BPT 2017 BLACK MATTERS
Black Matters, April 28-30, Washington University. This convening actually moves us to and from the actual black body. An exploration of objects and things, as they may relate to body, index the body, call forth the body, or point toward particular bodies. Black Matters is as much about signification as significance, a reflection on the relationship between blackness and all it touches, transfixes, and transforms. In addition, it gestures toward all things that are affiliated with, in conversation with, and standing against blackness. We know black subjectivity matters, but what of black objects, traditions, things, thoughts, etc?
Takiyah Nur Amin (Ph.D., Temple University) is a dance scholar, educator and consultant. Her research focuses on 20th century American concert dance, African diaspora dance performance and aesthetics and pedagogical issues in dance studies. She is currently completing a book length project (under contract with University of Illinois Press) that explores the work of Black women choreographers during the height of the US-based Black Power and Black Arts Movements.
Her scholarship has appeared in several critical journals including The Black Scholar, Dance Chronicle, Dance Research Journal, the Western Journal of Black Studies and the Journal of Pan-African Studies. Her book chapters have been published or are forthcoming in the edited volumes Jazz Dance: A History of Its Roots and Branches, The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen, Rethinking Dance History: Issues and Methodologies (2nd Edition)and Are You Entertained?: Black Popular Culture in the 21st Century.
She is a twice-elected board member of the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD),) co-founder of CORD’s Diversity Working Group, a founding member of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) and a host on the New Book Network’s Dance Channel.
An “interdisciplinary humanist,” Dr. Amin teaches courses in dance history, Black aesthetics and the sociocultural role of dance in human society. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Dance Studiesand affiliate faculty in the Department of Africana Studies and in the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. At UNC Charlotte, Dr. Amin has been appointed to both the Honors Faculty and the Faculty of the Graduate School.
Takiyah Nur Amin is a proud native of Buffalo, NY and is the eldest daughter of Karima and the late Abdul Jalil Amin.
Dotun Ayobade situates his research at the intersection of performance, gender, sexuality and postcolonialism in West Africa. He earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin. He also obtained portfolio certificates in African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) as well as in Women and Gender Studies (WGS). He is currently working on his first book manuscript titled Women That Danced the Fire Dance: Fela Kuti’s Queens and the Postcolonial Politics of Play. This work examines the shifting notions of power and agency that Fela’s wives (famously known as Afrobeat Queens) embodied through Afrobeat performance. Ayobade’s research earned him The University of Texas at Austin’s prestigious Graduate School Named/Endowed Continuing Fellowship for 2014-2015. Ayobade currently teaches in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) at UT Austin.
Lori Barcliff Baptista, PhD., directs the African-American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois — Chicago and holds faculty appointments in the School of Theatre & Music, the graduate program in Museum and Exhibition Studies and Honors College. Her research, teaching and creative work focus on the relationships between material and expressive culture, identity performances and pressing social and environmental justice issues. Her current book project: Being Useful: Participatory Action Research, Place making and Social Practice critically assesses the aesthetics, affect and efficacy of mounting collaborative exhibitions and creative projects as a method for conducting and disseminating research. Her research is featured in a number of peer-reviewed journals such as Text and Performance Quarterly, and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth edited volume, Fashioning Ethnic Culture: Portuguese -American Communities Along the Eastern Seaboard. She may be contacted at Baptista [at] uic.edu
Stephanie Leigh Batiste is Associate Professor of Black Studies and English at The University of California at Santa Barbara and Director of the Hemispheric South/s Research Initiative. She is co-editor of the NYU Book Series Performance and American Culture. Her specialty areas include Black Performance Studies, African American Literature and Culture, American Studies, and Cultural Studies. Her book, Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representation in Depression Era African American Performance (Duke University Press, 2011) focuses on the relationship between power and identity in black performance cultures to reimagine black subjectivity. Her current book project studies violence and affect in millennial black urban performance cultures in Los Angeles. Professor Batiste is also a creative writer, performer, and supporter of the arts.
Melissa Blanco Borelli is Senior Lecturer, Dance in the Drama and Theatre Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (OUP, 2014) and author of She Is Cuba: A Genealogy of the Mulata Body (OUP, 2015) which won the Society of Dance History Scholars’ De La Torre Bueno Prize for best book in Dance Studies 2016. Other publications include chapters in Black Performance Theory (Duke University Press, 2014), Zizek and Performance (Palgrave, 2014). Her research topics include: blackness in Latin America, particularly in Cuba; Latin American popular dance; film studies; popular dance on screen; black performance theory; performance ethnography; feminist historiography; auto-ethnography; embodied identity politics (particularly race, gender and sexuality); dance theatre devising/choreography; and performative writing. Current projects include historical fiction about the mulata subject as ‘conjurer’ particularly across temporal and spatial geographies; the role, practice and significance of dance in Latin America (or by Latin American choreographers working in Europe) within post-Fordist neoliberal capitalism; and decolonial aesthetics and ideas of ‘cool’ in Latin America.
