Black Joy Collaborative

A Programmatic Grant

Bringing Together Those Who Share an Investment in the Histories, Present, and Futures of Black Performance

Black life in the Atlantic World is rife with violence, grief, and trauma. Yet throughout, despite, and in reaction to these tribulations, people of African descent have always produced, experienced, and cultivated joy. Attention to “Black Joy” is a declaration that violence and hardship cannot circumscribe the totality of Black life, despite their daily presence. Black joy both is and invites embodied, performed expressions of what Robin D.G. Kelley calls the “freedom dreams” of the diaspora.

The Black Joy Collaborative brings together students and faculty from multiple Arts and Sciences units and St. Louis-based artists and institutions who share an investment in the histories, present, and futures of Black performance—a critical site of Black joy as a practice, as effort, and as labor.

The vastness of our topic demands a transdisciplinary approach, drawing on anthropology; literary studies; music history and theory; theater and performance studies; and other fields to address questions that matter not just to scholars but also and equally to all persons living, striving, thriving, and surviving in a world that challenges and denies joy as a possibility and a practice.

Our project weds scholastic inquiry with exercises in producing and celebrating joy. In other words, we are committed not just to producing knowledge about Black joy, but also to making our community knowledgeable about the occasions where Black joy is already being produced both on campus and in the broader St. Louis region.

Faculty Leads