A Futurist Ask for Black History Month

Joy Thompson
Youth Collaboratory
A Black cowboy sitting atop a beige horse looking behind him, while the horse prepares to walk forward. Picture taken during the annual Black Joy Parade.

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. - Lilla Watson 

Happy Black Futures Month, a time for us to celebrate the history of Black people in America and the many ways that we have contributed to and continue to contribute to the fabric of American culture. 

We use the term Black Futures Month in order to keep our attention focused on a future that works for all of us. Coined by Alicia Garza, she says 

“Black communities have always been futurists…Because of the way that the rules have been rigged against our communities, we’ve been forced to imagine a new future with possibilities for freedom.”

Black history is filled with stories of people who would not be turned around from the vision and possibility of liberation and freedom, no matter the circumstances. 

This signifies to me that while transformation is often made during periods of great difficulty, we cannot “fix” the problem at the level of the problem. We must think bigger, and envision a greater possibility for ourselves, our organizations and our communities. 

As a youth serving field, where and how can we be more futurists? How can we shift from problem solving to possibility creating as Dr. Shawn Ginwright calls us to do in his book The Four Pivots? How can we continuously seek to cultivate joy for ourselves as service providers, intermediaries and allies to youth so that we are able to assist in cultivating theirs as Dr. Monique Couvson asks us to do in her book Cultivating Joyful Learning Spaces for Black Girls Insights into Interrupting School Pushout…? Where in our strategy can we benefit from the underutilized technology of imagination?   

Youth work is futurist work. Centering those most vulnerable in our communities requires stakeholders, and co-conspirators who can hold the vision of a future free from situations of human trafficking, and rampant homelessness in a world as richly resourced as this. 

We cannot be passive about our strides towards collective liberation, and we cannot afford to get stuck in the small battles of problem solving. If we are to lay the groundwork for a future free from injustice, inequities and want, we will need the foresight to know that it is possible. 

Resources/Further Reading


Author Bio: Joy Thompson is the Director of Programs for the Liberation and Building Community focus areas at Youth Collaboratory. When she is not working (and even sometimes while working) Joy enjoys listening to music, deep belly laughter, and quality time with her cat Kushy. 

Focus areas