Rich Blint is the 2016-2017 Scholar-in-Residence in the MFA Program in Performance + Performance Studies in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. He is co-editor of a special issue of African American Review on James Baldwin; contributing editor of The James Baldwin Review; provided the introduction and notes for the eBook, Baldwin for Our Times: Writing from James Baldwin for an Age of Sorrow and Struggle (Beacon Press 2016); and was the October Guest Critic of The Brooklyn Rail, which featured Baldwin. He is presently at work on his book project, A Radical Interiority: James Baldwin and the Personified Self in Modern American Culture and is the editor of the 1980s volume of The African American Literature in Transition Series: 1750-2015, being prepared for Cambridge University Press. He has held faculty, research, and administrative appointments at Columbia University, Barnard College, Hunter College, and the Murphy Institute at the Graduate and University Center, CUNY; and has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundations, among others.
Rashida K. Braggs is Assistant Professor in Africana Studies and affiliate faculty in American Studies and Comparative Literature at Williams College. With her background in performance studies, she consistently introduces a performative lens to African diasporic cultural expressions, from jazz to sports to mass media. Her book Jazz Diasporas: Race, Music and Migration in Post-World War II Paris (2016) analyzes music, literature, film, historical documents and ethnographic interviews in order to investigate the illusion of a color-blind Paris that seduced African American musicians, the strategies they used to thrive in Paris, and the transformations in personal identity that paralleled jazz’s own morphing identity from 1946-1963. Her work has also been published in such journals as Nottingham French Studies, The Journal of Popular Music, Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International and The James Baldwin Review. In all of her courses from 13 Ways of Looking at Jazz to Groovin’ the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature to Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad, Dr. Braggs teaches students to explore ways that performance conveys the values, patterns and negotiations of power in communities. In addition to her scholarship and pedagogy, Dr. Braggs enjoys putting performance to practice by acting, writing, slamming poetry, singing, dancing and playing multiple sports.
Jennifer DeVere Brody directs Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity and has also chaired Stanford’s Theater & Performance Studies Department. Her work has appeared in Theatre Journal, Signs, Genders, Callaloo, Text and Performance Quarterly and in several edited volumes. Her books, Impossible Purities (Duke University Press, 1998) and Punctuation: Art, Politics and Play (Duke University Press, 2008) both discuss relations among and between sexuality, gender, racialization, visual studies and performance. She has served as the President of the Women and Theatre Program, on the board of Women and Performance and has worked with the Ford and Mellon Foundations. She has worked with BPT for 20 years.
Mark Broomfield, Assistant Professor of Dance Studies and Associate Director of the Geneseo Dance Ensemble at SUNY Geneseo (Ph.D., M.F.A.), is a scholar/artist who has danced with the repertory company Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, performing in leading works by some of the most diverse and recognized African American choreographers in the American modern dance tradition that include: Talley Beatty, Katherine Dunham, Eleo Pomare, Donald McKayle, David Rousseve, and Ronald K. Brown. His forthcoming publications include “Branding Ailey: “Carrying On” and the Embodied Resistance of the Queer, Black, Male Dancing Body,” by Oxford University Press and “Stranger in the Bronx” by Vanderbilt University Press. His poem “Passing Out” is published in Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies. He is currently working on his book Passing for Almost Straight: Dance, Race, and Gender After Alvin Ailey and documentary Danced Out. Broomfield is the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, the SUNY Faculty Diversity Award, and the Ford Foundation Fellowship. www.markbroomfield.org
La Marr Jurelle Bruce is Assistant Professor of American Studies and faculty affiliate in African American Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies, and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Much of his scholarship concerns blackness and feeling—that is, the phenomenological, affective, and erotic textures of black life across the diaspora—and how these inflect black expressive cultures. More broadly, he writes and teaches about Africana literature and performance, global pop culture, disability studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, and the art and aesthetics of quotidian black life.
Winner of the 2014 Joe Weixlmann Award from African American Review, Dr. Bruce has work featured or forthcoming in African American Review, American Quarterly; No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies (Duke University Press, 2016); Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies; and TDR: The Drama Review.
For the 2016 – 2017 school year, Dr. Bruce is Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. During his fellowship term, Dr. Bruce will complete the manuscript for How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity (forthcoming, Duke University Press), a study of black artists who mobilize madness in radical literature and performance. His second book, The Afromantic, will unfurl a cultural history and critical theory of black joy and utopianism amid antiblackness.
