Black Quantum Futurism receives the Knight Foundations new art and technology fellowship – WHYY

Another project of BQF is an ongoing community engagement effort called Community Futurisms. It first existed as a storefront in North Philadelphia where neighbors were invited inside to record oral histories, then imagine possible futures, and record those too.

For that project, BQF researched the history of Progress Plaza, which opened in 1968 in North Philadelphia near Temple University. It was the first African American-owned supermarket plaza in the country, owned by the Rev. Leon Sullivan. Sullivan was known internationally for his 1977 Sullivan Principles, which urged businesses with operations in then-apartheid South Africa to treat employees there the same way they treat their American employees, rather than abiding apartheid laws.

Inside Progress Plaza, Sullivans company had a garment factory and ran Progress Aerospace Enterprises, which manufactured parts for the aerospace industry. It was the first Black-owned aerospace business, which dovetails neatly with BQFs interest in space and technology.

Those two spaces employed young, unskilled Black youth in the community, and women. It was an amazing place. We see it as a retro-Afro-futurist project right in the middle of North Philly, said Phillips. We wanted to connect these legacies with the present, that 50-some years later were still struggling with fair housing issues. Were still seeing the same demographics around access to housing that we saw in 1968.

The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed some of BQF projects over the last year, driving them to lean more heavily on internet technologies. They are planning new projects for later this year at the historic Hatfield House in Fairmount Park and at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia. Their extraordinary opportunity to do research at the Hadron super collider and the influx of cash from the Knight Foundation will allow them in the words of William Shatner to boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before.

Im a public interest attorney, Camae is a musician. Art costs money, you know. Its not a cheap practice, said Phillips. Were two Black women from North Philly who have not had the same ability to focus on our art practice in the same way as if we were classically trained or able to go to school for our art. To be able, in just a few years, to build our practice and get to this level is amazing.

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Black Quantum Futurism receives the Knight Foundations new art and technology fellowship - WHYY

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