Brenda’s Acceptance Speech for the IABD SCHOLAR AWARD, 1/26/2013
What can I say in the time given me to thank you– my sisters, my brothers—-my children—for bestowing this honor upon me? In this month, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, what can I say to make this moment linger in your minds—no, IN YOUR HEARTS!!—as something to take with you that you’ll remember years from now, as part of our dance emancipation? Well, first of all, please read my books (!!), and use them in your schools and studios so they stay in print and the history and culture I’ve recorded is not lost!
There are other things I can say that many of you of a certain age already know: that the going’s been tough, the road’s been rocky, and the journey has often been lonely. Because when I completed my first big research on African American dance and culture with my doctoral dissertation–in 1981!– the idea of a black woman researching African American dance history and theory was easily pooh-pooed not only by white scholars, but even by black scholars in the social and political sciences. For them, the thought was, “dang, how serious can anyone take a woman whose “research” is on tap dance and nightclubs??” One professor at Temple University told me, “When you were hired, I couldn’t figure out what you were doing: I imagined you were Debbie Allen correcting your students with a cane in hand!”
Well, I walked a bed of hot coals in the 1980s and 1990s to prove that DANCE, OUR DANCE, BLACK DANCE, is CENTRAL to life on this planet—to prove and DOCUMENT the fact that black dance has shaped and COLORED, if you will, every walk of life, every nook and cranny of the world—HIGH AND LOW!!! And you and I are all here, tonight, to TESTIFY TO THIS TRUTH!
SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY!!!