Philly Afrofuturists take over Hatfield House

The Hatfield House, a preserved 18th century farmhouse in Fairmount Park near Brewerytown, has its…

The Hatfield House, a preserved 18th century farmhouse in Fairmount Park near Brewerytown, has its own rich history. The Greek Revival building was originally constructed about four miles north, near Germantown, where it had served as a private residence, a boarding school for girls, and a summer retreat for a wealthy Philadelphia doctor, Nathan Hatfield.

It was then moved, piece by piece, to 33rd and Girard where since 1930 the building has been used as a house museum, nonprofit office spaces and now, a community arts space operated by Fairmount Park Conservancy.

What if the house also served as a time-travel portal used by a secret society — the Temporal Disruptors – whose members communicate across centuries?

“The Temporal Disruptors are speculative,” said Rasheedah Phillips, one half of the artistic collaboration Black Quantum Futurism. “It’s actually based on Black scientists and doctors who lived in Philadelphia, spread out across time and space, who are often left out of history, often left out of the narrative around Black communities and what we’ve done in history.”

A temporal disruptor featuring Mae Jemison, the first Black, female astronaut.
A temporal disruptor featuring Mae Jemison, the first Black, female astronaut, an engineer and doctor. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“It’s not imaginary,” added Camae Ayewa, also known as Moor Mother, the other artist in Black Quantum Futurism. The Disruptors feature figures such as Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut, and Leon Sullivan, an entrepreneur who developed Progress Plaza, America’s first Black-owned shopping center, in North Philadelphia.

“It’s drawing on very real histories and, yes, there is speculation in it,” Phillips said. “We have to speculate as Black people on our histories and on our futures, because we’re so often cut off from the future, so often left out of history, and so often compressed into the present.”

What’s speculative about BQF’s installation in Hatfield House, called “Ancestors returning again/this time only to themselves,” is that these Black scientists, doctors, writers, and engineers across wide expanses of time are able to communicate with one another, using messages and artifacts that move back and forth through time.

The time travel portal for the imagined secret society: Hatfield House.