Poet Porsha Olayiwola uses Afrofuturism to look back at history.
“It’s reimagining, it’s reconciling, it’s inserting magic in a way that feels like something might live forever,” she told NEXT.
Olayiwola is the Boston poet laureate and a fellow with the Academy of American Poets. In 2019, she released her debut book of poetry, “i shimmer sometimes, too.”
Olayiwola’s poem about actress and singer Dorothy Dandridge is an example of this Afrofuturistic lens. It’s titled “Dorothy Dips A Toe Into A Pool After Being Warned The Water Would Be Drained Should A Black Person Swim In It, 1953 Las Vegas.” And the story goes much like that. After Dandridge dips her toe in the pool, it is drained, and later, she walks by to see Black workers scrubbing the pool.
“It’s this really visceral looped experience,” Olayiwola said.
But in Olayiwola’s poem, she writes a narrative that “the water wanted [Dorothy] all along.” She said this reimagining is a form of reparations.
This interview was featured in a recent episode of NEXT from the New England News Collaborative. You can listen to the entire episode here.