My time at SU Law taught me the values of social justice and called me to work in criminal law as a Prosecutor. As such, I am charged with seeking justice above all else, and Justice itself is a great balancing act of interests; interests not just that of the victim or society, but of the defendant too. This means that we must seek rehabilitation, provide resources, and community support before we seek “punishment.” While current events have shown us the centuries-old flaws of our criminal justice system, I am hopeful that we can achieve the reform that is sorely needed if we are to live up to our charge. I am hopeful because I am joined by professionals of all races, creeds, colors, identities, and walks of life, in solidarity and partnership.
As a professor at Seattle University, my teaching, research, curatorial work, and community engagement all seek to confront racism, champion Black humanity, and build a more just world. I am reminded of artists and scholars past including Ida B Wells, WEB Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson (a Black playwright who wrote and staged anti-lynching plays in her living room), Lorraine Hansberry, as well as the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. They remind us that we need to center racially minoritized artists and scholars, and learn about systems of oppression, to build and dream for a more just world.
When I teach about the arts and race, I teach about how the arts have ALSO been used as a tool of oppression. Blackface minstrelsy which begun in the 1830s and was a form of theater grew to become the most popular form of entertainment in the 19th century the United States, spreading racist representations of Black people.
I teach in the Arts Leadership program, which trains futures arts leaders. I teach through an anti-racist lens through the texts we read, the guest speakers we engage, and the projects I lead students to build (such as imagining their own anti-racist arts organizations). I also teach cross-listed courses including "Black Lives Matter: Arts Leadership, Theory, and Practice," which centers on contemporary art practices to understand the aesthetic reach of the Black Lives Matter movement. My research practice examines relationships among the arts, race, policy, and place, and aims to archive and uplift minoritized artists, especially those making work that confronts systems of oppression. This research extends into my curatorial practice which includes Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis, an art exhibition that would have taken place on campus at Hedreen Gallery in Spring 2020, and was reimagined as a series of community-engaged public programming and virtual exhibition. Through Seattle University's Arts Leadership Program, I co-curate the "Arts Leadership Book Club," which meets quarterly around a book, is free and open to the public, and asks participants to discuss, apply, and imagine in dialogue with the text and critical issues including racism in the arts sector.