Rikki Byrd is a scholar, writer and educator. In Fall 2016, she joined the faculty in the Sam Fox School of Visual Art at Washington University – St. Louis, where she teaches Fashion History and Research Methods. Her research unpacks the intersection of fashion and African American history. She is the co-founder of the Fashion and Race Syllabus – an ongoing academic project exploring the intersection of fashion and race, expanding upon and decentralizing fashion history. The project also strives to cultivate and sustain a (virtual) research space for fashion scholars of color.
Dr. N. Fadeke Castor is a Black Feminist, and African Diaspora Studies scholar who has taught at Williams College, Duke University, and Texas A&M University. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago with a focus on post-colonialism, religion, and race in the Caribbean. Dr. Castor conducted extensive ethnographic research between 1998 and 2012, including three continuous years (2002-5) living in in Trinidad supported by grants from Fulbright-Hays and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Her current research and teaching interests include religion, performance, citizenship, identity and representation in popular/public culture, and decolonization, in the African Diaspora, specifically in the Caribbean and West Africa. Dr. Castor is also initiated in the Yoruba diasporic religion to Ifá, Obatala, and Egbe where she holds the titles Omo Awo Fadeke and Iyalode Egbefunmilayo.
In her written work she explores emerging forms of cultural citizenship with special attention to the performance of decolonizing practices and intersections of identity. Dr. Castor’s book, Spiritual Citizenship: Transnational Pathways from Black Power to Ifá in Trinidad (forthcoming 2017, Duke University Press), argues that the Trinidad Ifá/Orisha religion emerges from black power as central to the development of decolonization practices and cultures. This African-diasporic religion draws from spiritual epistemologies embedded in transnational networks to inform a global spiritual citizenship intimately tied to black liberation. An article from this project, “Shifting multicultural citizenship: Trinidad Orisha opens the road,” has been published in Cultural Anthropology. Her new project, Black Spirits Matter, looks at the interplay of African diasporic religions, social justice, and transnationalism as an example of spiritual citizenship in action.
Dr. Tabitha Chester is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Black Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies at Denison University. She received her PhD in Theatre and Performance of the America’s and a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Arizona State University in the Summer of 2013. Her current research interests include sexuality, religion, and performativity in Black culture. Her dissertation Ima Read: Reading the Black Church through the Performative Work of Black Same Gender Loving Men, looks at the role religion plays in the performance of sexuality in the Black community. She is currently working on her monograph No Daughter of Mine: Performing Sexuality and Gender as a Preacher’s Daughter.
Thomas F. DeFrantz serves as Chair of the Duke Department of African and African American Studies. In the summer of 2015, DeFrantz taught at the Impulsetanz festival in Vienna, and the New Waves festival in Trinidad and Tobago. He acted as the primary consultant for the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, advising on programming, convening an all-day symposium with a national roster of artists and researchers, and conducting artist talks with Savion Glover, Ronald K. Brown. In the 2015-2016 academic year, he conducted artist workshops and residencies at Columbia College Chicago; Brown University; Washington University in St. Louis; and University of Boulder in Colorado. He created the tap dance repertory work “tell me a secret” for the dance program at Washington University in St. Louis. Working with Andrea Woods Valdez as a prime participant, he convened the symposium Curating for Communities of Color. Working with Ava Lavonne Vinesett and Dasha Chapman and Mario LaMothe and Moarabi Kakabalo, he convened the five day event Africa in Circum-Atlantic Perspective: Feminist Performance Routes. With Takiyah Nur Amin, Shireen Dickson, and Woods-Valdez he staged the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance conference “Dancing the Afrofuture” in February 2016; the event brought 175 researchers together on the Duke campus. In October, working with niv ACOSTA, he convened and performed in the four-day festival afroFUTUREqu##r in New York City at the JACK space in October. In January, he presented an original creation “i am black: you have to be willing to not know” at the American Realness festival in New York. He acted as a consultant for the Detroit Institute of the Arts show DANCE! American Art 1830-1960 that opened in March, and created fastDANCEpast, a technologically-inflected dance work for the opening of the show at the DIA, and reperformed at the Crystal Bridges Museum November 2016. SLIPPAGE also made reVerse-gesture-reVIEW commissioned by the Nasher Museum in response to the work of Kara Walker, January, 2017. SLIPPAGE performed at the Nasher Museum as a keynote for the large African and African American Studies event, “Global Slaveries and Impossible Freedoms: The Intellectual Legacies of John Hope Franklin.” SLIPPAGE also performed as a keynote for the 10th annual Feminist Theory Workshop at Duke with the 2013 “Theory-ography 4.5-a: we still queer here.” In May, 2016, SLIPPAGE created a new work for the Moogfest. DeFrantz acted as a consultant for the Smithsonian African American Museum, contributing a voice-over for a permanent installation that will open with the museum in 2017. He acted as a panelist for the National Endowment of the Arts and the MAP fund. DeFrantz performed in the North Carolina Dance Tour in the fall of 2015, with performances in Raleigh, Greensboro, and Boone. He participated in public conversations about dance and culture at the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Apollo Theater, and the 2016 Dance/NYC conference. He published the essay “Black Dance After Race” in the volume The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (2016) and “Bone-Breaking, Black Social Dance, and Queer Corporeal Orature” in a special issue of the journal The Black Scholar titled “Black Moves: New Research in Black Dance Studies” that he co-edited with Tara Aisha Willis (2016). In 2016 he created a work “…but are we good now?” for the students at Columbia College Chicago. SLIPPAGE is a proud proud sponsor for BPT! slippage.org
