Dancing in Blackness: Halifu Osumare

In compliance with current health and university guidelines, “Dancing in Blackness: An Academic’s Dance Journey” at Columbia University has been cancelled. Please check back for updates and reschedules.

Halifu Osumare. Ph.D. has been involved with dance and black popular culture internationally for over forty years as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, administrator and scholar. She is Professor Emerita of African American & African Studies at UC Davis and has written two books on global hip-hop: The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves (2007), in which she coined the phrase “connective marginalities” that gave a cogent reason for the youth culture’s internationalization.

 Her memoir, Dancing in Blackness, with a Foreword written by Brenda Dixon Gottschild, was published by University Press of Florida in 2018, and won the 2019 Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize for Dance Aesthetics, as well as a 2019 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. She has taught dance and lecture-based courses on dance and culture throughout U.S., Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.

African Voices and Pen & Brush will celebrate National Poetry Month with a tribute to Ntozake Shange.

African Voices and Pen & Brush will celebrate National Poetry Month with a tribute to Ntozake Shange. The event will feature readings from her friend Dr. Halifu Osumare, author of Dancing In Blackness; writer Rashidah Ismaili, Vice President of the Pen And Brush Board; Chanel Dupree, a scriptwriter in development with “Salvage” and several contributors from African Voices special issue honoring Ntozake. The event is free and open to the public. Donations welcome

On Race and Health

Racial discrimination isn’t just harmful as it happens—its effects can linger for years. Tufts researchers recently found that people exposed to racial discrimination during early childhood were more likely to develop cardiovascular health issues compared to those who never experience discrimination, or who experienced discrimination later in life.

One of the most dynamic conversations taking place in and around fields of health and wellbeing is to what extent does racism contribute to the health and wellbeing of an individual across a lifetimes. For African living in the diaspora, and specifically in diaspora spaces largely constructed by colonial paradigms in place to protect and uphold white identity and whiteness through acts of physical and psychic assaults on black and brown bodies.

Researchers are gathering new evidence on the effects of experiences of racism and when along the life course these experiences are most detrimental. Read more below:

By Dominique Ameroso June 13, 2019 

“Racial discrimination isn’t just harmful as it happens—its effects can linger for years. Tufts researchers recently found that people exposed to racial discrimination during early childhood were more likely to develop cardiovascular health issues compared to those who never experience discrimination, or who experienced discrimination later in life.” Click to Read More!

Day 8, 2019

You will be anything, everything, and sometimes all things to hold up the arms of your sister and give her strength.

My Sarong Sisters and The Sacred Sarong Sisterhood 

Author: Melissa Barber

Happy Eighth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today, I give thanks for my “sarong” sisters and friends around the globe who do the wonderful work of saving the lives of women and babies. 

 If you were part of last year’s journey, you’d remember that on Day 25, I told you about my kick behind sisterhood of women (and men) from the Birthing Project USA, who is building our national and international underground railroad for new life, saving women and their babies. (If you missed it, don’t worry! You can buy the book, which is in the publisher’s hands as I write and will be released soon enough, to catch up.) What I didn’t tell you is that, during our annual conferences our sisterhood has a secret, special ceremony.  (I won’t tell you the details of our ceremony-nosey!- because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.)

Close your eye. (Of course, after you read this paragraph.)  Just trust me! Imagine walking into a room that is decorated with a huge circle of chairs. Each chair is filled with one sarong with the most beautiful color patterns that you have ever seen. You are bound to find one with your favorite color or colors in it which perfectly match with an outfit or coat of yours. The sarongs are made of a thin layer of the most fluid cotton material that waves with the ocean breeze. Some of them even have an added finishing touch of frills.  Within the circle of chairs, you see at least two or a maximum of three sarongs that match each other.  You have no idea what to expect because you have no idea what the details of the ceremony are but you just feel a nostalgia of excitement in anticipation of what’s next, hoping that what’s next is that you get to choose which chair (with your favorite sarong) you can sit in.  

 What you don’t know is that you have to choose your chair (and sarong) wisely. When you choose to sit in a seat with a particular sarong, that sarong is choosing your soul SisterFriend for life. Your soul SisterFriend is the soldier with whom you will walk out life. Not only will you save other women and babies together, but you will grow together, pray for each other, and do ministry together. You will give each other advice, wise counsel, and even help raise family together. You will be anything, everything, and sometimes all things to hold up the arms of your sister and give her strength.  The Sarong Sisterhood is a sacred sisterhood whose mission is binding. (So choose wisely!)

I met my first sarong sister (I think over seven years now) and we are exactly like what I have described to each other.  We live in two different time zones and have a great physical distance from each other, but in the business of our lives we make sure that we do life together.  I’m pretty sure we’ll keep doing life together until one of us takes our last breath.  She is superwoman! She holds down full time ministry, her full-time job, her earring making side hustle (she loves big earrings like me!), and her husband and five children, two of which just got sent off to college. She manages to empower women and girls every day while still looking like she is not a day older than twenty five. (She is my inspiration.)  

