EP 27 Scholar Therí A. Pickens

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas, I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas. In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing scholar Therí Alyce Pickens about her most recent work Black Madness::Mad Blackness published by Duke University Press in 2019. 

Currently, Therí A. Pickens is a  Full Professor of English at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA. Her research focuses on Arab American and African American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy, and literary theory. In addition to her most recent work, Black Madness::Mad Blackness, she has written New Body Politics: Narrating Arab and Black Identity in the Contemporary United States. She also ushered in a new set of conversations about Blackness and Disability when she guest edited the 50th anniversary issue of African American Review in the Summer of 2017.

In this episode, we will be discussing how Dr. Pickens’ work as she describes it, “ aims to architect a series of conversations that retool our theory and praxis for and about the Black mad and the mad Black.”

Please join me in welcoming Therí Alyce Pickens. 

Twitter: Therí A. Pickens 

Website: tpickens.org

Octavia Butler: Fledgling

To find Dr. Pickens: 

Personal Twitter: TAPPhD

Professor, English 

Chair, Africana (formerly African American Studies)

Bates College

To Find Dr. Pickens’ Work:

Author, Black Madness :: Mad Blackness (Duke 2019)

Editor, Arab American Aesthetics (Routledge 2018) 

Editor, Special Issue of African American Review on Blackness and Disability (2017). Available here

Author, New Body Politics (Routledge 2014) 

Authors Mentioned on Show:

Tananarive Due

Nalo Hopkinson

Tavia Nyong’o

Paule Marshall

Gayl Jones

Percival Everett

Toni Morrison

Mat Johnson

EP 26 Poet Geffrey Davis

In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with award winning poet Geffrey Davis. Davis has authored two successful books Revising the Storm,   a 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize winner and most recently Night Angler ,  the recipient of the 2018 James Laughlin Award. Geffrey Davis is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas. His work has been widely published and he is the recipient of numerous awards and has earned fellowships at Bread Loaf, Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. His work explores the depths of familial frustrations, milestones in new parenthood and the process of mending wounds from generational trauma. Join us as he shares his unique journey of finding purpose in poetry, shares advice on “hacking our inhibitions” and discusses the importance of his most recent poetry collection, Night Angler, as an “ongoing love letter to his son.” The vulnerability and honesty of his story underscores his message for listeners to “love the body that produced this work as much as you love the art itself.” To read more on Geffrey, hear selections of his poems, or see his upcoming reading schedule, please visit his website.

F. Douglas Brown Icon and Begotten

Cave Canem Black Poetry Retreat

Jericho Brown The Tradition

Tiana Clark I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood

BAM EP 5 Scholars, Dancers, and Choreographers: Dr. Osumare and Dr. Dixon Gottschild

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas. I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas. On this episode of Contemporary Black Canvas, we are sharing an audio recording entitled “ It’s A Commitment,” an audio recording. This audio piece features esteemed dance scholars Dr. Halifu Osumare and Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild. This is part of a larger, artists’ interview series conceptualized and hosted by Margaret Kemp, an Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance at UC Davis, and produced by Alexander Adams. They were kind and generous enough to ask us to share this  recording with Contemporary Black Canvas to include as part of our Black Arts Movement series. For links to the guests and their work, please check our show notes. Please tune in and enjoy.


Margaret Kemp

Halifu Osumare

Brenda Dixon Gottschild  


Dancing in Blackness

The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip Hop

The Black Dancing Body

Black choreographers moving: A national dialogue

Everybody Creative Arts Center

Black Choreography Moving Towards the 21st Century

Digging; The Africanist presence in American performance, dance and other contexts

EP 25 Scholar Rashad Shabazz

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas where we celebrate the depth and breadth of Black artistic and intellectual traditions. In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Rashad Shabazz, an Associate Professor of Justice and Social Inquiry within  School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University and an affiliate faculty member at the Lincoln Center of Applied Ethics. Dr. Shabazz’ research interests are in human geography, Black cultural studies, gender studies, and critical prison studies. He joined us on our show to discuss his book, Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago. Join us and hear how Dr. Shabazz’s growing up in Chicago shaped him as a person and a scholar. Hear how Chicago police, law enforcement, and city officials  responded to the influx of Blacks into Chicago during the great migration. Hear Dr. Shabazz explain, in depth, what “prisonize” is and how it shaped the Black experience in Chicago during the 20th century. Join us for a deeply moving and transformative conversation about how the structures of prisons are replicated in the everyday living spaces and living environments of Black Americans. To learn more about Dr. Shabazz and his work, please check out his book Spatializing Blackness and keep an eye out for his future work on the development of the Minneapolis Sound.

