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                      NEED NOT BE 
                                WHAT NEED
                                           HAD TO BE
         FOR WHAT WAS IS ONLY BECAUSE OF AN                              ADOPTED SOURCE OF THINGS
                           SOME CHOSEN SORCE AS WAS
                      NEED NOT BE THE ONLY PATTERN 
                                     TO BUILD THE WORLD ON



The Wiz
and Home

“Living here, in this brand new world

Might be a fantasy

But it taught me to love

So it's real, real to me

And I've learned

That we must look inside our hearts to find

A world full of love

Like yours

Like mine

Like home”

The 1978 film production of The Wiz is one of the first mainstream 

presentations of Afro-futurism. This retelling of The Wizard of Oz from the Black perspective takes the original story’s themes of creating home through imagination and love and reimagines these sentiments for Black Americans. How and where do displaced people determine home and a sense of belonging for themselves? In one of the concluding scenes of The Wiz, Dorothy (played by Diana Ross) performs a manifesto and a self-revelation: Home. Originally written by Charlie Smalls, “Home” is a prime example of Utopic Imagining.


In The Wiz, the imaginary world that Dorothy found herself in taught her love, regardless of the tangible realness of the environment. She sings that the wind, a force you can’t see, has meaning when it bends the trees; the tree’s affect, or presence, is informed by immaterial forces. Moreover, it is the affect of Dorothy’s imagined environment that has taught her love.


So many of the social constructs that inform our daily lives are human concepts that were designed and implemented into practice. Someone imagined and designed the measurements of time we use, the currency we use, the economic systems we employ. Systems that originated as concepts and theories impact us every day and shape our reality. Extending that logic, we can imagine and create anything, and that creation will affect us and can influence how we navigate the world. We have the ability to imagine, design, create and participate in a utopian world. Because it is never about how real something is, it’s about how something affects and moves you!


Definitions for Somatic Utopic Imagining











Affect - When I refer to Affect, I am referring to the term as “a set of observable manifestations of an experienced emotion: the facial expressions, gestures, postures, vocal intonations, etc., that typically accompany an emotion” and the “the conscious emotion that occurs in reaction to a thought or experience.” The bodily digestion and expression of experience is theorized to shape how we engage with the world. Our inventions, systems, relationships, and experiences, possess an Affect, and that Affect in turn informs our reality and the quality of our environment.



Ghetto Engineering - Solutions created through little resources or a collection of resources that vary in their origins. It often involves fixing an appliance to preserve the item and to prolong its use or assembling low-cost materials to create a cheaper alternative to a more expensive appliance one can purchase in the market. A practice familiar to Black and Brown people as a cultural method of sustainment and resilience. A social phenomenon often referenced in memes on social media. It is a creative practice that transcends the need for specific materials to design technologies.

Alter-Realities - An alternative way of living that is developed through imagination, design, and invention. Alter realities are created by people who live in harmful environments, with the intention to create a reality that serves the individual and their community. Stemmed from the philosophy of Sun Ra and the Sun Ra Akestra, the collective and collective leader, Sun Ra, often spoke of alter-destinies, arguing that we all have the potential to create our own futures regardless of what mainstream media, governments, and other paradigms determine as our future. Taking this understanding and bringing it to a present and active context, Alter-realities propose that we have the potential to determine what our realities look like regardless of what we’re forced to experience.

Jazz Artist Sun Ra sitting behind two keyboards performing

Utopic-Imagining - A pedagogy developed by Laila Islam and Reva Rutherford , Utopic-Imagining is a practice where one designs and creates alter-realities that better serve systematically oppressed communities through the principal of Affect. An Afrofuturist method of speculating the past, present, and future, imagining a utopia, and designing technologies that support one’s envisioned utopia.

Technology - Something that one first imagines, creates, and uses as a tool or resource. When referring to technologies, I am constantly considering the way technologies are first initially thoughts and ideas that are then manifested through design, invention, and creation. Further, technologies are “...a way of knowing and applying knowledge,” (Esperanza Spalding, Joyful Noise) a tool that informs and affects our reality and understanding of the world.