Every annual conference that I have gone to, without her there, she makes sure (basically, threatens) that I don’t bring our sarong to gift to another SisterFriend (sorry Mama that sarong is on lock!)  During last year’s ceremony, I was so proud of myself. I was able to let go (you all know my issues with letting go already from Day 9 of last year’s journey.  If not, you gotta get the book!) and gift my second favorite sarong to a new international soul SisterFriend. When I explained to her the importance and sacredness of our sarong sisterhood and what that sarong meant to me, she pledged to take good care of our sarong and continue to do the bad-ass work she is doing with her sister, Ms. Zubaida Bai, at the company AYZH. They provide thousands of Safety Birth Kits to women in the most remote places in the world so that they can give birth to healthy babies in non-sterile conditions. A SafeBirth kit is a small pocketbook that contains all the essential medical supplies (a plastic mat, gloves, soap, razor, and clamp) which allow for a clean, safe, childbirth when there may be no hospitals around for miles.(Remember this work is important because every two minutes, 60 women die in childbirth due to unsanitary conditions and infections.)  I know that my new international sarong sister (soul Sisterfriend) is upholding and uplifting the sacredness of our Sarong Sisterhood tradition of loving and saving women and children’s lives wherever she is in the world.  And I’m proud to be her Sarong Sister. Today as I give thanks for my sarong sisters and pay homage to our sacred sarong sisterhood, I’m sure you have already guessed that I am highlighting the Birthing Project USA: The Underground Railroad for Life (Birthing Project USA)
Birthing Project USAWe envision a world in which we have the freedom to define ourselves, birth our babies, and live our healthiest …

I am asking that each of you sponsors at least one SafeBirth Kit for $5 (a cup of coffee) so that a baby somewhere in the world can enjoy a safe, healthy entry into his/her life.

 Love Ya, 

Have  A Great Day of Thanks!

Dancing Life…2

It’s reminded me that religion is not just ideology; it’s culture. So when I visit my grandparents in Jamaica, I could say, “I’m not going to go to church with you on Sunday,” but that feels like it’s against the culture. It’s definitely made me see the importance of spiritual thinking (Kyle Marshall).

Dancing life

The story of the (still unfolding) life of an African-American woman living in the predominantly white worlds of ballet, modern dance, and Broadway, while facing challenges, heartbreaks, and triumphs as she attempts to shatter the stereotypically classical mold and celebrate her evolution into an unapologetic body, (Francesca Harper).



Day 2, 2019

Today, I am giving thanks for the blessing of reuniting/seeing my family members who I haven’t physically seen in about four or five years. With technology, we have been able to converse by phone and see each other with a webcam, but, we haven’t been in each other’s physical presence for a long minute.

Day 2: (Family) ReunionHappy Second Day of Thanks Everyone! 

Author: Melissa Barber

I hope you all are enjoying your Thanksgiving (Aka Anti-Imperialist Day Celebration) with family and friends. I didn’t cook for my house since I am in Orlando, Florida this year so make sure that all of you are saving me and Lilah some leftovers so that we can have something to eat when we get home (please!). 

Today, I am giving thanks for the blessing of reuniting/seeing my family members who I haven’t physically seen in about four or five years.  With technology, we have been able to converse by phone and see each other with a webcam, but, we haven’t been in each other’s physical presence for a long minute. 

My sister moved her family from New York to Florida about eight years ago in search of heat for her arthritic joints, new job opportunities, and a better life for her and her children. In those years, my nephew got married, started military service, made me four (yes, I said 4!) beautiful grandnieces and nephews, and just recently got divorced. My sister changed careers and moved to Texas for a short stint (which she hated) and just recently moved back to Florida. My niece, a co-Ms. Diva with Delilah, has grown into a beautiful young lady who is about to finish high school, has her heart set on being a forensic psychologist and has a small business/side hustle in manicures and pedicures. 

While I wasn’t mad at my sister for making her move to Florida (the NYCHA projects on Story Ave in the Bronx started taking a turn for the worse!), my daughter and I have missed them terribly.  My daughter and niece are literally born two or three weeks apart so they have been raised almost like sisters; basically, they are and have been best buddies forever.  [Lilah asks for her “NeeNee” all the time.] Since my sister was a teenage mom and we all pitched in to help her raise my nephew, I had a huge role in my nephew’s life as well. The great thing about being an intercessor (prayer warrior) for your family is that no matter where they are in distance, you know exactly what is happening with them. God’s eye will never fail and will reveal everything you need to know.

