BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Birmingham-born musician whose music and philosophy became part of a wider movement combining science fiction and the African diaspora will be part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian next spring.
Herman Poole Blount, who grew up in Birmingham before taking the name “Sun Ra” and embarking on a decades-long musical journey with his longtime band, the Arkestra, will be part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture called “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures.”
“From the enslaved looking to the cosmos for freedom to popular sci-fi stories inspiring Black astronauts, to the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, P-Funk and more, this exhibition covers the broad and impactful spectrum of Afrofuturism,” a press release from the museum stated.
Afrofuturism, a term credited to cultural critic Mark Dery, deals with the influence of technology, fantasy and the future in the Black community. Throughout his career, Sun Ra made many references to concepts like space, Egyptian history and traveling to other planets.
Despite Sun Ra’s death in 1993, the Arkestra continues to record and perform. Last year, the Arkestra was nominated for their first Grammy for “Swirling.” In October, they released another album, “Living Sky.” There are also two documentaries in the works about Sun Ra, one by “Attica” documentarian Stanley Nelson and another by French filmmakers Guillaume Maupin and Pablo Guarise.
In addition to Sun Ra, another highlight of the exhibit will include the suit worn by the late actor Chadwick Boseman in the 2018 film, “Black Panther.” Other items will include the typewriter of writer Octavia Butler and Nichelle Nichols’ “Star Trek” costume.
The exhibit will open March 24 in Washington DC.