Somatic Pedagogy - Somatic Pedagogy is a series of group exercises and discussions where participants develop a conscious relationship with their body, their interpersonal engagements, and their environment to assess how these relationships have been influenced by capitalism, colonialism, and the matrix of domination.


Radical Healing -  A practice where one person or group of people create a space for communities who experience systemic harm to think and exist outside of their violent histories and realities. These generated platforms allow oppressed peoples to combat systemic harm while simultaneously empowering them with the ability to better unionize and mobilize as communities through communal care and collective interdependence.


Utopia -  An imagined space void of harm. Liberation struggles and movements of collective resilience do not aim for a perfect world, but instead a world where people are not violently and routinely harmed. When referring to a utopian state, I am referring to it as an aspiration for liberation and a movement towards that aspiration. Regardless of what may seem tangibly possible, envisioning a life and working towards anything less than a utopian state limits our minds and capacity for liberation. We have to think bigger than ourselves, bigger than what may be possible, in order to open the possibility for peace, healing, transformation, resilience, etc. We cannot begin to create what we cannot first imagine, therefore we must imagine the utopia to even begin creating sanctuaries, developing methods of resilience, and building movements toward liberation.

Additional References:

Design Justice Network

Intelligent Mischief

Affect Theory Reader

Air Conditioner designed and created

through Ghetto Engineering

Expanding Our Capacity for Imagination Through
Free-Styling and Free-Writing

During The Future Is Us Group Residency Reva and Laila led a three-week workshop series 
titled "Black Imagination as a Tool for Survival"

In the first session of this series, participants engaged in freewriting and freestyling 
exercises to expand their capacity for imaginative capacity by expanding their vocabulary.

Throughout this session participants were encouraged to have fun, be playful, and make room for "so-called errors and mistakes." This virtual room was a space to create new words, new sentence structures, and to be as abstract or as real as the participants desired. This was a space for participants to make their own linguistic world. 

Poem written by Reva Rutherford

Reva Rutherford

 untitled 2022

New Jersey

Scans of Takia's writing from a freewriting session

Takia Michael

 untitled 2022


Guided Meditations for Somatic Utopic Imagining

Guided Meditation for Envisioning a Utopia by Laila Islam

Hold your hand at your heart and at your tummy

Breathe in, allowing the air to completely fill your lungs


Inhale, Exhale

Inhale, Exhale


Now, you are surrounded by a calming darkness

There is nothing around you, you find comfort in the darkness

Extend your arms to reach out into the darkness, 

You feel nothing

What does the nothingness feel like?


You begin walking through, you cannot see anything around you

Until you see a small door, it’s small enough to crawl in 

The door in front of you, leads to a beautiful space, a space that has no end 

This space has everything you could possibly want or need

Whatever is passed the door you see, will bring you immense comfort and fulfillment 


The doorknob is golden 

You open it


Your eyes are blinded a bit from golden light that peaks through the door as you open it

The door swings open and you crawl through the tight space


You stand up, now in the endless beautiful space 

Look around you, 

You notice the door has disappeared and the space stretches as far as your eyes can see, filled with all of your favorite things.


Wiggle your toes, are you wearing your favorite shoes? Your favorite socks? Are you barefoot?


You can begin walking now, 


As you walk you breath in a deep gust of air, your space is filled with your favorite scents


Sounds from various directions fill your ears, they are all your favorite rhythms, tunes, and noises


Reach down to touch, what do you feel, is it a small animal? Is it a fuzzy flower? Is it a cloud that descended close to the ground just for you to feel?


Do you want to take flight? Go ahead, jump and fly! How light does your body feel, no longer suppressed by gravity?


Do you want to swim instead? If your space has water, run to it and dive in. How light does your body feel when supported by a body of water. Do you choose to float? Or do you dive deeper?


Whether you are in flight, standing, or swimming, take note of the excitement and joy you feel. Where in your body do you feel it the most? 

Allow the excitement and joy to spread throughout your body, to the top of your head to the soles of your feet.


Take a deep breath in as you prepare to leave your utopian space

Breathe in, allowing the air to completely fill your lungs


Inhale, Exhale

Inhale, Exhale

Slowly open eyes

Post meditation Discussion Questions:

  • How does your body feel? Where in your body did you feel most at ease? Do you feel excitement or joy anywhere in your body?

