building or defining a Black future. We just want everyone to be involved in the same project of documenting, preserving, archiving, iterating and dreaming.”

For the book, the editors assembled an array of work depicting the richness of our lives.

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of ESSENCE magazine, available on newsstands now.

Jennifer Ogunsola (@jowriter1984) is an Atlanta based writer.

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