Unruly Collaborations


Unruly Collaborations is a special convening of poets, scholars, artists, and activists in search of meaningful ways to meet our ethical responsibility to wrestle with the increasingly alarming issues of contemporary society in this period of moral contraction, racialized global populism, and revanchist politics. We seek sustainable modes of collaborative practice that require us to unflinchingly confront the limits and indulgent mythologies of post-civil rights and postcolonial progress. The convening included a public panel discussion of Hortense Spillers’ Essay “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Post-Date,” and a screening and discussion of Arthur Jafa’s film Love is the Message, the Message Is Death. Thanks to the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Boundary2, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.



AMARYAH SHAYE ARMSTRONG is a doctoral candidate in theological studies at Vanderbilt University with a focus on political theology and black studies. Her current research examines the fungible figure and flesh of the slave woman in early Christian imaginary.


Rich Blint holds a pen.

RICH BLINT is a scholar, writer and curator. Currently Visiting Scholar at NYU’s Center for Experimental Humanities, he teaches at Barnard College’s Department of Africana Studies. Upcoming books include A Radical Interiority: James Baldwin and the Personified Self in Modern American Culture and James Baldwin: An American Exile.


Erica Hunt sits at a desk with computer.

ERICA HUNT is a poet, an essayist, a scholar, and an organizer. She is the recipient of honors and awards from institutions like the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Local History, Arcade, Piece Logic, and Time Slips Right Before the Eyes.


Arthur Jafa in sunglasses.

ARTHUR JAFA is a filmmaker and cinematographer, who was the director of photography for Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust (1991). His research on black culture has led him to produce more than two hundred notebooks that represent a visual hypothesis on what Jafa considers the black aesthetic. He is the director of the experimental visual piece Love is the Message, the Message is Death.


Deana Lawson stands behind a large camera in a wooded area.

DEANA LAWSON is a photo-based artist born in Rochester, NY. Her work examines the body’s ability to channel personal and social histories. Her work has been included in many exhibitions at institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), MoMA PS1, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. Lawson is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Art Matters Grant, and other honors.


Dawn Lundy Martin

DAWN LUNDY MARTIN is a writer and conceptual-video artist. She is the author of multiple books of poems, most recent being Good Stock Strange Blood (Coffee House, 2017); Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry; DISCIPLINE (Nightboat Books, 2011). Martin is Professor of English in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. 


Imani D. Owens

IMANI D. OWENS is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in the poetics and politics of resistance in black literature, sound, and embodied performance. With the support of a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship and a Schomburg Residency, she is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Writing Crossroads: Folk Culture, Imperialism, and U.S.-Caribbean Literature.


Christina Sharpe

CHRISTINA SHARPE is Associate Professor of English at Tufts University and the author of Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subject (2010) and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016). Sharpe is working on two monographs: Black. Still. Life. and Refusing Necrotopia. She is the recipient of a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has recently contributed essays to the book accompanying Arthur Jafa’s first solo exhibition, Love is the Message, The Message is Death, and an essay called “The Crook of Her Arm” to a collection on the work of the artist Martine Syms.


Greg Tate

GREG TATE is a writer and musician who lives on Harlem’s Sugar Hill and whose books include Flyboy In The Buttermilk and Everything But The BurdenWhat White People Are Taking From Black Culture. His most recent is Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (Duke University Press 2016). Tate has also led  the Conducted Improv big band Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber since 1999 and is a proud member of Howard University’s Bison-alum nation.



SALAMISHAH TILLET is an Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies and a faculty member of the Alice Paul Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Salamishah has appeared on the BBC, NPR, and other networks. She has written blogs and editorials for venues such as The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New York Times, and others. She is the co-founder of A Long Walk Home, Inc., a non-profit organization that uses art to end violence against girls and women. She is the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012).