Brother From Another Planet: Envisioning Pan-African Progress Through Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism can help to map out a better pan-Africanist community.

In some ways, the Pan-Africanism movement is directly related to the afrofuturist genre. The point of afrofuturism, also known as the Black speculative arts, is to envision a future for Black people, therefore, it is inherently hopeful. While not all afrofuturist works are utopian, they do consistently provide an optimistic or encouraging road map through life for the receivers of the story.

Pan-Africanist doesn’t currently exist as an expansive enough movement across the diaspora and between African countries in a way that effectively connects and mobilizes Black populations against their oppressions. It is not yet as useful as it needs to be. Community is also one of the main themes in afrofuturism because healthier, better-built communities are often the key to achieving a better future. Due to the potential growth for Pan-Africanism as a movement and the community-focused, optimistic nature of the afrofuturism genre, it is the perfect space to envision the expansion of Pan-Africanism past its current limitations.

In an interview titled “On Black Panther, Afrofuturism, and Astroblackness: A Conversation with Reynaldo Anderson” published in The Black Scholar journal, Dr. Reyanold Anderson was asked about his opinion on the tension and limitations of Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism from his perspective of afrofuturism as developing toward pan-African social philosophy characterized by several scientific fields of study, or afrofuturism 2.0. One of Dr. Reyanold Anderson’s insights were:

“Therefore, it is logical for people of Black African descent to be interested in developing organizations and entities that focus on their international goals and aspirations. So, I would say the 2.0 development of Afrofuturism and Astro-Blackness, is analogous to the earlier development of Pan-Africanism (an idea that started in the diaspora) that would later be adopted by the African continent when they established the O.A.U and later the African Union, which, by the way, formally recognized its diaspora as a sixth zone of the union. In the near future, the hope is that Afrofuturism 3.0 (or some other name) will emerge as African Union members or organizations refashion it for their own sensibilities, tastes, and strategic goals.”

Dr. Anderson suggests that as afrofuturism develops, it will be shaped by the interests and sensibilities of Pan-Africanism, whereas right now, it is describing a cultural, social, and political moment that we are confronting in the Black world.

Pan-Africanism in the film Brother from Another Planet presents itself through the community building that occurs between the Black alien and the Black Harlem community.

When the brother (the Black alien) first sat in Odell’s bar, instead of telling him to leave or calling the police to get him off of the property, those Black men tried to communicate with the brother and sort some things out for him using their resources based on the assumption that he had no home, no job, nothing at all and that he needed some help. Forming community in times of need is what makes people humane and moral, its rewarding to all, and helps to overcome differences when that community is inclusive.

The crash landing of the brother into the U.S. as an actual alien appears to be metaphorical for the arrival experience of immigrants into the U.S. I think that his identity as an alien is meant to convey immigrant status as a parallel to real world circumstances. The fact that the brother identifies with the image of an enslaved Black person running away from his captures shows that he is seeking asylum from something coercive back where he had come from. Many immigrants come to the U.S. seeking asylum and the arrival is not usually an easy transition for one reason or another, whether it be bureaucratic, social, political, economic, or all of the above.

Not only did Odell give the brother some money, but Smokey, Odell, and Fly guilt tripped Sam, who works for the city as something like a social worker, into finding the brother some temporary shelter and a job. Although Sam couldn’t quiet figure out where exactly the brother was from, he still did his part in trying to make sure that he had his basic necessities to live.

Although the brother doesn’t speak, you could say that he is grateful to this small community of Black men in the bar because he comes back to the bar even after he has somewhere to sleep and some kind of work.

We also see community created between the brother and his co-worker Hector when Hector asks where the brother is from and ends up assuming that he is from Puerto Rico. At that point, Hector offers the brother a warning about their boss and wishes him good luck with his work.

Little Earl’s mother who allows the brother to temporarily sleep at her place and finally the brother’s Black alien underground railroad community also give him help when it is needed most. In the end, the effort to defeat the white pursuers had to be overcome using community support from various people who were human enough to see themselves in the vulnerable position that the brother was in, whether or not they belonged to the same racial/ethnic group or even the same planet.

Creating community is as hard as it is easy. It is meticulous, deliberate, consistent work.

Creating community sometimes can be as easy as doing someone a favor who you owe nothing to. However, the difficult part of community building is often becoming more than just tolerant of differences but actually compassionate and empathetic enough to be moved to progressive action. The kind of vulnerability that community building takes makes it hard to trust groups that we can sometimes see as other, that is only if we choose to see them as other.

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