Julius B. Fleming, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. Specializing in African Diasporic literatures and cultures, he has particular interests in performance studies, visual culture, political philosophy, sound studies, and medicine—especially where they intersect with race, gender, and sexuality. Julius is currently completing his first book manuscript, entitled Black Patience: The Radical Potential of Performance in the Civil Rights Movement. This project argues that black theatre, like photography and television, was a vital mode of black political thought and aesthetic innovation during the Civil Rights Movement. Julius’ work appears in Callaloo, American Literary History, Text and Performance Quarterly, The James Baldwin Review, and The Southern Quarterly. Currently serving as an Associate Editor of Callaloo, he has been awarded fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University. From 2016-2018, Julius will be in residence at the University of Virginia as a Carter G. Woodson Postdoctoral Fellow.
Anita Gonzalez (Ph.D), Professor of Theatre and Drama, heads the Global Theatre and Ethnic Drama minor at UM. Her innovative stagings of historical and cross-cultural experiences have appeared on PBS national television and at Lincoln Center Out-of Doors, The Working Theatre, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, New York Live Arts, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and other national and international venues. Gonzalez has authored two books Afro-Mexico: Dancing Between Myth and Reality (2010) and Jarocho’s Soul (2005) that reveal the influence of African people and their cultural productions on Mexico. She also co-edited the volume Black Performance Theory (Duke University Press 2013). Her essays about multi-cultural and international performance appear in several edited collections including The Community Performance Reader (Kuppers), Festive Devils (Riggio, Segura, and Vignola) and the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theatre (George-Graves, 2015). She has published articles in the Radical History Review, Modern Drama, Performance Research International, and Dance Research Journal. Gonzalez will be a Humanities Center Fellow at the University of Michigan during the 2017/18 academic year and she is a recent recipient of the Shirley Verrett Award for outstanding teaching of performance. http://www.anitagonzalez.com
Danielle Heard Mollel is an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. She has received fellowships from the Ford, Mellon, and Hellman foundations, the Davis Humanities Institute and participated in the inaugural First Book Institute held at the Center for American Literary Studies at Penn State University. She has published essays in Callaloo, Women & Performance, the Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin, The Rutgers Race & the Law Review, African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision, the Oxford African American Studies Center, and The Jim Crow Encyclopedia. She is the author of the forthcoming Mavericks of Masquerade: Comic Strategies of Post-Blackness which examines the radical strategic impulse of experimental humor in post-black literary and cultural texts that respond specifically to obstacles faced by black artists in the knowledge economy of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Her second project, No Justice…Peace: Fighting the Fight with Black Feminism’s Tradition of Radical peace, Radical Compassion, and Radical Self-love, examines a tendency within black feminist writing, performance, and theory to draw upon Eastern religion as a way to transform the exceptional suffering of the black female into joy, insight, and compassionate community.
As a scholar/artist/activist, Dr. Amber Johnson explores the language, exigency, sound, and aesthetics of various social movements. Her research and activism focus on performances of identity, protest, and social justice in digital and lived spaces. As a polymath, her mixed-media artistry involves working with metals, recycled and reclaimed goods, photography, poetry, percussion, and paint to interrogate systems of oppression. She is an award-winning scholar and teacher, including the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for her research on black masculinity and the performative possibilities of social media, the Lilla A. Heston award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies for her work on embodied pedagogies and social justice, and the recipient of the Faculty Excellent Award for Diversity and Social Justice. She has published articles in several journals including Qualitative Inquiry, Critical Studies in Media and Communication, Text & Performance Quarterly, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, and Communication Quarterly. Her forthcoming book, Messy Intersections: Navigating Cultural Terrain, blends poetic narrative, autocritography, and photography. Dr. Amber Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Social Justice at Saint Louis University, and the creator of The Justice Fleet ™, mobile justice museums that interrogates radical forgiveness.
