Shani co-facilitated a discussion about art, culture and identity at The Gathering– a group of brilliant and talented dancers, choreographers and scholars who come together annually during the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference. In the words of the organizer Camille A. Brown, this convening “serve[s] as an open forum for intergenerational black female artists to support one another and to advocate for greater cultural equity and acknowledgement in the contemporary dance world.” If you weren’t there in person, check out the link below to see Shani and Paloma McGregor at work via the archived livestream…
2015 was a year packed with global travel, exhibition opportunities, community engagement programs & media mentions. See below for some highlights.
Art + Creative Change
One of the biggest highlights of 2015 happened as the year came to a close–the Smithsonian Channel interviewed Shani about her artistic practice, global travels and community work! See below for a sneak peek behind the scenes of this developing project…
Shani also had photography featured in a number of art exhibits last year, including All Rise at Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery and The Time Is Now at the SCOPE Art Show, presented by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Her piece in the Respond exhibit at the Smack Mellon gallery was mentioned in the New York Times as emblematic of the take-away message of what they described as “a knockout group show” that “produced a soundtrack of shouts, cries, chants and whispers to set against the wall of insulating white noise that enwraps the art world at large.”
Socially engaged art and internationalism are at the core of Shani’s work, and she delivered a speech about that at the Black Portraitures conference in Florence, Italy last summer. Video of the panel, Sister Outsider: Black American Women, Identity and Global Travel, and other featured presentations are posted on blackportraitures.info. Press play to check this work out!
Lastly, Writing On It All–which is an organization that offers artists a platform for building a site-specific creative practice– invited Shani to lead a community installation at Governor’s Island. She was given an entire house to use as her canvas, to imagine and invite others to imagine with her, what kind of future we could create if Black women and girls were safe from state sponsored violence. Shortly thereafter she went upstate to do a residency at Ryder Farms, which supports innovative practitioners who work at the intersection of art and social change. She spoke about the impact of her respective projects at the Creative Solutions symposium in NYC.
Public Speaking + Public Service
In December, Shani celebrated International Human Rights Day by curating Open Season 2015, an evening of art + performance + conversation about women and girls in our culture of confinement. The event was held at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, with additional support provided by The Studio Museum in Harlem, the International Center of Photography, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Angela’s Pulse and Dancing While Black. Click here to see gorgeous photos, check out the social media buzz and watch a full length video of the event.
Open Season is one of a number of events she’s organized in her capacity as a Managing Director of the Urban Justice Center. Another that bears mention is the 10th annual arts based human rights training that was held in New York City last May. This three day institute engaged a select cohort of social justice advocates from around the country. Participants discussed cultural strategy, community building and ways to use human rights mechanisms to address inequality in the U.S. Congrats to the latest class, who now join a nationwide cohort of really impressive alumni!
Finally, she made a small contribution to keeping creative change in the media: writing about attending the Movement for Black Lives conference in Cleveland and the Selma-Montgomery commemoration in Alabama in her Huffington Post blog and continuing to serve as a regular contributor to The Spin— an internationally broadcast program hosted by Esther Armah that now reaches Ghana, Nigeria and cities throughout the U.S.
There are a ton of events and exhibits in the works for 2016! The next one up is The Gathering, a group of dancers, choreographers and scholars organized by Camille A. Brown. Shani will be joining a longtime collaborator and friend Paloma McGregor to facilitate a meaningful discussion about culture and identity with the participants.
Additionally, she will appear on the January 20th edition of The Spin with Esther Armah, Joan Morgan and and Dr. Christina Greer. The broadcast will be archived on SoundCloud.
Wishing each of you all the best for an amazing 2016! This new year needs us to bring our best to the table. Let’s continue to make an impact, inspiring each other along the way.
