The Black Astronaut Research Project: A Portal to a New Future

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The Denver-based Rick Griffith is PRINT’s first Artist-in-Residence. Check back every Wednesday throughout the month as we spotlight various projects by the graphic designer and master letterpress printer. And to read or listen to the first installment of his new PRINT column, “Processing (,.,.,.,.,.,.,),” click here.

Rick Griffith and Stephen Brackett of the activist band Flobots had just finished appearing on an art education forum panel together, and over lunch, they wondered: “What can we do to escape the narrative associated with the North Atlantic slave trade—a narrative that has hurt everyone in the world with racial inequality and lack of equity?”

As he pondered the all-encompassing gravitational pull of the subject, Griffith had a rather cosmic idea.

“The natural place for that conversation to go is actually into science fiction and futures, because the science fiction futures don’t use slavery as an index—and we do in our day-to-day conversations,” he says.

The essential elements of a new narrative focused on a post-racial world?

“A, love, and B, space travel,” Griffith says. “Because in space travel, no one gives a shit if youre Black. They do care if you’re a Klingon and they do care if you’re a Vulcan, because we have all sorts of interspecies stereotypical conversations these days, but being Black isn’t part of that. It’s so delightful to find a place where the stress is lifted from that label.”

Griffith began researching Black astronauts … and soon enough, he was developing BL.A.R.P.—the Black Astronaut Research Project—a database and educational tool filled with both real astronauts and fictional characters, the sum toll of which “shows people that it’s already been done—and all we have to do is catch up with it.”

Explore the inspiring wave of the future here—and to pick up a print of Griffiths letterpress work around the project, click the image to head to the Matter shop.