The Black Studies Collaboratory

Logo of the Black Studies Collaboratory. A star figure with the words "Black Studies Collaboratory at UC Berkeley" inside. The star and letters are black and the background is white.


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Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Just Futures initiative, the Black Studies Collaboratory aims to bring together artists, activists and scholars to amplify the interdisciplinary, political and world-building work of Black Studies. The task of building life-affirming institutions is more urgent than ever. We take this moment as an invitation to reimagine African American Studies’ relationship to the university and in turn reimagine the institution’s relationship to its surrounding black communities. We ask, how might the insights and practices of the Black Radical, Black Intellectual and Black Feminist traditions–which value methodological experimentation, epistemological breadth, and multipositional participation–be used to produce new modes of knowledge production, scholarly engagement and community practice? Organized around the themes of archives, activism and arts, the Black Studies Collaboratory consists of the Abolition Democracy Fellows Program, the Global Black Feminisms Summer Lab, the Black Studies Collaboratory Open University course, and a Black Futures Retreat that will be the culmination of the initiative.


Leigh Raiford, Inaugural Director and Co-PI

Tianna Paschel, Co-PI

Barbara Montano, Project Manager 

Berkeley African American Studies awarded $2.8 million grant to expand community impact


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The Performance of Labor/The Labor of Performance: A Convening

The Performance of Labor/The Labor of Performance: A Convening

An Illuminations Live Panel Discussion, Co-Sponsored by Cal Performances and The Black Studies Collaboratory

Panelists, from left to right on the screen: Ra Malika Imhotep, X’ene Sky, jazz franklin, kai barrow, esperanza spalding, and brontë velez.

Curated by Ra Malika Imhotep, The Performance of Labor/The Labor of Performance is a convening of Black feminist artists and cultural workers who will communally explore the question(s) of how the forms and methods of opera, surrealism, free jazz, poetry, & dance help us communicate the concerns of radical black feminism(s)? Calling in the Cal Performances production of Wayne Shorter + esperanza spaldings’ …(Iphigenia) alongside each of the artists’ own “works-in-progress,” the panel discussion featuring esperanza/irma on Feb 11th at 11am-12:30pm will explore : What happens when we gather together to create out loud, to sound it out in good company? How might improvised creative dialogue disrupt preconceived notions about the relationships between black femininity, labor and performance? How do we practice and witness a “black feminist politic in making”?

Roundtable on Black Feminist Praxis – Global Black Feminisms Summer Lab 2021

Roundtable on Black Feminist Praxis with Christen Smith, Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez, and Moya Bailey Friday

July 2, 2021

Global Black Feminisms Summer Lab, 2021

Roundtable Moderators:

  • Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley  and Co-PI and Inaugural Director of The Black Studies Collaboratory
  • Tianna Paschel, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Sociology, UC Berkeley and Co-PI of The Black Studies Collaboratory

Roundtable Participants:

  • Christen Smith, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology, UT Austin
  • Moya Bailey, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and the program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University
  • Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez, Associate Professor of Afro-Diaspora Studies, Michigan State University

Spring 2021 Critical Conversations Series

Critical Conversations 2021 Speaker Series poster

The Critical Conversations Spring 2021 series is organized around two themes: celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Barbara T. Christian, an architect of Black feminist criticism, a founding member of our Department and a gifted writer and teacher; and exploring the concept of “abolition democracy,” thinking creatively and collaboratively about the practice of abolition as necessary to building life-affirming institutions and robust democratic structures. Through both themes, we ask: what are the lessons of the Black Feminist, Black Radical, and Black intellectual traditions for our moment and what is the role of Black Studies in building more just futures? 

See the recordings of these events on our YouTube channel