Dr. Imani Kai Johnson is an interdisciplinary scholar, specializing in the African diaspora, global popular culture, and Hip Hop. She earned her bachelor’s from UC Berkeley, a master’s from New York University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. She is currently completing a manuscript, titled Dark Matter in B-boying Cyphers: Hip Hop in a Global Context, examining the political, cultural, and spiritual nature of Hip Hop dance through a close examination of the ritual practice of cyphering—collaborative and competitive dance circles. Dr. Johnson has published articles in the Cambridge Encyclopedia on Hip Hop Culture, comparative poetics journal titled Alif, the journal on Women & Performance, and recently had an article accepted into a forthcoming anthology on Black Popular Culture. She is currently Assistant Professor of Critical Dance Studies at UC Riverside. Dr. Johnson is also the founder and chair of the Show & Prove Hip Hop Studies Conference Series.
Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson is an Assistant Professor of African & Afro-American and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. A Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow, she earned her Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. She served as Postdoctoral Fellow in African American Studies at Northwestern University. In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for combining “superlative scholarship with inspired teaching.” She is currently in residence as a Newhouse Center for the Humanities Fellow at Wellesley College.
Johnson’s work examines the politics of black movement including dance, diasporic travel, and gentrification. Interdisciplinary in nature, her work is situated at the intersection of diaspora theory, dance and performance studies, ethnography, and black feminism. Currently, Johnson is working on her book manuscript on the industry of West African dance in the United States and Guinea.
Johnson serves on the board of The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance, the Society of Dance History Scholars, and the Editorial Board of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. She is also a dancer, and has performed internationally.
Professor Javon L. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Performance and Communication Studies at San Francisco State University where he teaches courses in performance, gender, methods, race, and creative writing. After earning his Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, Professor Johnson served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, as well as the Program Manager of History at California African American Museum. Professor Johnson is currently completing two manuscripts; Killing Poetry: Performing Blackness, Poetry Slams and the Making of Spoken Word Communities (Rutgers University Press), an ethnographic project that examines the performances of race, gender, sexuality, and class in slam and spoken word poetry communities, and Chiraq: War Cries, Love and Other Stories from the Murder Capital (Northwestern University Press), a coedited volume that uses poems, essays, and interviews to explore Chicago. Additionally, Professor Johnson writes for The Huffington Post, The Root, and Our Weekly, and serves on the editorial board for Text & Performance Quarterly.
Additionally, Professor Johnson is a highly awarded spoken word poet. Merging race and gender theory with comedy and lyricism, Professor Johnson began writing seriously in 2001. Shortly thereafter he won poetry slam nationals in 2003 (team Los Angeles), in 2004 (team Hollywood), and placed 3rd in 2005, making him one of a handful of poets to make finals three years in a row. Returning to slam after a brief hiatus, Professor Johnson placed 5th in 2011, 4thin 2012, and 2nd in 2013 (team Hollywood). Professor Johnson appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Lyric Café, TVOnes Verses & Flow, The Arsenio Hall Show, The Steve Harvey Show, and co-wrote a documentary titled Crossover, which aired on Showtime, in collaboration with the NBA and Nike. Professor Johnson recently finished a national tour with Fiveology, a collective of spoken word poets, and currently serves on the Board of Say Word, an organization that mentors teenagers and promotes creative self-expression through spoken word poetry in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times said, “From subject matter, to wordplay to delivery, he is working it out! It’s hard not to have good times while watching him have a good time on stage.”
Omi Osun Joni L. Jones is an artist/scholar and Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work focuses on performance ethnography, theatrical jazz, Yoruba-based aesthetics, Black Feminisms, and activist theatre. Her original performances include “sista docta”—a critique of the academy, and “Searching for Osun”—a performance ethnography around Yoruba-based spirituality and identity. She has conducted theatre for social change workshops for the Forum on Governance and Democracy in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, for Educafro in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and for the Austin Project which she founded as a collaboration of women of color artists, scholars, activists and allies who use art for re-imagining society. The work of the Austin Project is documented in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia and the Austin Project, co-edited by Jones, Sharon Bridgforth and Lisa Moore (University of Texas Press, 2010). Jones’s print scholarship can be found in TDR, TPQ, Theatre Journal and Theatre Topics. She is a member of the Urban Futures Network Think Tank at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and serves as Artist-in-Residence (with her partner Sharon Bridgforth) for IDEX/Thousand Currents in Oakland. Her collaborative ethnography, Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àṣẹ, and the Power of the Present Moment, was released through the Ohio State University Press in 2015.
