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VCU Publishing seeking contributions to ‘Imagining Black Futures in Richmond’

March 17, 2021
The Robert E. Lee statue being removed from Monument Ave. surrounded by construction workers with a truck.

VCU Publishing — which amplifies VCU scholarly and research findings and provides publishing opportunities for students and faculty — is seeking contributions for “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond,” a curated open access anthology that will imagine and explore futures for Richmond through an Afrofuturist lens.

VCU Publishing, part of VCU Libraries, is hoping to receive Afrofuturist works from diverse authors — both academic and community members — as well as diverse disciplines and perspectives. These contributions could include any discipline and in many forms, whether they be scholarly essays, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual media (for example, photo essays or comic or graphic art), or interviews. See the full call for contributions.

Authors do not have to reside in the Richmond area, but the work in some way must address the city, which continues to grapple with past and present racism and inequality. And since VCU is woven into the fabric of Richmond, VCU Publishing is also interested in works that embrace or challenge the university’s position in the community. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, the project aims to reveal legacies of harm and envision new futures.

The project will be published as a book that will be available online and free on Scholars Compass, VCU's institutional repository. It will be edited by Grace D. Gipson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“I am excited to take part in this multidisciplinary anthology project with VCU Publishing,” said Gipson, whose research interests include Black popular culture, digital humanities, representations of race and gender within comic books, Afrofuturism, and race and new media. “As a new resident to Richmond and to VCU, I look forward to learning more about the city of Richmond and the many ways that it explores the Black imaginary space.”

Afrofuturism has been defined by journalist and filmmaker Ytasha Womack as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” that “redefines culture and notions of blackness for today and the future” while combining “elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity and magic realism with non-Western beliefs.”

Building on the aspirations and explorations of W.E.B. Du Bois' scholarly work as well as his speculative fiction, and moving forward to encompass popular culture in its broadest sense, Afrofuturism offers a conceptual springboard for an imagined future for the greater Richmond area that can be expressed through essays, scholarly studies and creative works. A future where, in the words of Du Bois, all are judged “by their souls and not by their skins.”

The idea for “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” arose out of discussions on future directions for VCU Publishing following the publication of “The Politics of Annexation” alongside renewed calls for racial justice in summer 2020.

Jimmy Ghaphery, associate dean for scholarly communications and publishing at VCU Libraries, said he is excited to see how “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” “can reflect a rich history of community activism in the city, and establish Richmond as a nexus for imagining and creating a new and more just future for the South and the United States.”

The project, he added, is expected to include a hands-on paid publishing experience for a VCU student.

Sam Byrd, scholarly publishing librarian at VCU Libraries, said the team is hoping to receive an array of materials that “amaze us, that we hadn’t dreamed of.”

“Richmond is a changing city,” he said. “The monuments starting to come down may be the most visible sign of that, but there has been so much more work going on before, during and after, from so many different voices. I hope this project can amplify that diversity and energy and give us some creative paths to move forward on.”

The deadline to contribute to “Imagining Black Futures in Richmond” is July 1. Authors will retain copyright for their work and must be willing to have the work shared and preserved by VCU Publishing.

Authors can contribute their work online (Gmail account required). Alternatively, they can attach their file in email to publishing@vcu.edu, including their name and the title of their contribution. The book is projected to publish in late spring 2022. For more details or further inquiries, VCU Publishing can be contacted at publishing@vcu.edu.

Photos by Kevin Morley

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