alabama | black
a virtual performance panel hosted by kentuck art center
originally hosted june 10, 2021 7:00pm cst. recording of the event located above.
Dually inspired by the Good Trouble: Civil Rights Past and Present exhibit at Kentuck Art Center and the intergenerational lived experience of the Black South, Alabama | Black is a performance panel featuring five black scholar-artists who are from* Alabama, curated and moderated by Dr. Robin M. Boylorn. Panelists used artistic means (visual art/music/performance/spoken word) to deconstruct the last five decades in celebration of the art produced in/by/because of the Black South. They engaged with the experiences and realities of pain struggles that inform Black art through lenses of culture, history, memory and creativity. By focusing on the last 50 years, the panel paid homage to the 50th anniversary of Kentuck Art Center while making visible the contributions of black art/ists in response to civil unrest, racism, and invisibility.
* "From," in this context, refers to artists who are from Alabama in several different capacities: those who have lived here their entire lives, those who grew up here and now live somewhere else, those who moved here and now call Alabama home.
Content warning: Some performances address sensitive topics that may be inappropriate for children under 18. Performances address the real experiences and realities of pain and/or struggles related to culture, history, memory and creativity. Viewer discretion is advised.
curator and moderator
primary scholar for kentuck's 2021 exhibition season; moderator of alabama | black
dr. robin m. boylorn
Dr. Robin M. Boylorn is Professor of Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication at the University of Alabama where she teaches and writes about issues of social identity and diversity, focusing primarily on the lived experience(s) of black women in the south. She is a scholar/activist, writer, speaker, autoethnographer and critical thinker who is committed to a life and work (life's work) that prioritizes social justice, is rooted in love, self-care, and accountability, and is housed with honesty and humility. She is the author of Sweetwater: Black Women and Narratives of Resilience, co-writer and co-editor of The Crunk Feminist Collection, and co-editor of Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life.
She has written public intellectual and culturally critical articles in venues including Slate and The Guardian, and her award-winning commentary, Crunk Culture (Alabama Public Radio) chronicles creative and sometimes cursory perspectives and responses to popular culture and representations of identity.
She is also a member of the Crunk Feminist Collective, who recently launched a substack called The Remix, and the Editor-Elect of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies.
More information about Dr. Robin M. Boylorn is located here: robinboylorn.com
Roderick “Storyteller Odd?Rod” Borisade was born in Jacksonville, Florida and endured a rough childhood that involved having a drug-addicted mother, an absent father, and a brother to die of brain cancer. He withdrew into himself and fell in love with music that related to his reality. Inspired by the verses of Tupac Shakur, he wrote poetry about his life as an outlet and documented his surroundings. His determination to keep his grades in good standing earned him a full scholarship to the University of North Florida where he gained a BFA in Graphic Design and Multimedia (2005). While there, he created an open mic poetry session where he developed his stage presence and delivered the poems he’d been writing since he was a teen. In 2011, he performed at a college conference held on Broadway and became booked by colleges interested in his story. In 2013, he left his job as a longshoreman and traveled to over 800 cities across the nation as a professional public speaker using poetry and storytelling to intrigue and inspire audiences. He was awarded the college market’s Spokenword Artist of the Year 2014, 2016, and 2018. His message shined far beyond his rhyme, and his ability to connect with diverse audiences made him unique. In 2016, his performance at the “TEDxJacksonville” conference earned him a standing ovation from the whole audience and an opportunity to perform at the “TEDxTuscaloosa” conference in 2017. His performance there led to an opportunity to attend the University of Alabama on a full scholarship toward his master’s degree. He received his master’s degree in Communication Studies on April 30, 2021. Living by the phrases he coined, “Our goals will separate us” and “Our losses carry wins,” he has become proof that our downs don’t keep us down as long as we are driven to get up.