Christina Knight is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at Haverford as well as the Director of the Visual Studies Program. Before joining the Haverford faculty, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College as well as a Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow. Knight’s work examines the connection between embodied practices and identity, the relationship between race and the visual field, and the queer imaginary. Her current book project focuses on representations of the Middle Passage in contemporary American visual art and performance. She is also a playwright and co-founder of the dance theater company knightworks. For more information, see: http://www.knightworksdancetheater.org/home.html.
Mario LaMothe is a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Illinois – Chicago’s African-American Cultural Center. From 2015-2016, he was a Postdoctoral Associate in Interdisciplinary Sexuality Studies at Duke University’s Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, and received a doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. Mario’s research interests focus on theories of Caribbean performance traditions and African diaspora health cultures. His first book project, Giving Bodies: Dance, Memory, and Imagined Haitian Identities, investigates the activist manner in which contemporary islander choreographers Jean-René Delsoin and Jeanguy Saintus confront constructs of Haitianness, after the 2010 earthquake. The expressive social justice project situates how the choreographers leverage the aesthetics, philosophies and embodied techniques of Vodou––the danced Afro-syncretic religion of Haiti––and compel Caribbean and North American spectators to simultaneously revivify and destabilize their own “Voodoo” misconceptions about Haitians. At UIC, Mario is developing a second book project, Health Rites/Performance Rights that examines the intersections of embodiment, self-possession and wellness. He interprets perceived tolerance of queer bodies in the intertwined Afro-American spiritual practices of Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Candomblé and African-American Voodoo/Hoodoo. Health Rites/Performance Rights sheds light on how divinely guided Black bodies are allowed to navigate places of worship, and critically considers what implications this queer re-scripting of religious spaces has for heterosexual bodies. He is the co-editor of the June 2017 special issue of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory on queer Haiti. His writing is featured in France’s L’imparfaite, e-misferica and upcoming edited volumes. Mario is also a curator and LGBTQI activist.
Sharrell D. Luckett’s literary and embodied interdisciplinary scholarship is situated in performance theory, Black studies, and Fat studies. She is lead editor of Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches (2017), a groundbreaking anthology that is the first book to highlight diverse acting/directing methods rooted in Afrocentrism. Her upcoming monograph, YoungGiftedandFat: Size, Sexuality & Privilege, engages with her life as a transweight actress and artist. She is also invited editor of the forthcoming book, African American Arts: Aesthetics, Activism, and Futurity, which explores the expansive role of African American artistic practice in various fields. An accomplished director, Luckett most recently staged In the Red and Brown Water and Topdog/Underdog at California State University-DH, and prior to that she served as the Guest Artist in Residence at SUNY-Potsdam and Tri-Cities Visual & Performing Arts program, directing Ruined and The Bluest Eye, respectively. Her upcoming directorial project includes the world premiere of a play based on the life of Frederick Douglass. Luckett’s webisode series, “The Making of YoungGiftedandFat” chronicles her journey in creating and touring her solo show (YoungGiftedandFat). She is a proud invitee of Harvard University’s Mellon Institute of Theater and Performance Research, the Performance Encounters series at Cornell University, Northwestern University’s Mellon Program in Black Feminist Performance, and the esteemed Lincoln Center Directors Lab in NY. She holds a doctorate in Theatre & Performance Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Muhlenberg College. www.sdluckett.com
Jasmine Mahmoud is the Postdoctoral Fellow of Inequality and Identity in the Program in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently completing her first book project, Avant-Garde Geographies: Race, Policy, and Experimentation in the Urban Margins. The manuscript investigates the early 21st century trend of experimental performance practices making and taking space in urban margins in New York, Chicago, and Seattle, three arts-rich cities. The project captures how avant-garde aesthetics entangled with urban policy and racialized processes of neighborhood change such as displacement and gentrification; critically, it also chronicles minoritarian performance practices excluded from avant-garde archives. While in St. Louis, she is also conducting research for the second book project. Acts of Black Citizenship: Performance and Politics in St. Louis in the era of Black Lives Matter investigates black performance practices engaged with notions of citizenship, including protests, and theater and visual art produced in response to violence against black subjects. The book examines how the aesthetics of those practices, situated in St. Louis, articulated a distinctly performance-driven black politics during a time marked by increased state violence against black subjects, and within a city and region marked by a long history of geographic and civic dispossession of black residents. Mahmoud is an assistant editor of the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies. Her scholarship has been published in TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, The Common Reader, and the 2017 anthology Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World. She received her PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, MA in Arts Politics from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, and BA in Government from Harvard University.
Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr. is an Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is also the Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Dr. McCune is the author of the award-winning book Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing. This manuscript was awarded The National Communication Association’s 2015 GLBTQ Book Award and several other book honors. For his service in scholarship and to the field, Dr. Mccune was awarded the 2015 Modern Language Association’s GL/Q Caucus Michael Lynch Service Award. He is presently working on two book projects. The first, a full-length manuscript, “Read: An Experiment in Seeing Black,” and the other titled On Kanye: A Philosophy of Black Genius. McCune recently received international recognition for a course related to the latter. In addition to these works, Dr. McCune is also in the process of collecting ethnographic and archival material to complete a second play, AFTERLIFE: An Archive of Violence, which explores the day-to-day impact of state-sanctioned violence on individuals within black and brown communities. He is also the co-PI of the Ferguson Oral History Project, funded by the Mellon Foundation and housed in the Center for the Humanities at Washington University.
Uri McMillan is Associate Professor of Performance Studies in the Departments of English, African American Studies, and Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance (NYU Press, 2015), the winner of three prizes, including the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History from the American Society of Theater Research (ASTR), the Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship in African-American theater, drama, and/or performance studies from the American Society of Theater Research (ASTR) and the William Sanders Scarborough Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Study of Black American Literature/Culture from the Modern Language Association (MLA). He is the editor of “Surface Aesthetics: Art, Race, Performance and Play,” a special issue of Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory (forthcoming, 2018).
Interdisciplinary performance scholar, and artist, Raquel Monroe (Ph.D., UCLA) makes visible the choreographic strategies black female artists deploy to critique and reflect the socio-political conditions in which they live. Her current manuscript, blends performance analysis and critical race and queer theories to explore the choreographies of sexuality and activism, by black female cultural producers in popular culture. Monroe is published in the Journal of Pan African Studies, and E. Patrick Johnson’s and Ramón Rivera-Severa’s solo/black/woman: Performing Black Feminisms, and Melissa Blanco-Borreli’s The Oxford Handbook: Dance and the Popular Screen. In 2015 Monroe received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Columbia College Chicago, where she is an Associate Professor in dance.
Gabriel Peoples is a Postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University who works in the areas of Performance, Gender, and Africana Studies. He seeks to advance interdisciplinary research that addresses the representations and lived experiences of Black men and women in scenes of social constraint and creativity. Currently, he is preparing a manuscript that examines the rewards and risks of repeated visual and sonic performances of Blackness in popular culture and everyday life, which are packaged as images, films, and viral videos for mass consumption. He argues that while this Black virality supports commonsense ideologies about Black bodies, it also creates paths of alterity where Blackness is challenged, its histories renegotiated, and subjectivities (dis)identified with.
His interests include Black performance theory, visual culture, sound studies, intersections of race and gender, and HIV prevention. Peoples desires to inspire people to use their imaginations creatively and critically to think seriously about how their words and bodies wield the power to change minds and create worlds.
Shanté Paradigm Smalls: I am a scholar, artist, teacher, and writer who works at the intersection of blackness, popular culture, critical theory, and performance. I am currently finishing my first scholarly manuscript, Hip Hop Heresies: Queer Aesthetics in New York City which won the 2016 CLAGS Fellowship Award for Best First Book Project in LGBTQ Studies. My writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Black Scholar, GLQ, Criticism, Lateral, Women & Performance, American Behavioral Scientist, Suspect Thoughts, and forthcoming The Oxford Handbook of Queerness and Music. I’m on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Hip Hop Studies and an active Editor of The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research.
Lisa B. Thompson is a black feminist scholar/artist whose work has been produced by venues such as Crossroads Theatre Company, New Professional Theatre, Brava Theater Center, Theatre Rhinoceros, New African Grove Theatre Company, Company of Angels Theater, Vortex Repertory Company, and the National Black Theatre Festival. Thompson’s plays include Single Black Female (Samuel French, 2012), Dreadtime Stories: One Sista’s Hair, Monroe, I Don’t Want to Be Mamie Till, The Mamalogues and an afro-futuristic trilogy of short plays: Mother’s Day, Watch, Mother Nature. Her latest drama, Underground, received its world premiere in March 2017.
Thompson is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies Studies at University of Texas at Austin and the author of Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class (University of Illinois Press, 2009). Her scholarly and creative work has been supported with fellowships and awards from Harvard University’s Hutchins Institute for African and African American Research, the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, the University of Texas at Austin’s Humanities Institute, the University of California’s Office of the President, the Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, UCLA’s Center for African American Studies, the Five Colleges Inc., Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, The Millay Colony for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. For more information see: http://lisabthompson.com.
