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The black Fantastic text with brown background

“The Black Fantastic” is a project the University Communications and Marketing team created as a means to highlight excellence among a few of WCU’s Black faculty and staff members. As we celebrate Black History Month, this is an artistic and creative look at some of the people who are helping to shape and mentor the great minds of the future. In their own words, each was asked to respond to the phrase, “I am proud of my success because …” The title “The Black Fantastic” was chosen by the participants and stems from Richard Iton’s book, “In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era.”

As Munene Mwaniki, WCU associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, explains, “The book broadly discusses the contemporary and lingering political problems facing Black America since the landmark Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. Though still widely heralded, the Civil Rights era did not result in a restructuring of American politics, rather it found that the foundational aspects of U.S. politics had certain, if flexible, limits towards social change. In the decades that followed, Black entrance into the political sphere not only failed in many respects, but also led to a number of compromises that constrained Black political thought and attempted to separate Black political thought from its long relationship with Black popular culture. For Iton, the Black Fantastic represents a challenge, a destabilizing force, to the status quo that seeks to limit and constrain Black creativity and politics. It is a pushing of boundaries, a grasping and claiming of space, beyond those limits that only appear to be concrete in order to create something new, something human. The Black Fantastic here, then, should be seen as unconventional, with sense towards ignored or underdeveloped possibilities for those considered Black in the U.S. and throughout the Black diaspora.”

Munene Mwaniki - Associate Professor in Anthropology and Sociology

Munene Mwaniki

It's extraordinary and ordinary. Getting a PhD certainly isn't easy and there are few Black professors to model ourselves after, but I also was fortunate in a lot ways and don't believe that a degree makes me smarter than others. It's individual and community. Taking this route can be lonely at times, but there were questions about this world that I needed to answer for myself, which in turn required a community of support, scholarship and the desire to give back. It's hopeful and ongoing. Studying the problems of society is frustrating at times, but as Miriame Kaba says, “Hope is a discipline, so you continue to push and learn in order to realize something better.” It's survival and revolution. Being Black in our society can destroy you if you don't understand it, and in that understanding comes the realization that change goes beyond representation, it requires new ideas and institutions to dream and fight for a society not based on our exploitation or oppression.

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