In the latter years of our lives, I guess with wisdom and a little bit of life experience, my sister and my relationship has grown deeper and wider. We’ve learned the grind of taking care of an entire family as single parents. We know what it is like when you are hard pressed for money and bills are due.  We have learned what it’s like to want to protect and shield our children from the outside world, but still feel the pain of seeing them get hurt anyway. We’ve been burned a time or two by men and have still kept pressing. Despite all odds against us, we both got educational degrees with some honors under our belt.  Perseverance, resilience, and fight have been our second names throughout our life’s stories. I also forgot to mention that we are both one of those holy rollers who will buck up if we need too and don’t tolerate much foolishness! So, through shared experiences, we have learned to get along really well and are a constant in each other lives (even though we didn’t start out that way), no matter how far away in distance we are.

When my daughter said that she wanted to see NeeNee and auntie for her birthday present, I went for broke to oblige. (My spirit was also telling me that I needed to get to Florida to set some things in order.) I decided that it was time to head south for Thanksgiving to lay my eyes on my sister and her clan. There were some grand nieces and nephews that I still have never laid hugs and kisses on—and they are real cute!–and that so needed to change. I also felt in my spirit that there was some serious mending and consoling, naturally and spiritually, that needed to be done in my family. (Before I got here, the Holy Spirit revealed some things to do for one of my grandnephews and I needed to make sure that it was accomplished.)

By Grace Richards

Lilah and I made it to Orlando, Florida yesterday afternoon and were so happy to strip down to sandals and t-shirts. I’m all about getting more naked in the heat because I love hot weather! (Now if God could just turn NY into the tropics that would definitely be a prayer answered.) We went food shopping with my sister and niece for the last ingredients to get for Thanksgiving dinner.  My sister’s children are some rare breeds; they are so finicky about food! (They are black children with roots from the south and talking ‘bout they don’t like foods like yams and stuffing.  My sister and I just look at them side-eyed and say “more for us!’) We also had to make a run to the Dollar Tree because my sister’s Christmas tree needed a hope and a prayer. It was so bare and the grandchildren were begging to see it decorated so I made sure that they were obliged.  My sister and I also wanted to make sure they had some crafts to do while they were with us. (I’m so excited to see them!) 

My nephew came over for a little bit and we joked and laughed like old times. My nephew had a black eye because a day or two earlier he had intervened to protect a homeless man who was being terrorized and beaten almost to unconsciousness by a group of young people on the street just for laughs. (There are people who do such evil to homeless folks for no reason!) We are all grateful that my nephew is alive. (I was told that the homeless man was taken to the hospital.) My nephew told jokes about his children mocking him and his children’s ghetto fabulous friends.

We had a great time.

I spent all night getting the side dishes ready.  My poor sister works a 3 or 4 am beat at her job and was so tired that she fell to sleep on the couch.  I decided to prepare as much of the Thanksgiving meal as possible, while I was getting Lilah’s food done, so that she could continue resting.  I prepared the collard greens, the macaroni and cheese, and the yams and all of Lilah’s food before my feet started to let me know that we were going to fight if I stood any longer.

 The apartment nostalgically smelled like a home (just the way I love it!) and I had my niece keep an eye on the food while I came to type this day of our journey of thanks. 

I so missed my family and catching up on all the happenings that I didn’t know had occurred.  As dysfunctional as my family may be at times (don’t trip because even if you are in the business of fascading yours, I know it’s still dysfunctional in its own way), I am so grateful for the times that we spend with each other laughing and loving, real deep and real wide.

Today, I’ve decided not to highlight an organization.  I want you to just spend this day loving and laughing with the people who are your family.  (Family is not just biological, it’s who you choose to do life with.) I’m sure that you are going to have a ghetto fabulous time laughing until you almost pee on yourself like we do it in my family. If you don’t shoot me an email and I’ll prepare a feast for you to sit with my family to make sure you laugh like we do. 

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

For Colored Girls

“In Ntozake Shange’s celebrated feminist choreopoem, through Dec. 8 at the Public, seven women of color, named after and dressed in different hues of the rainbow, explore trauma and resilience through movement and text. Ms. Wailes’s performance is captivating for the ease in which she weaves Camille A. Brown’s choreography with American Sign Language.”

2019 MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellows

There are twenty-six 2019 MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellows, featured below are a select few – two of whom I have had to pleasure to dialogue with at some point in time and one whose work directed me to important discoveries during my PhD research. Please click on their photos to find out more about them. My Congratulations to all of the 2019 MacArthur Fellows!! I believe in one way or another we are all better human being because of your courage and perseverance in sharing your gifts! Thank you.

Sujatha Baliga, 48, attorney and restorative justice practitioner
Walter Hood, 61, landscape and public artist
Kelly Lytle Hernández, 45, historian
Emmanuel Pratt, 42, urban designer, co-founder of Sweet Water Foundation
Saidiya Hartman, 58, literary scholar and cultural historian

“Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir” wins the 2019 Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics


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.

Read more here: https://aesthetics-online.org/news/458801/ASA-Announces-2019-Selma-Jeanne-Cohen-Prize-in-Dance-Aesthetics.htm