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.
“A particularly evil thing about racism is its ability to make Black women feel alone.”
“The fact is, White supremacy defines our current reality. It is not merely a belief that to be White is to be better. It is a political, cultural and economic system premised on the subjugation of people who are not White. That subjugation takes on an infinite number of forms and is enforced with varying degrees of physical violence, mental abuse and robbery. White supremacy is the voice in our collective heads that says it makes civilized sense that one group of people gets to annihilate, enslave, incarcerate, brainwash, torture, sterilize, breed and terrorize other people. White supremacy establishes, upholds and normalizes hierarchy based on the premise that the less Black you are the closer you are to God.”
“[T]his is a book about freedom dreams. We’re well aware of the problems we’re buried beneath. We can feel the weight of them on our limbs, the heft of them in our abdomens as our second brains gnaw on the indignity of it all. But what does it look like for Black people to claw our way to fresh air? What does freedom feel like? How does it taste on the tongue? For some folks in this book, it feels like raising kids who gleefully take up space for themselves. For others, it looks like providing the tools we need to triumph over race-based trauma. There’s the pastor who envisions a day when following his radical, dark-skinned Jesus who always sides with the dispossessed will lift us out of this hole, and the organizer who can almost smell the sharp aroma of reforming the nation’s political system. And we can’t forget the professor who dreams of the day when we can bring our full selves to every table.”
Excerpted from “How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance” by Kenrya Rankin and Akiba Solomon, available now.
Among the things I consider urgent in 2019 the re-visioning of the ways in which the Black Religions and Black religious traditions respond to the lives, needs and concerns of of those most vulnerable in their congregations and in society as a whole. Note: I hadn’t intended this to be my first post of 2019, but I had scheduled the post many weeks ago and quite literally forgot about it. At the end of 2018 I posted the reflections of my friend Melissa as she journeyed through her annual 30 days of Thanks. Though Melissa had ritually for years conducted similar journeys, she had always done so privately. For 2018 she went public, sharing her journey with friends and making suggestions for financial activism. With her permission I posted her journey, delivering a different type of public sharing than she initially imagined, but one in which she embraced.
Melissa’s journey is thought-provocation and riveting, challenging notions of faith, religion adherence, and hope in brutally honest ways. In calling out the Black church and Black spirituality in contemporary society, Melissa challenged the Black church while calling on its legacy of resilience and hope in her work to move forward to build a better world for herself, her daughter, and her community of diverse fellows. Simply put she is demanding a that the legacy that served to make her, serves to make her, and others who are of it, better.
I understand Melissa’s call. For several years I have been in a spiritual research, learning ,and sharing mode, eking out deep knowledge from the backwaters of spiritual masters in order to help nourish the mammoth of spiritual waves necessary to heal and nurture a people in these times. I have sat at the feet, tables, and in the pews of those promising to teach more than preach, question more than answer, build more that present. And, I have attended conferences in which academic knowledge is matched with embodied inquiry and/or seek to explain or examine intersections of spirituality, The church, and Blackness. The March of 2018 Black Religions, Spirituality and Culture Conference at Harvard was one such conference.
In 2019 the challenge of putting the knowledge gained to work is at hand. Not just for me, but for all those like myself who have been preparing, hoping, praying. The time is at hand and the need is great. My hopes of goodwill and kindness goes out to all, especially Melissa.
Join the final
December 19, 2018
(Dance Class – 7:00 – 8:30/ CJ Workshop – 8:30 – 10:00/Music & Dance – 10:00 – Midnight)
Location: Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Trevor Noah: Bringing two worlds to a meeting place. His grandmother is just like my grandmother and aunt. This video can open up so many necessary conversations.
The podcast is here! It’s the Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), Tribute aired Wednesday, September 26, 2018 on AfroBeat Radio. Now you can listen to an edited version of the Tribute. Enjoy as DTH’s Artistic Director, Virginia Johnson and former dancers Karen Brown, Dr. Adesola Akinleyke, Dion Wilson, and Lorraine Grave share their life as dancers, students, and mentees pay tribute to the late Arthur Mitchell!
Wuyi Jacobs (host of AfroBeat Radio) and I co-produced this show and podcast: https://www.afrobeatradio.com/arts-entertainment/2018/12/3/arthur-mitchell-mar-27-1934-19-2018-a-tribute
On Monday December 3, 2018 Arthur Mitchell Memorial took place at Riverside Church. In 2019 Dance Theatre of Harlem will Celebrate 50 Years. Join in the Celebration!!
Sunday, January 14, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center
“Conceived by choreographer Camille A. Brown in 2014 and presented in partnership with Dance/NYC, The Gathering serves as an open forum for intergenerational black female artists to support one another and to advocate for greater cultural equity and acknowledgment in the contemporary dance world. ”