Rhaisa Kameela Williams is the postdoctoral fellow in the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis. A black feminist performance scholar, Williams’ research uses mixed-archive methods—spanning across literature, family history, archives, and public policy—to focus on the intersections of blackness, motherhood, affect, and disquieting modes of freedom. Currently, she is writing her manuscript, Mama, Don’t You Weep: Motherhood, Blackness, and Performances of Grief, that traces the intimate relationship between grief and black motherhood from the civil rights movement to the present. Offering discontinuous readings of grief, the book asserts that black women, no matter their personal relationship to offspring or othermothering, have specifically mobilized grief inherent to black motherhood as a tactic to perform, remake, and critique forms of citizenship. Williams earned her Ph.D and M.A. in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and a B.A. in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been supported by the Mellon, Woodrow Wilson, and Ford foundations, and has appeared in Transforming Anthropology, Callaloo, and Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly.
Nia Ostrow Witherspoon (Smith BA/Stanford PhD) is a multidisciplinary artist investigating the metaphysics of black liberation, gender/sexuality, and Afro-indigenous religion. Working primarily in the mediums of theatre/performance, vocal and sound composition, and creative scholarship, Witherspoon’s work has traveled both nationally and internationally to venues ranging from theatres and universities to activist organizations and non-profits. Described as “especially fascinating” by Backstage Magazine, Witherspoon has been the recipient of multiple awards and residencies, including: BRIC’s Premiere Residency (The Messiah Complex), Astraea Foundation’s Lesbian Writer Award and Global Arts Fund Grant, Downtown Theatre Festival’s “Audience Award,” a three-month long Wurlitzer Foundation residency, Lambda Literary’s Emerging Playwriting Fellowship, a CASH Grant from Theatre Bay Area, and a Mellon Dissertation Fellowship. Her staged works have been featured at BRIC, HERE, National Black Theatre, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, 651 Arts, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Dixon Place, Movement Research, and the Painted Bride (Philadelphia), among various venues in the Bay Area, including Theatre Artaud, Theatre of Yugen, The Lab, The Garage, La Peña, and Eastside Arts Alliance. As a performer, Witherspoon is co-founder of ceremonial music collective SoliRose, a world-premiere cast member (and in the touring company of) Sharon Bridgforth’s River See (Links Hall), and has been a featured vocalist in the work of Cherríe Moraga in La Semilla Caminante/The Traveling Seed (Intersection for the Arts). Witherspoon’s writing is published in an array of journals and anthologies including Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage (Routledge); Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Art, Thought, and Culture; Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance (Palgrave); The Journal of Popular Culture; EMERGE: 2015 Lambda Fellows Anthology; and Imaniman: Poets Reflecting on Gloria Anzaldúa and Transgressive Borders (Aunt Lute). Her next play, YOUMINE, commissioned by the Obie-award winning Fire This Time Festival, was read in January 2017 at The Kraine Theatre. Witherspoon is also a passionate curator of cultural space and conversation, including work with award-winning organization, Performance in the Borderlands (Arizona), and has produced festivals such as BlackARTSMatter (featured by NPR and Phoenix New Times), and community-engaged residencies with the likes of Ana Tijoux, Cherríe Moraga, Sharon Bridgforth, and Lynnee Denise. An advocate of merging contexts of arts, healing, and social justice, Witherspoon is a Third Space Healing Collective member at The Audre Lorde Project, and is currently in the planning stages with BRIC to curate a roundtable with black queer healers working within African traditional religions.
Isaiah M. Wooden is a director-dramaturg and Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at American University. He received his A.B. in Government from Georgetown University and earned his Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University, where his research was supported by multiple grants and awards including a Ford Foundation Fellowship. A scholar of twentieth- and twenty-first century American drama and black expressive culture, Dr. Wooden has contributed chapters, essays, reviews, and creative writing to Callaloo, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Theatre Journal, Theater, the anthologies August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle: Critical Perspective on the Plays and Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage, as well as to The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and PopMatters, among others. He is currently at work on a book-length study that explores the interplay of race and time in contemporary black performance. He also serves as the performance review editor for Theatre Journal (2017-2019). As a director, Dr. Wooden has staged new and canonical works in both the U.S. and abroad. Some favorite projects include: In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O’Hara, Bulrusher by Eisa Davis, and Beyond My Circle, the multidisciplinary performance project that he co-devised and presented at the National Theater in Kampala, Uganda.
Hershini Young is a Professor at SUNY at Buffalo where she teaches classes in black (queer) literature and performance of the African diaspora. She is the author of Haunting Capital and Illegible Will: Coercive Spectacles of Labor in South Africa and the Diaspora. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled, “Falling, Crawling and Other Ways to Get Off: A Queer Erotics of Differential Embodiment” where she looks at differently abled bodies in African diasporic performance.