This year Shani celebrated International Human Rights Day by curating Open Season, an evening of art + performance + conversation about women and girls in our culture of confinement. This thought provoking program, held at the National Black Theatre, featured a rendering of Itagua Meji and performances curated by Dancing While Black. It also provided an opportunity for the community to engage with leading thinkers and artists who are confronting mass incarceration such as Nina Angela Mercer, Ebony Noelle Golden, Aimee Meredith Cox, Nakisha Lewis, Donna Hylton, Lumumba Bandele and more.
Gorgeous photos and a full length video of the event are now available to share with you! In addition, all of the social media buzz about Open Season was chronicled on Storify. Check out the links to either see what you missed or relive an extraordinary evening.
Open Season 2015 was presented by the Human Rights Project of the Urban Justice Center and the National Black Theatre: Institute for Action Arts. Additional support was provided by The Studio Museum in Harlem, the International Center of Photography, NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Angela’s Pulse and Dancing While Black.
As we enter into this holiday season bearing the unwelcome news that there will be no indictments in the death of Sandra Bland, please lift up the names, spirits and families of those who’ve been impacted by this crisis during this time. In spite of it all, we will win.
On Friday, October 2nd, Shani spoke at the 50th anniversary commemoration of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She joined a powerhouse group of change makers in a discussion about how to use cultural work to empower our communities.
On Saturday October 3rd, Shani spoke at the Creative Solutions symposium. This summer she had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a residency in upstate New York, where she was given time and support to do her work at the intersection of art and social change. She joined colleagues from a number of progressive social justice organizations to speak about her project. Many thanks to those of you that came out to make both of these engagements a full house!
During a panel called Sister Outsider: Black American Women, Identity and Global Travel, Shani shared the stage with fellow speakers Michaela Angela Davis, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Sharon Harley, Asia Leeds and moderator Cheryl Finley. Each presented with their characteristic grace, insight and clarity. Check out the video!
Her talk begins at the 13 minute mark, but you are encouraged to take in the session in its entirety. Additionally, more videos from the conference are posted at blackportraitures.info, they are definitely worth watching.
After the conference concluded, she went on to spend several weeks touring Italy as she studied art and philosophy as a David Driskell fellow with the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Upon her return in June, she had the opportunity to lead an arts workshop/ community installation in honor of Black women and girls who’ve been impacted by state violence. Thanks to the wonderful staff of Writing On It All, she had a whole empty house on Governor’s Island to use as a canvas!
It was a lovely opportunity to transform the space and our spirits.
In the immediate wake of McKinley and Fairfield, and in the midst of this larger moment, we need to seize every opportunity to create sacred spaces for healing, creative resistance and expression. May the vision we articulated for Black women and girls come to pass.
The tenth annual institute was held in New York City this May. Participants discussed cultural strategy, community building and ways to use human rights mechanisms to address inequality in the U.S. Congrats to the latest class, who now join a nationwide cohort of really impressive alumni.
Just before the institute began, Shani had the opportunity to speak about my work fusing the arts and human rights at NYU’s Creative Arts and Social Work conference. Many thanks to the organizers, especially Dr. Deborah Willis who chaired the panel.
Finally, Shani is a contributor to the internationally broadcast, all women of color radio show hosted by Esther Armah– The Spin. In May, she joined dream hampton and Glynda Carr to discuss White on White Crime: Texas Shoot Out, the Boycott Nike and Say Her Name campaigns. Click here to tune in. The first season of 2015 ended with the same group that began it: writer asha bandele, political scientist Dr. Christina Greer and Shani discussing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, vaccines and the black body, and forgiveness in the wake of the Charleston massacre. If you’d like to hear this one, click here to listen to the show.
Shani Jamila is an interdisciplinary artist and cultural worker with over a decade of leadership in curating public programs that use the arts to catalyze progressive social change. A TED Resident and Fulbright fellow, she regularly writes, lectures and hosts community conversations about art, justice, identity and global engagement. Her travels to nearly fifty countries deeply inform her photography and collage practice.