Rashad Shabazz

Spatializing Blackness

Minneapolis Sound

Native Sons

Stateway Garden

Robert Taylor Homes


Richard Wright

Mumbai Abu Jamal

Angela Davis

Assata Shakur

Govan Mbeki

Ruth First

Nelson Mandela

BAMAA EP 4 Scholar & Activist Abdul Alkalimat

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas, I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas. In this episode,  I had the pleasure of speaking with scholar and activist, Abdul Alkalimat. In our conversation today, he begins by discussing how influential his family of activists and scholars were on his early development and his lifelong commitment to the freedom struggle. Our discussion focuses how he, together with Conrad Kent Rivers and Hoyt Fuller, founded the artist’s collective, OBAC, the Organization of Black American Culture in Chicago in 1967. We discuss OBAC’s role in Black Arts Movement and in creating the Wall of Respect mural. The Wall of Respect, a mural of black leaders, changed the tone of Chicago, strengthened its Black community, and inspired a thousands of artists across the country to not only embrace the Black Arts movement but to also create cultural murals in other neighborhoods. The story of OBAC and the Wall of Respect was captured through a combination of essays, and artifacts in his book The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago edited by him Robin Crawford and Rebecca Zorach.  Dr.Abdul Alkalimat has been and continues to be a substantial force in the black community. Currently, outside of his long career in academia, he is maintains a variety of digital archives, including one focused a collection of his work and pertinent information related to liberation movements since the 1960’s and the other is a dedication to Malcolm X. Throughout his career, Alkalimat demonstrates the importance of knowledge to freedom and survival. He urges listeners to keep generational records as they are an “important part of our DNA”. To find his work, please check out his website: www.alkimat.org.

http://brothermalcolm.net Malcolm X dedication Site

http://alkalimat.org  Abdul Alkalimat archive

http://www.nupress.northwestern.edu/content/wall-respect Wall of Respect Book

https://interactive.wttw.com/dusable-to-obama/africobra Africobra Information

http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/shows/list/underground-railroad/stories-freedom/henry-box-brown/ Henry Box Brown’s Bio

https://interactive.wttw.com/dusable-to-obama/dawsons-black-machine William Dawson’s bio

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/jackson-joseph-harrison Rev. J. H. Jackson’s bio

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/feb/24/jeff-donaldson-art-kravets-wehby-gallery Artist Jeff Donaldson & Africobra

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/margaret-burroughs Margaret Taylor-Burroughs’ bio

EP 24 Curator Meg Onli

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas. I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas. This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Meg Onli, the current Assistant  Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Please join us for this two-part series. In this episode, we speak to Meg Onli about her life and work as a curator. In part two, we speak to Meg Onli and a guest artist about Onli’s latest exhibition, Colored People Time, an exhibit in three chapters that opens in February 2019 and closes in December of this year. Please see our shownotes for the link to this exhibition. In this episode,  I talk to Meg Onli about her move to Chicago in 2005 to pursue graduate school and a career as a conceptual artist and how she realized that she was better suited to be a curator. Before she joined the ICA as an Assistant Curator, Onli was the Program Coordinator at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. She was also the recipient of the Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and the creator of the website The Black Visual Archive. Meg Onli’s first exhibition Speech/Acts at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (2017) focused on Black poetry in order to explore how the  social constructs of language have shaped  the black American experience. To find out more about the current exhibit please visit www.icaphila.org.  

For more information & exhibition dates and times  visit

Institute of Contemporary Art

For more on Meg Onli’s new exhibit (February 2019) visit :

Colored People Time: Mundane Futures

Artists Meg Onli mentioned on this episode:

Carolyn Lazard

Aria Dean

Matthew Angelo Harrison


Claudia Rankine

           Dr. Kellie Jones

Harryette MullenM

Tony Lewis

Brooke O’Hara

Sharon Hayes

Julia Bloch

Simone White

Up and coming artists: Carolyn Lazard, Cameron Rollin, Aria Dean Matthew Angelo Harrison

Resource she relies on: Other artists

Words you live by: To find happiness in my own labor

Where can we find your work: Institute of Contemporary Art

EP 23 Visual Artist, Architectural Designer, and Poet Komi Olaf

On this episode, I am joined by CBC’s research assistant, Jasmine Newton. In this episode, we interviewed architectural designer, poet, and visual artist, Komi Olaf. His visual art has been inspired by asking the question, “What does African heritage look like with technology?” He thus, imagines a world where colonization does not exist and instead a world in which hybridity and a mixture of culture and identities have emerged and flourished. Not only has his visual art explored Afrofuturist concepts but his spoken word poetry and architectural design has also utilized this technological lens at the intersections of race, culture, and identity. Bringing art and technology at the forefront, his work challenges social and cultural norms by imagining and reimagining worlds beyond perceived confinements. He is also apart of MadeMill, a collective of professional developers whose mission is to “ make product creation and social innovation accessible, affordable, in order to connect the services and resources necessary to move an idea into reality.” Olaf was recently apart of a group exhibition entitled, AfrOURban. This collective’s objective is to document and express the many characters of the metropole on the [African] continent and how these inform culture or are informed by it. Tune into this week’s episode to hear more about his migration from Nigeria to Canada and how he uses art as a means to navigate through these two identities and the challenges he has faced as an artist. You can find Komi Olaf’s work at his website komiolaf.com where you can purchase his works, commission for art work and watch his spoken word poetry.

