There Are Black People In Louisville’s Future

Feb 1, 2023 at 12:00 pm
Erica Rucker, LEO Weekly's new editor-in-chief.
Erica Rucker, LEO Weekly's new editor-in-chief.

As we look out into the American abyss — Black bodies and Black trauma are still paraded in the streets and across our screens. Little seems to change in the system that creates these scenarios, and we’re grappling, yet again, with the “How much more?” question. How much more can we take? How many more Black bodies will be sacrificed to this system? The number has to be finite, but when will we see the final integer tick across our television screens or pop up as a tweet on our phones? 

As I started to plan this issue of LEO, knowing that it was falling on the first day of Black History Month, I wanted to consider what it meant to have a Black future here in Louisville. So often, daily survival keeps us from considering what we might become in the future. When I say we, I am speaking directly to Black people as a Black woman. What will we be in the future? We will be in the future. That is a certainty.

Artist Alisha B. Wormsley declared in her 2017 billboard in Pittsburgh’s now-gentrified East Liberty neighborhood, “There are Black people in the future.” The statement seems obvious. Of course, Black people are part of the future. This statement, however, gave agency and space to Black people to claim their part in the future. It spoke to the need for Black folks to look ahead and make the future be there for us, not just that we need to exist for the future. We will be a part of it and it better make room for us because we’re coming. 

Wormsley follows in the footsteps of many Afrofuturists, including Sun Ra, who our new film writer, Tracy Heightchew, discusses in her piece about “Space is the Place,” playing Thursday, Feb 2, free at the Speed Cinema. The film gives Sun Ra center stage to offer Black people a chance at a world that leaves “Earth” and all of its dangers behind. 

This issue examines Black future through our stories, our music and our art. Since this is also the LEO Winter A&E issue, it created the perfect chance to put these pieces together. 

There are two features in this issue, one a story from the Louisville Story Program’s newest book, “If You Write Me a Letter, Send It Here” due in April, which gives people from the Russell neighborhood a chance to tell their stories amidst the current shifts in their landscape; and the other an Interview-Magazine-style piece where Kiana Benhoff of Kiana and the Sun Kings interviews another musical artist, Cyr Wilson of Live Action about the musical divide in Louisville. It takes two artists, seemingly from different musical genres, and allows them the space to talk about challenges and opportunities. 

The issue is unique in that much of it is centered clearly around a theme. It is a more curated LEO than many previous, but I think the cohesion in the stories, the opportunity for a Black future to be imagined or experienced, is something quite special. If space and money were never an issue, I could have added so much more to this book, and so many more voices. With that said, I’m quite proud of the work and the stories. This is another issue that you can spend time with over a favorite hot mug, glass of wine, or whatever you drink (or don’t) while reading your LEO.

The stories will show up online, but the paper is something unique this time. Our cover art by Alexis ‘Stix’ Brown is a window into what could be and a nod to what has been. As she says in her interview, “My work challenges its viewers to emerge with something tangible for our elders to be proud of, a safe space for our future generations to navigate confidently, and to compliment the unwavering spirit of our brave Ancestors.” 

This issue creates a space, something tangible for our elders to be proud of, something of a safe space, I hope that in some small way, this issue complements the spirit of those who came before me, who gave me their shoulders to stand on, and who still support the work that happens at LEO in creating room for voices that should be heard.