Bob Nickas: No one would expect to find the two of you together, but Sun Ra, your movie, Space Is the Place, and the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse-Five, with Billy Pilgrim in the lead, were made in 1972, and central to each story is the fact that you were both abducted. The two of you have something rather special in common—intergalactic adventure and time travel.
Sun Ra: It’s true. In my case, the future was held for ransom. Billy was taken to another planet for some prenatal fun and games.
Billy: They hooked me up with the girl of my dreams.
Sun Ra: And you two had a baby, of all things, so the Milky Way could be even whiter.
Bob: Don’t forget that the full title of the book is Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. Billy didn’t really have a choice.
Sun Ra: He was only following… orders?
Bob: He became a willing captive in what turned out to be more of a biological experiment.
Billy: Sun Ra planned to take his chosen people away from the Earth, to save them.
Bob: From who?
Billy: From us. “Fear of a Black Planet” … in reverse. It was a brilliant and radical re-imagining of history. Marcus Garvey in a UFO.
Sun Ra: You went on your own pilgrimage, Billy, more than once.
Bob: In my favorite scene from Space Is the Place, you’re dressed in Egyptian finery, flanked by a pair of attendants wearing gold masks. One of them is Horus, the falcon-headed God. It is a very tripped-out scene, even for the time. You walk into an Oakland youth center. On the wall are posters of various Black Panthers—Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver—there’s a pool table and a jukebox. The kids who are hanging out stare wide-eyed in disbelief.
Sun Ra: They ask me, “Are you for real?”
Bob: And you gently lecture them: “I’m not real, I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we are both myths. I do not come to you as a reality, I come to you as the myth because that is what black people are—myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m going to be here until I pick out some of you to take back with me.”