Conjuring Black Freedom

Art as the Way to Other Worlds


  • George Lipsitz



Community-based art making and art-based community making have been key components in the Black freedom struggle. The collective intelligence honed in struggle that Cedric Robinson identifies and honors has often resided in creating objects produced by creative acts. This tradition survives and thrives today as an engine driving many different projects. For Afro-diasporic peoples, survival has required relentless resistance to enslavement, exploitation, suppression, and segregation. Resistance alone, however, has never been enough. Responding to the forms of social death prescribed by white supremacy has required the creation of a rich collective, communal, and convivial social life. In this struggle, art and authorship are not merely illustration and ornamentation. They are weapons: mechanisms that cultivate a collective capacity to find value in undervalued places and undervalued people. The articles in this issue of Kalfou emphasize the ways in which Black Atlantic authorship and art across the centuries have been part of an effort to create a new kind of human, one that does not need to make others lesser in order to become greater. In the midst of centuries of suffering, sacrifice, and struggle, the greatest achievement of the Black community has been itself: its constitution as an aggrieved, insurgent, and imaginative polity using invention, inversion, surprise, and disguise to forge mechanisms for refusing unlivable destinies and decorating the way to other worlds.