A Black dancer chronicles her career as a scholar writing the stories of global hip-hop and Black culture
“Osumare gives readers a deeply personal look into her world as a dancer, choreographer, scholar, professor, activist, and all-around powerhouse. . . . Part self-reflection and part love song to Dunham, this book is a triumphant look at a dancer’s second act as a scholar.”—Library Journal
“Osumare returns with yet another striking memoir, expanding our understanding of the history of Black dance at home and abroad. Her writing is a gift to memoir and history lovers alike.”—Takiyah Amin, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design, Virginia Tech
“Continuing her life story, Osumare takes us to Hawai‘i and to Ghana, where she maps the global circulation of hip-hop, and into the halls of academe, where her spirit and her bodymind never stop dancing.”—Susan Manning, coeditor of Futures of Dance Studies
“An important and rare addition to the future of Black dance history. It will become a vital resource for researchers into dance history, the history of dance studies, and beyond.”—Tara Willis, curator in performance and public practice, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Praise for Dancing in Blackness:
“Finally someone who knows a dancer’s process and a choreographer’s vision that has tackled the mystery that is the magic of contemporary African American dance.”—Ntozake Shange, author of for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
“Osumare draws a picture of a focused young artist shaped by the cultural forces converging on the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, including the Black Power and Black Arts movements.”—Times Literary Supplement
“A lovely example for any dance student to see that art does not exist in a vacuum but is a response to and reflection of artists’ experiences, conflicts, and boundaries created by themselves or society.”—Journal of Dance Education
Dancing the Afrofuture is the story of a dancer with a long career of artistry and activism who transitioned from performing Black dance to writing it into history as a Black studies scholar. Following the personal journey of her artistic development told in Dancing in Blackness, Halifu Osumare now reflects on how that first career—which began during the 1960s Black Arts Movement—has influenced her growth as an academic, tracing her teaching and research against a political and cultural backdrop that extends to the twenty-first century with Black Lives Matter and a potent speculative Afrofuture.
Osumare describes her decision to step away from full-time involvement in dance and community activism to earn a doctorate in American studies from the University of Hawai‘i. She emulated the model of her mentor Katherine Dunham by studying and performing hula, and her research on hip-hop youth culture took her from Hawai‘i to Africa, Europe, and South America as a professor at the University of California, Davis. Throughout her scholarly career, Osumare has illuminated the resilience of African-descendant peoples through a focus on performance and the lens of Afrofuturism.
Respected for her work as both professional dancer and trailblazing academic, Osumare shares experiences from her second career that show the potential of scholarship in revealing and documenting underrecognized stories of Black dance and global pop culture. In this memoir, Osumare dances across several fields of study while ruminating on how the Black past reveals itself in the Afro-present that is transforming into the Afrofuture.
Halifu Osumare is professor emerita of African American and African studies at the University of California, Davis. She has been a dancer, choreographer, educator, cultural activist, and scholar for over fifty years. Osumare is the author of the award-winning Dancing in Blackness: A Memoir.
Publication of this work made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a University of California, Davis Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship Award.
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