Black Study Intensive will look at current issues through art


The first-ever Black Study Intensive will offer the Pitt community a chance to engage in Black studies through the arts via virtual performances and creative sessions.

“Collective Protest & Rebellion: A Black Study Intensive,” hosted by the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics (CAAPP) will take place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

The weeklong event will feature performances and discussions from Daniel Alexander Jones, an interdisciplinary theater artist; JJJJJerome Ellis, a “stuttering" composer, poet and performance artist; and many other artists.

The events will be streamed live on Crowdcast and YouTube, and recordings of the events will be available on the CAAPP YouTube channel.

Dawn Lundy Martin, the CAAPP director and professor in the Department of English, said the idea for this event came from brainstorming between her and Angie Cruz, an associate professor in the Department of English and CAAPP faculty affiliate.

Martin said she and Cruz were inspired by reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and protests of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a Black man and woman who were killed by police in separate incidents earlier this year.

“Here we are on lockdown, everyone’s in their homes, barely going anywhere, and then suddenly, people are just moved to action in the streets,” Martin said. “The pandemic really becomes background against the rage of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.”

Cruz added that these events and anxiety about the upcoming presidential election also have created a moment of dread for many. But she wants to encourage people to examine obstacles of the moment, look beyond dread and use their imagination to try and think through this moment together.

“I don’t know if anything is going to change, but I do feel that the ears and eyes are wider open,” Cruz said. “Maybe in some ways, like the politics of this moment, all the things together ... has created, maybe, an opportunity for a real change that’s systemic, which is, I think, the only sustainable change that could happen. I’m an optimist.”

Martin and Cruz wanted to create programming that channeled the rage and the resulting analysis of racial dynamics in the U.S., Martin said. The pandemic constrained the type of programming that could be done, but opened up other possibilities through the internet.

Martin said the programming provides an alternative approach to Black studies.

“We’re not thinking about Black study as like sticking your nose in a book and retreating into your windowless library, with dust on your books. We’re thinking about it as, like being in life,” Martin said. “We want to be in our bodies, in our art, in a kind of togetherness. It’s like the opposite of the way that you think about the lone scholar, the lone writer. Coming together in some kind of practice, I think, is powerful.”

The events are co-sponsored by the Department of English, the Humanities Center, the Year of Creativity, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, and the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. To register and view the scheduled events, visit the CAAPP website.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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