Selected episodes from the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s sci-fi anthology series 21 Black Futures: What Is the Future of Blackness? are now streaming on CBC Gem. For example, there is “The Prescription,” which is about a miraculous future in which a Gorilla Glue-like product dismantles systemic racism:
Open Your Big Black Mouth, a brand-new treatment designed to help Black women affected by racism, bigotry, microaggressions, white supremacy, exotification or unwanted hair touching, has just been rolled out. Acute or severe, this specially formulated treatment of endless doses of time and space allows Black women to speak their mind and be heard. The first recipient of this revolutionary treatment has just been given her prescription… and she’s skeptical, to say the least.
PLAYWRIGHT: LISA CODRINGTON, DIRECTOR ALISON DUKE
The year is 2042. There have been technological advances in the field of medicine, especially in the area of mental health and wellness. Chantal Thompson, 30, also known as Recipient 1, is the first to be administered an innovative treatment called Open Your Big Black Mouth. The technology is marketed as the cure for chronic depression and anxiety in Black people overwhelmed by everyday microaggressions, oppression and anti-Black racism. Never before has a Black woman been given the space to say what’s on her mind and not have to deal with white fragility. The monologue follows a skeptical Chantal coming to terms with what this new treatment means for her life. Will it work? What are the side-effects? And is she willing to take the risk and accept the consequences?
Directing Lisa Codrington’s monologue is a creative highlight for me because it conjures so many emotions that Black women feel today. This is the first time I have worked with text that unapologetically propels an unfettered internal conversation from a Black Canadian woman. It’s a tour de force about language that plays with how we receive Black women’s stories. What we hear, between what is said and what is not said, is raw and familiar. And I equally enjoyed the process of discovering how deeply we could explore the feelings with actress Akosua Amo-Adem, who is just magical with her delivery. I marvel at how she can bring emotions to life while staying true to Lisa’s prose, layered as it is with intricate poetic formations. I have often reflected on what life would be like if I, like Chantal, could say what’s on my mind about racism, oppression and sexism, without having to reflect on the consequences. I am drawn to this idea, which is both raw and new.
— ALISON DUKE
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last to speak truth to power to Becky and Karen for touching our hair!
Other episodes include:
Cil Brown loves her work. Her job as a Sender on a global racism-elimination project has resulted in a peaceful, logical and sustainable world. However, she encounters technical difficulties when a Sendee objects to restrictions on the lives of residents of White Supremacist Island.
Facing the justice system alone, Adrian’s future is in jeopardy. But what if there were a corporation that set out to amass Black wealth, knowledge, strength and hard work for the betterment of Black society? A corporation that exploited capitalist systems, normally used as tools of suppression, to uplift and care for Black causes and Black people? What if that group stepped in to ensure Adrian’s talents wouldn’t be wasted in prison? This is the collective. This is Umoja Corp. …
“We were conquerors when in concordance. We bathed in Gold and birthed the boldest battalions. Wakanda is not a wish. Pharaohs are not fictitious. Our empire is not erased. Black is King. Black has been King. Black will be King, but only if Black joins Queen.”
And then’s there’s the post-apocalyptic Emmett, in which Medgar Evers and Emmett Till are proud black gay lovers:
Seven years after the Fall, Medgar makes his way along the shores of the Great Ontario Sea and remembers his lost love Emmett. Every day is very much the same on an Earth still plagued by viruses. But on this day, everything is about to change.
How fascinating it is for Obsidian to consider the future of Blackness through so many pairs of our own eyes. It has been such a truly beautiful experience collaborating with Syrus Marcus Ware and Prince Amponsah on Emmett. From the first time I read the piece, I was struck by its beautiful and stark imagery. What is Blackness when humanity is all but a memory? What energy does Black love, and Black love lost, leave behind? In Emmett, a Black man who should be dead is somehow still alive. That simple statement is the story of the Black spirit itself: it — we — are not gone. In the face of all that would seek to erase it — and the bodies inhabited by it — it remains unbreakable, indomitable, wounded but glorious, and defiantly Black.
A bride motors down a highway in her wedding dress, struggling to make sense of what led her to this moment. Her veil lies crumpled on the back seat. Her cellphone keeps ringing, and the car in her rear view appears to be following her. Could it be Mathiew, her groom?
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, when race-based incidents are investigated in the media, it is common practice for journalists to examine the motivations of the perpetrators. We see it happening in the news today in reports about the Capitol insurrection. We saw it when a Canadian “Karen,” Amy Cooper, called the police on the birdwatcher in Central Park. “Why did (insert name of a Karen here) feel forced to attack (a description of a person of colour here)?” But do we know the name of the man she victimized? His last name was Cooper too — Christian Cooper. Another frequently asked question is “What is behind the rise in race-based attacks on people of colour?” Or “what drove (insert the name of a “Kevin” — a wannabe fascist — here) to want to be a Proud Boy?” If the injured party is Black, the news story will typically focus on the white attacker.
This short play was inspired by real events. It was also prompted by a two-decade-old study by clinical psychologist Maya McNeilly out of Duke University Medical Center which suggested that “racist provocation” could lead to damaging physical and emotional symptoms. As McNeilly put it, “It is well-documented that racism has negative social, economic and political consequences on African Americans, but the direct effects of racism on physical and emotional health have only begun to be explored.”
This story continues that exploration and contemplates the effects of the terrorism of overt and implicit white supremacy on the physical and emotional life of one particular Black woman: Georgeena.
In summary, in the future, there will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a megaphone shouting critical race theory at a white servitor’s face – forever.