References Mentioned On the Support:



Johannes Vermeer

Salvador Dali

Shane Koyczan

Jalel ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Khwaja Shams-ud-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi

Zaha Hadid

Ben Enwonwu

Frank Gehry

Roots:The Saga of an American Family” by Alex Haley

Leonardo Davinci

British Colonization of Canada

“Sankofa Eagle Clan”


“Space Party”

“Barbershop Blues”

Autobiography of Malcolm X


“Silent Night”

What is Black Art?

Sara Golish

Future Histories


Canadian Festival of Spoken Word

Mademill by Prototype D

“Afro mobile”  

Red River Rebellion

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself by Osho

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

Up and Coming Artist You Recommend: 

Allan Andre

Resources You Rely On:


Words You Live By:

“Be Your Future Self”

How Can Our Listeners Find and Support Your Work:




EP 22 Educator Khalilah Brann

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas, where we celebrate the depth and breadth of the Black artistic and intellectual traditions. I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas. Before we begin, I want to encourage all of our listeners to check out our new and beautifully re-designed website. Our website now gives a much better a more comprehensive understanding of all of Contemporary Black Canvas’ projects. Be sure to check us out!  Let us know you’re listening! Underneath our “About” tab, click on “Contact Us” to sign up for our newsletter, send us feedback, or recommend an artist.  You can find us at www.contemporaryblackcanvas.com In this episode, I interviewed Khalilah Brann, an educator, and education activist, writer, institution builder, and publisher. Her career as an educator has fueled her passions for teaching and decolonizing the minds of underrepresented and misrepresented communities across the country. She is the founder of CREAD, Culturally Responsive Educators of the African Diaspora, whose mission is to “ to support teachers, educators and community members in ensuring the positive racial identity development through education of young people of the African Diaspora.” Most recently, she has also co-founded and launched her publishing company, DeColonizing Education. Their first book, co-written by Khalilah Brann and Chemay Morales-James, the ABC’s of the Black Panther Party, was published in December 2017 and is now available. Their book includes extension activities and learning guides for educators and parents. The book is skillfully designed to appeal to ages 7-12. Tune into this week’s episode to hear more about her transformative junior year of highschool, her successful and humbling moments in the classroom, and the individuals who shaped and nurtured her teaching passions. You can find Khalilah Brann’s work at her CREAD website at creadnyc.com and you can purchase a copy of the ABC’s of the Black Panther Party at decolonizinged.com.


For Colored Girls

Autobiography of Malcolm X


Tira Randall


ABCs of the Black Panther Party

Decolonizing Education Publishing Company

Paulo Freire

Michelle Alexander Interviews Angela Davis  

Assata: An Autobiography


Thinker, Educators, Liberators  You Recommend:

Teach Freedom by Charles M. Payne and Carol Sills Strickland

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy Degruy

Dr. Geneva Gay

Pedro Noguera

Gloria Ladson- Billings


Resources You Rely On:


Youtube and Google


Words You Live By:

Assatta Shakur’s Chant:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.” [therefore I must execute and revise]

Where can our listeners find and support your work?


BAM Ep 2: Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell

Welcome to Contemporary Black Canvas, where we celebrate the depth and breadth of the Black artistic and intellectual traditions. I am your host, Dr. Pia Deas, in this episode, we interviewed painter, sculptor, and printmaker Wadsworth Jarrell and fashion designer Jae Jarrell. Their works, contributions and founding of the AFRICOBRA Movement has been inspired by the need to continuously uplift and empower their communities with art that is colorful, joyful, and strong. The Jarrells along with other founding members, Jeff Donaldson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams formed the collective in 1968 in Chicago. They believed that their skills could be better put to use by creating art rather than protesting and thus made revolutionary art that instilled pride and possessed a heavy political aesthetic. Jae Jarrells fashion designs which were inspired by the Black Arts Movement and the individuals who would adorn these pieces as they fought for liberation and equality. Likewise, Wadsworth Jarrell’s visual art was inspired by Black leading figures, Black life in Chicago, and jazz. Their artistry taps into their philosophies and principles of creating art that reflected the “electricity of the atmosphere” during the revolutionary movement. From Jae’s early exposure to the arts and design to Wadsworth’s experience in the military, tune into this week’s episode as they take us back in time to 1968 and the start of it all: A moment where political and social issues needed to be addressed through art and the burgeoning of the creation of a new African American school of thought and artistic language to meet the needs of the times.


Art Institute of Chicago

Jeff Donaldson

Barbara Jones- Hogu

Kevin Cole

Gerald Williams

AfriCobra Principles

The Revolutionary Suit

Revolutionary (Angela Davis)

Black Prince