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Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

Black Artist Empowerment: Reclaiming a Culture

We recently had the honor of welcoming Dr. Daphne A. Brooks as the speaker for the 2023 Adrenée Glover Freeman Lecture as well as having the opportunity to host her as a guest on our student-led podcast, Women’s and Gender Studies: Unboxed. Dr. Brooks is currently a professor of African American Studies, American Studies, Music, and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is also a renowned author, some notable works being her book Bodies in Dissent:  Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 as well as the liner notes she has written to accompany the recordings of musicians such as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.  

The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies held the 2023 Adrenée Glover Freeman Lecture with Dr. Brooks as the keynote speaker with a talk titled “Kitchen Insurrections: Porgy & Bess, Mamba’s Daughters, Black Women Musicians & the End of an Era/Error”. In this talk, Dr. Brooks explored and identified the way black women are exploited and shunted into stereotype-based narratives within the arts by retracing the sonic footsteps of the character “Bess” from the highly controversial opera: Porgy & Bess. As the talk unfolded, she discussed the origins of the character, and characters alike, that are created under a white patriarchal scope that allows for white composers and artists to profit off their control of a narrative not their own. However, the discussion also held strong themes of empowerment and reclaiming. Throughout it, Dr. Daphne A. Brooks highlighted many influential black female artists and their interpretations of a song from the opera called Summertime, emphasizing the artistry each woman brought and reasserting themselves as “shapers of culture through sound” (Music linked below). 

Also, during her time at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Brooks was a guest on our podcast Women’s and Gender Studies: Unboxed, hosted by WGST student assistant, Emma Galluccio. Dr. Brooks discussed her career and research as well as her future visions for progress and her studies alike.  

Listen to some of the music mentioned in Dr. Brooks’ talk here: 

Ella Fitzgerald -  

Whitney Houston -  

Fantasia Barrino - 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.