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Organizing Disruption: Sonic Black Girlhood

By Imagining America | September 25, 2014

Jessica RobinsonBy Jessica Robinson, a Doctoral student in Education Policy, Leadership, and Organizational Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and 2014–2015 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores themes of public scholarship and community engagement, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 9-11 in Atlanta, GA. This post’s focus: Organizing and Activism.

As a current graduate student, I am charged with the opportunity to think and rethink knowledge. It is important that within my work it is clear that the issues we discuss, theorize and grapple with as scholars are directly connected to lived experiences. I was introduced to the idea of going to graduate school through a collective of people, Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), who were doing some very important work as scholars and community members. They had a passion to not just call out, critique, and work to dismantle oppression, but also to do these things in ways that did not recreate the same structures that allowed these inequalities to happen. It is through this collective that I was introduced to thinking about my interest in Black girlhood as an organizing construct for freedom.

In thinking about freedom in my work as an artist-scholar, I explore the use of music creation and performance to decolonize sonic deliveries of Black girlhood. Importantly, I engage Black girlhood as the organizing construct that allows for the creative production of these works- one that is contingent on my (our) own resources and ways of knowing (Brown, 2013). We do this work of recreating narratives, sounds, and futures through the things we know to be true through our collective research of self and others. For example, my current project is a retell of a popular song with a black girl main character. It is a rejection of the artist’s intention of the song and a reinventing of what the song could mean if told by a black girl who identifies with the main character. Through this and similar works, we explore the ways our productions can disrupt current practices of academic inquiry, knowledge production, thinking and social interaction. It is about us but it is not merely about identity. I am young, Black and girl in my own definitions but this is beyond identity. Black girlhood in practice invents and reinvents knowledge. Black girlhood as an organizing practice is deliberate in decolonizing the domination on what is known and how it is known for liberation. To decolonize Black girlhood through creation of sound is to unmark the bodies and minds of Black girls from what we think we know is best for them. It is to remap our desires for the research of Black girlhood onto works that innovate form and transform us-­‐ not merely reproduce current practices of domination and conquest. It is to rethink freedom and the possibilities of collective, humanity and living.

Reference: Brown, R.N. (2013). Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black girlhood. Urbana, IL; Illinois Press.