Sparking Antiracist Change: Wesleyan Selects 10 Fellows for Inaugural Embodying Antiracism Think Tank
Top row: Karl Boulware, Maria-Christina Oliveras (photo by Lia Chang), Iddi Saaka, Tracy Heather Strain (photo by Joel Benjamin), and nia love (photo by Tony Turner). Bottom row: Ryan Dobrin ’18, Jerome Haferd, Sacha Armstrong-Crockett, Barbara McClane, and Kerry Kincy.
“To embody antiracism is to develop muscle memory so that the antiracist principles that we write and talk about are embedded in every aspect of our daily experiences.” — Stephanie McKee-Anderson, Executive Artistic Director, Junebug Productions
In March 2021, Wesleyan University partnered with artist/organizers Junebug Productions, Urban Bush Women, and The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond as part of an ambitious three-year project aimed at using the arts as a tool for social change. In the spring of 2022, the Embodying Antiracism Initiative entered its second phase in helping Wesleyan foster an equitable and antiracist community: the selection of an inaugural cohort of Embodying Antiracism Fellows.
These Fellows, a cohort of 10 selected from local community organizers, Wesleyan faculty, and visiting artists (along with student Fellows joining in fall 2022), will form a collective Think Tank, which will meet monthly to produce scholarship and projects rooted in antiracism and the creative practice.
“Through this remarkable interdisciplinary cohort and in close collaboration with our partners, we have the opportunity to align our existing efforts, provide much-needed peer support, and cultivate new platforms for leadership training that nourish our campus as an antiracist environment,” said Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “Our Embodying Antiracism Think Tank will give these extraordinary individuals a place and a form for collaboration, study, and action.”
The Fellows include four Wesleyan faculty members across the disciplines of film, dance, theater, and economics. As teacher-scholars, they will work to both expand the curriculum with new course modules and reinvigorate future course offerings. “As an African American man in the U.S. I have spent my entire existence studying, interacting with, and deconstructing the legacy of racism in the world and within myself,” said Assistant Professor of Economics Karl Boulware, who will represent his field as he investigates aspects of racial inequality through the lens of macroeconomic policy. For Tracy Heather Strain, chair and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, the Think Tank offers the opportunity to move her filmmaking in new directions, and to join a community of storytellers and thinkers committed to antiracism and civic engagement. Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka plans to probe issues of race, place, belonging, and skin color, asking how one’s place of origin and gender can either open or close doors of opportunity. And with a deep desire to affect change,
Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras will explore code-shifting, microaggressions, and the conversation between classical forms of theater and pedagogy and the contemporary world.
Joining Wesleyan faculty are three community leaders and organizers to help strengthen Wesleyan’s ties to its surrounding communities through a shared focus on antiracism. “I see opportunities to engage with others in building a better understanding of our communities and exploring how art can heal,” said Barbara McClane, a professional photographer and project manager from Cromwell who focuses on highlighting members of the local LGBTQ+ community and people of color. Co-chair of Middletown’s Anti-Racism Task Force and a realtor involved in educating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities on the importance of homeownership, Sacha Armstrong-Crockett will use the Think Tank to bolster sustainable community outreach and youth development in Middletown. And Kerry Kincy, an artist and community consultant from Middletown who serves as the director of the Free Center’s art and wellness programming and the New Haven Ballet’s Shared Abilities Dance Ensemble, will leverage art to generate deeper connections to self and allow for equitable power sharing.
Visiting Guest Artist Fellows
Ryan Dobrin ’18, a queer, biracial New York–based director and producer, joins as one of three guest artists. “I am often engaged in conversations about antiracism, but specifically in the theater and in theater-centric concepts. . . . I am thrilled to return to my alma mater to engage in expanding antiracist practices in academia through an artistic lens,” Dobrin said. nia love, a Black, Indigenous, American woman, dancer, choreographer, diver, and mother, whose practice is anchored and immersed in maternal care, alchemy of Blackness, embodied memory, and curiosity with the sea, looks at the interdisciplinary Think Tank as a way to nourish the soul of an art work in order to displace violence, heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And Jerome Haferd, an architect, public artist, activist, and educator based in Harlem, whose work is permeated with justice and equity, seeks the transformation of design practice through the lens of land, Blackness, Indigeneity, and other historically marginalized subjects and modes of cultural and spatial production.
To hear more from each of these Fellows, visit the Embodying Antiracism Initiative website.