Awakened early this morning at that consistent sleep interrupting 3am hour. Here I am with Sun Ra and space stuff taking me up. In 1960 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration established a presence in Huntsville, AL in the form of the Marshall Space Flight Center. This action would be another key in door above the foundation of this present city and the world. Over two decades before that, however, a young man by the same of Herman Poole Blount enrolled as a music education student at The State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute for Negroes (Now Alabama A&M University). Just over a year into his studies, he found himself on the edge of the campus thinking about his direction in life. As the story goes, “a beam of light that took him to Saturn” set him on the path to become the outer-space visionary that the world knows as Sun Ra, musician extraordinaire, and father of Afrofuturism.
By the time Dr. Wernher von Braun was gaining speed in Huntsville in the 50’s, Sun ra had already established his Arkestra and was well on his voyage. That was a loaded sentence, weighted with the names of two pioneers in space science. What is it about this little southern town tucked into the hollow of North Alabama, that took it from “the watercress capital of the world.” to leader in the aerospace and research industry? Is it the magical red clay, the “space dust” that Redstone Arsenal sits on and is named after? Also note that Redstone Arsenal was home to thriving black communities like Pond Beat and Mullins Flat. They lost their land and established way of life to Redstone Arsenal. Ironically, the Von Braun Center named after Dr. Wernher von Braun sits on the site that was once Alabama A&M University. Some say there is no such thing as coincidence. I’m inclined to concur. This Alabama red clay is rich with the blood of our ancestors. They left their magic in this hallowed ground.
With that, I am perplexed as to why the city has no monument to Sun Ra. While nationally and internationally he is held in the highest esteem, many people who live in the city have no idea who he is. Another hidden figure in American history. He was the undaunted pioneer who set the precedent. He was first to explore outer space and/or that space in which we can believe in the impossible. I am going to make sure there is a monument, not just to honor Sun Ra, the man and myth, but the miraculous possibilities that he brought to light and the inspiration to explore those possibilities.
“I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors.”
― Sun Ra,
for further information on Sun Ra and the impossible, please read this article in The New Yorker… https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/07/05/how-sun-ra-taught-us-to-believe-in-the-impossible