As a scholar, my general research focuses on how Africana resistance groups intersect religiosity, sexuality, and patriarchy while negotiating white supremacy, oppressive capitalism, and new forms of media. I specialize in Africana responses to cultural, political, and intellectual aggression from internal and external sources; as well as their use of socially-constructed truths as a means of reifying social heirarchy. Lastly, as an Afrofuturist, my work addresses how technology, political ideology, icon-construction, blackness, and the imagination have been used as tools for social agency, cultural development and political mobilization in Africana communities.
My research, most notably my dissertation, focuses on the cultural role of iconic social-construction practices in Africana communities. Specifically, the social memory of historical figures like Assata Shakur in Africana communities and the ways in which her memory is used to negotiate white supremacy, class elitism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity in the greater international community. More so, the dissertation explores the cultural currency ascribed to icons in Africana societies, making them points of contention for a wide variety of groups interested in shaping cultural identity and social values. Thus, I argue that we use the memories of El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (formerly Malcolm X), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others to establish our own cultural identity. However, our memories of these individuals are not pristine, they are hampered by our own biases, agendas, beliefs, and ideologies, and thus we have created our own Malcolms, Martins, etc.--wholly separate from the individuals that once inspired us.
I not only study historical icons, I also acknowledge the role that fictional icons in graphic novels, television shows, movies, and popular literature play in the Africana imagination. I also incorporate contemporary memories of ancient iconic figures like Jesus of Nazareth or the divine Kemetic family of Ausar, Auset, and Heru. These figures have been remembered in unique ways, ways that still influence how we conceptualize our past and our future. These figures, in each category listed above, have become a form of public text vulnerable to, and produced by, a transnational Black cultural imagination rooted in self-definition and Africana cultural agency. The most critical space for this contestation of meaning is taking place in public media, which is no longer used for the mere pontification of social meaning, but has now become constitutive of it in Africana communities around the world.
Contrary to popular assumptions, Africana communities (communities that negotiate a unique idea of blackness that extends beyond national and geographic boundaries) have rearticulated blackness using independent media technology. Many in the Africana community remain distrustful of dominant corporatized media vehicles and the practices that have led to the consolidated ownership of television, radio, and the print media industry by a handful of white-owned private companies. Thus, groups have voiced their protest by creating their own media, signifying on established forms of technology in ways that are better suited to their own interests. Also, many of these recalcitrant groups have recognized the importance of the visual as a tool for communicating meaning, a tool that lends itself so readily to today’s media. Graphic work by groups like www.gettosake.com or Reginald Hudlin's recent work with Marvel Comics uses imagery, art, and creative storytelling to assert political critiques in new ways to reach new audiences. Furthermore, Africana communities have taken independent media productions that were once disseminated on a limited scale (by word of mouth or print such as newsletters, flyers, handbills, etc.) global by using the Internet. Thus, underground phenomena regarding protest activities, informational events, or police brutality that used to be limited to monthly newsletters or shortwave radio broadcasts have now become globally accessible, often in direct contrast to corporate consolidation practices. Now, for example, information about political prisoners (such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Imaam Jameel Al-Amin--formerly H. Rap Brown, or Assata Shakur), black voter disenfranchisement, or African economic underdevelopment can now be globally accessed on independent websites such as www.panafrican.tv, www.africapoliticsonline.com, www.blackcommentator.com, www.youtube.com, or www.pacificaradioarchives.org. Media can now more easily be shaped to suit the Africana imagination, influencing how political ideology, blackness, and social responsibility in Africana communities, and thus the world, are engaged.