  • What tools and resources did you see in your favorite space? Did you see a lot of grass and water? Did you see ecofriendly skyscrapers and flying cars? Did you see a cabin in the woods?

  • If you could, who would you share your space with? Would you live there with them? 

Group Creative Visualization Meditation by Reva Rutherford 

(inspired by "Visualization Guided Meditation What Do You Want to Accomplish")

*Recommended to use when preparing to create something new*


Everyone get into a comfortable position, whatever that means for you.

Take a few deep breaths.

Feel your stomach and ribcage expand fully. Relax any muscles you don’t need to use right now.


Whenever you’re comfortable, we’re going to imagine how we last FELT when we made something we’re proud of. We’re gonna focus on the feeling.


Do you remember where in your body you felt a response? How did you respond? How did you celebrate?


Now we’re imagining what we create today with that lens of love and happiness.


Imagine that during your creative process you allow yourself to feel your full range of creative emotions. You allow the process to unfold in a way that lets you trust yourself, your instincts.


These are the same instincts that allow us to create larger worlds! Honor them.


To understand exactly what our utopias look like and what is included in our them, we assemble found imagery, concepts, and ideas through a collaging process. In The Future Is Us Group Residency, we hosted a workshop where participants collaged their utopias, speculating about the past and the present in order to later design a utopian future.

Reva Rutherford

 untitled 2022

Collage of printed materials

New Jersey


Collaged image of a Black woman in profile looking onward to the left. In front of the woman is text that reads "Imaginations The Future" leaves surround the back of the subject's head, there is line and blocks of color that extend beyond the top of the subject's head, and in that imagery, eyes are looking at the viewer. On top of these eyes is text that reads "Is Just the Start"

 Kenia Hale

untitled 2022

Digital Collage



Description by Kenia: 

Collage rendered in honor of a beloved movement ancestor and abolitionist, Polly Jackson. She escaped slavery and lived in an all Black community named Africa, Ohio on the border between Ohio and Kentucky, between freedom and bondage. She shepherded Black folks on the underground railroad, and protected folks after the passage of the fugitive slave act. She's said to have chased off enslavers with a kettle of boiling water and a butcher knife...I think about her often, tryna infuse my life with that kind of UNFUCKWITHABLE energy, that much love for my people and my future people. In the collage, she's surrounded by wildflowers native to Ohio. 

Collage rendered in honor of a beloved movement ancestor and abolitionist, Polly Jackson. She escaped slavery and lived in an all Black community named Africa, Ohio on the border between Ohio and Kentucky, between freedom and bondage. Polly Jackson it sitting in a wicker seat and in front of her is a large dark grey tea kettle and a butcher knife. She is surrounded by flowers throughout, wildflowers native to Ohio

Laila Islam

Utopian Love and Pleasure Manifesto 2022

Collage of printed materials




playlists curated by TFIU Group Residency participants Reva and Niko 


For when you need a reminder that you/we/them before & after us are worth fighting for! Hopefully these songs inspire you to keep going and remind you to feel your full range of emotions through it all! <3 - Reva


Rest is an act of resistance, something our ancestors fought hard for. It is important to rest in conjunction with resisting against these systems. This playlist is to encourage rest, breathing, slowing down,,, then gives you the momentum to keep going <3 - Niko

Screen Shot 2022-03-24 at 12.09_edited.jpg

As part of The Future Is Us Group Residency, we hosted a workshop series titled "Soma Art Making Sessions."

In these workshops we formed deeper connections to our bodies and our art making practices


rohaan unvala

Conversations and Presentations on Soma from The Future Is Us Group Residency

Screen Shot 2022-04-04 at 9.35.56 PM.png

Group Facilitator rohaan unvala sharing a presentation on a more expansive understanding of the body and how we can incorporate somatic practices in our art making/creative practices

Group Facilitator Laila Islam sharing an introductory presentation on somatic practices and a more expansive understanding of our body and environment. The Presentation is followed by a conversation with participants



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