The American Society for Aesthetics is pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics, Dancing in Blackness: A Memoir, by Halifu Osumare, published by the University Press of Florida in 2018.
Dr. Halifu Osumare is Professor Emerita in the Department of African American and African Studies (AAS) at University of California, Davis, and was the Director of AAS from 2011-2014. She has been a dancer, choreographer, arts administrator, and scholar of black popular culture for over forty years. With a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and an MA in Dance Ethnology from S.F. State University, she is also a protégé of the late renowned dancer-anthropologist Katherine Dunham and a Certified Instructor of Dunham Dance Technique.
She has been recognized as one of the foremost scholars of global hip-hop, publishing The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves in 2007 and, and The Hiplife in Ghana: West African Indigenization of Hip-Hop in 2012, after her 2008 Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Ghana, Legon. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on hip-hop, dance, and Katherine Dunham.
The prize was established in 2008 in memory of Selma Jeanne Cohen, and with enormous gratitude for her generous bequest to the ASA. The $1000 prize is awarded every year, for critical articles or books of distinction in dance aesthetics, dance theory, or the history of dance published in English.
Dr. Osumare will be presented with the prize at the 77th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetics in Phoenix October 9-12, 2019. She also will be honored at the annual Dance Scholars Breakfast at the meeting.
While I was aware that in recent years Shange had been ill, battling to recover more fully from a stroke she had a decade earlier, I was nonetheless surprised with her presence: at once vibrant, bubbling and tenacious, and unabashedly delicate, vulnerable, and uncomfortably revealed.
Like many, I fell in love with Shange’s work during my adolescent years, and as a young adult she gave voice to my confusions and questions and outright frustrations and anger about the world around me. In her work, Shange’s work gave me permission, not that I needed permission but it was nice to have it nonetheless, to belong to myself in this world and be fully present in navigating the various paradoxes of the particularly spaces/places which I inhabit and encounter.
On that May 17 morning, I was invited in to a day of paradoxes deliciously laid out on the altar of love for a good friend. On October 27, 2018, less than six-month later, Shange joined the realm of the ancestor. And, her death, made having witnessed May 17th an even greater honor and a deeper reminder of the role love and true friendship in living meaningful lives.
May 17, 2018 Interview on WBAI with host, Wuyi Jacobs of AfroBeat Radio. Halifu Osumare and Ntozake Shange in conversation about Osumare’s Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir and Shange’s Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems
May 17, 2018 Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute Phenomenal Women Series: Halifu Osumare reading from Dancing in Blackness, A Memoirand Ntozake Shange reading from Wild Beauty, New and Selected Poems, and Osumare and Shange in Conversation!!
May 17, 2018 Halifu Osumare at The JODY Center for Dance Research at Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program Hunter College Dance Program. Funding was made available for the program for the purchase twenty-five copies of Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir for each student in the graduate dance education program to have their own personal copy!! Halifu Osumare signed each copy!
May 18, 2018 at Gavin Brown Enterprise, Harlem location, I introduced Ruthlyn Salomons in conversation with Halifu Osumare about Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir
May 21, 2018 at Greenlight Bookstore – Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Halifu Osumare with Jawole Zollar in conversation about their mutual journey as professional dance artist and social activist and points at which their lives intersected. Awesome close to the NYC tour Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir!
Halifu Osumare’s Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir NYC Book tour came to a close on May 21, 2018 at Greenlight Books. Halifu Osumare was in conversation with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Founder and Chief Visionary of Urban Bush Women.
Osumare and Zollar engaged in lively critical discussion about the role of dance in resistance and the transformation in social justice work.