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Public Scholarship School of Education School of Liberal Arts

Jumping At the Sun: Envisioning Community and the Freedom Dreams of Black Youth

This post continues our series of guest posts from IAHI Summer Academy Fellows in which they describe their current research projects. Today, professors from the School of Education and School of Liberal Arts (Dr. Cleveland Hayes, Dr. Lasana Kazembe, Dr. Les Etienne, Dr. Kara Taylor, and Dr. Joseph Tucker-Edmonds) and Ms. Keesha Dixon (Executive Director, Asante Art Institute) share their project, Black Fugitive Publics: Developing a Culturally-Insistent, Arts-Based Research-Practice Model.

Uno and strikeout baseball. Riding bikes and jumping rope. The sun rising and its rays basting the butter-brown shoulders of little Black girls and boys.

Photo of three children on a swing.
Image Source: Unsplash / Nathaniel Tetteh

When we think of Black childhood we flash back to sweet memories of cookouts, cooling off in fire hydrants, and chasing ice cream trucks. Most recall the bittersweet warnings from cautious parents beckoning us home when the streetlights came on. These are some of the precious, loving memories that reflected a time of carefree innocence and sweet joy in communities where Black people lived, worked, learned, and played. For their part, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and loving others contributed to making meaning and memory; establishing safety and security for Black children and those yet unborn.

The work of creating safe spaces for Black children is not an isolated or solitary project.  As the founders of Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis, Inc. (AAI). have long understood, loving and culturally-rich spaces must be developed and sustained by people committed to loving, cherishing, and nurturing Black children and families. Founded in 1990 by two Black artists who desired to provide rich and culturally affirming experiences for Black children, AAI has a long history of building safe spaces and creating community with other arts and cultural organizations throughout the region. During its three-decade existence, AAI has provided arts-based education, cultural programming, and outreach to over 3000 children, produced over 30 plays, and apprenticed hundreds of children and youth. Through its unique, culturally informed approach, AAI has transformed the cultural landscape of Indianapolis. The organization continues to positively impact the lives and futures of thousands of Black children and their families by exposing them to culturally informed, arts-based programs and education.   

As Black scholars at IUPUI with research steeped in Africana communities and equity, we are committed to telling the story of thriving Black communities and their visions for the future. In partnering with AAI, we seek to reimagine what collectively can be done to funnel knowledge and resources back into the Black communities throughout Indiana. While the university and its faculty have historically called this relationship a partnership, we endeavor to create a culturally informed model that is responsive and accountable to the interests of AAI and the Black community and does not simply enrich or serve the needs of the university.

As a discourse, Black Studies has always fully engaged the cultural richness and diverse textures of Black community experiences. In this regard, we endeavor to create a collective/collaborative/beloved community/village with AAI and the communities it serves to help challenge the long-held predatory and problematic relationship between universities and community-based organizations.

Our research project (Black Fugitive Publics: Developing a Culturally-Insistent, Arts-Based Research-Practice Model) seeks to create a sustained conversation and set of practices with AAI. We believe that this collective model will encourage the university and its researchers to be more transparent, accountable, and ultimately more concerned about late night dinners with grandma and auntie, stories of elders and music once played on Indiana Avenue, and little Black girls safely jumping in and out of the rope.

2 replies on “Jumping At the Sun: Envisioning Community and the Freedom Dreams of Black Youth”

The AAI is a community treasure. From the perspective of a faculty member working at IUPUI, I am so happy to see the relationship described in this blog post developing!

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