For more information, see http://www.oddrod.net/
dr. qiana cutts givens
Dr. Qiana Cutts Givens is a creative and educator whose work merges at the intersections of teacher education, identity exploration, and Black women. Specifically, she utilizes qualitative and arts-based research, including poetic inquiry, to explore teacher education, teacher candidates' critical consciousness and identities, and Black women's love and lived experiences. She's authored several articles, book chapters, and a debut poetry collection, In Somebody Else's Blood (2017). She also wrote, directed, and produced the stage play, Alabama Moonstruck (2020). Dr. Cutts currently is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations at Mississippi State University. For more information, follow Qiana on Instagram: @eclecticgrits
Jahman Hill is an award-winning poet, playwright, director, professor, and co-director of The Flourish Alabama, an arts education nonprofit dedicated to helping young artists bloom. In 2018, Jahman claimed the title of 3rd best slam poet in the world, and in 2019 he wrote, produced, and starred in an award-winning one-man show, Black Enough, which played off-Broadway. He has become a sought-after poet internationally, and his poetry videos have garnered millions of views online. Jahman is a professor at the University of Alabama where he received master’s degrees in both Communication Studies and Women’s Studies while also co-founding the Alabama Student Association for Poetry. Additionally, he is the founder director of Poetry University, an online poetry education organization. The core of Jahman's creative work centers around “The Flourish”, or the idea that Black people are infinitely possible beings. Most recently, Jahman has engaged in creating and directing short films, combining poetry, dance, and videography to tell stories of his people, debuting his first short film, Vanderwaal’s Journey, as part of the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ ArtWorks@theDJD series.
For more information, visit jahmanhill.com
dr. allison upshaw
Dr. Allison Upshaw holds the position of Assistant Professor of Voice at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dr. Upshaw is a trained opera singer, a professional actress, and playwright. She has held positions as a diversity trainer, a college counselor, a Black cultural center director, and a professional poetry performer. For almost 20 years, she has provided curriculum design and diversity programming for educational systems and arts organizations. Allison holds a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies (aesthetic meaning making/performance/education) from the University of Alabama. More information can be found on her websites, www.allisonupshawphd.com and www.planningdiversity.com.
erika e. wade
Erika E. Wade is a writer and performer from Birmingham, Alabama. She began her writing career publishing short stories for children when she was only in the 8th grade. Although young in years, her writing career has grown and blossomed over the past 20 years. She is no baby writer.
In fact, Erika’s love for storytelling has led her to try her hand at many different forms of writing. She learned how to read a room by competing in and winning regional spoken word poetry competitions, a poetry style that specializes in delivering social justice messages with rhythm and style to an audience. She has been a journalist and copywriter, writing reviews for studios and networks, covering culture in online publications, and co-authoring the Tampax #LiveRadiant playbook. The latter, a directive toward historically Black colleges and universities to help Black women understand harmful stereotypes surrounding menstrual health and POC, can be seen online across the globe.
Her scripted work has been seen Off Off Broadway at the historic 13th Street Repertory Theater in New York City. She received her Master of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2016. That same year, she received a semi-finalist placement with The Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights Workshop, placing her as one of the top 22 MFA playwrights in the nation.
Now, Erika focuses her time on writing for the screen. She is the founder of Glenda’s Baby Productions and creator of The Juke Joint Live, a live show created in quarantine that explores the intersectionality of her life as a southern Black woman creative during the Black Lives Matter movement.
Erika’s work leaps off the page. Her characters are relatable and honest. Her authentic regional dialogue has become a key characteristic of her style. Her ability to capture characters from underrepresented communities enriches her work and allows her to reach toward a much larger audience. Erika doesn’t just write dynamic characters; she creates unique and quirky worlds for them and her audiences to get lost in.
She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA spreading Black Girl Magic and Southern hospitality down Crenshaw Boulevard. You can find more of her work at www.eewade.com. Also, check out The Juke Joint Live at www.facebook.com/jukejointlive.