Saturday, October 29, 2011

Black Women @ SIUE & Other-ground Arts Communities

The official documents identify her as Bernice Farlow. But everyone knows her as Sunshine. Her extra energetic personality won her that nickname long before she arrived at SIUE. But with her signature rings and bracelets and her vibrant personality, she continually lives up to her street or community name.

Sunshine is a known force and contributor among the many communities of young sisters involved in the underground or other-ground arts communities at the university. These communities include dancers, singers, poets, rappers, hair stylists, finger nail artists, fashion enthusiasts, gospel mimes, athletes, models, socialites, and a few others that I have not identified or fully defined yet.

I refer to their communities as underground and other-ground at times because of the informal nature and operations of the groups. Some of the groups do not have official university club status, and the groups often function outside the realm of typical academic disciplines.

Sunshine belongs to a popular dance group on campus. She was explaining to me recently that participation in the group provides her and the other members, most of whom are also black women, with a creative outlet and mode of collaboration not readily available through formal channels at the university.

Among other things, the groups are important sites for the production of knowledge related to African American culture and ideas. The group that Sunshine belongs to, for example, is well known for its performances of the latest Chicago and St. Louis dances. The group also reveals the results of a group of sisters collaborating to transform various dance moves into choreographed performances. The group, Sunshine admits, faces constant challenges of doing street dances without fulfilling prevalent views of black women as over-sexualized.

For now, I've been taking notes and conversing with the sisters about their experiences establishing and maintaining their groups and their thoughts about why they consider the organizations--informal and otherwise--to be so important.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Sunshine" has always been an amazing young woman whose personality lights up any room. It comes as no surprise that she has continued her vivacious ways at SIUE. There is no questions that her success will continue as she pursues her dreams. Love you Sunshine. Mrs. M