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Naropa University Celebrates 1st Black Futures Month

/EIN News/ -- Boulder, CO, Feb. 19, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- “Let’s give ourselves the freedom and permission to follow our radical imaginations and visualize the world we deserve because in order to realize a society in which we have healthcare for all, a meaningful wage, self-determination, and true freedom, we have to first imagine it!” ~ Movement For Black Lives (m4bl.org)

Building on the traditionally celebrated Black History Month, Naropa University has dedicated February as Black Futures Month—seeking to inspire current and future students, graduates, and alumnx to imagine a new world where justice and equality are met with equanimity. 

First coined by American novelist N.K. Jemisin in a 2013 essay titled, How Long 'til Black Future Month?, and brought to fruition by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015 by the Movement For Black Lives (m4bl.org), Black Futures Month harvests pan-African and Afro-future intellectual values, philosophies of liberation, insight, arts, music, expression, ‘discourse, and dissent’ that makes up the fabric of the Black diasporic experience, while centering Blackness, queer, and transfeminist perspectives.  

The celebration officially kicked off with a ‘Beloved Community BIPOC Centered CommuniTea Time’. The ninety-minute event was hosted by Regina Smith, Vice President for Mission, Culture, and Inclusive Community, and Ramon Parish, Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies as well as featured guest Dr. Jasmine Syedullah, co-author of Radical Dharma and professor at Vassar College. The conversation centered on Blackness, Abolitionist Theory, and Buddhism in Black America, and was attended by more than fifty Naropa community members.  

Naropa also presented Dr. Jasmine Syedullah as the 2021 Frederick P. Lenz Foundation Distinguished Guest Lecturer. Dr. Syedullah’s lecture “Surviving White Supremacy: Towards a Radical Dharma of Staying Fugitive” explored the “inequities and culpabilities of the criminal justice system,” suggesting that healing is possible through impermanence and our ability to change direction regardless of life circumstances.  

This virtual event was streamed publicly on Naropa Facebook and Youtube channels and is available on-demand here: Surviving White Supremacy: Towards a Radical Dharma of Staying Fugitive with Dr. Jasmine Syedullah 

Naropa’s Black Futures Month also includes two virtual Afro-Futurism workshops that explore the power of the Black imagination and weave a tapestry of mind and ritual, transforming liberation through creativity, intellect, on a sci-fi non-linear, intergenerational experiential rollercoaster.  Co-facilitated by Parish and Smith who invoked the contributions of Black artists and scholars—such as Octavia E. Butler, Audre Lorde, and Alice Coltrane, the workshops infuse utopian fantasy with an emphasis on right relationships and astrological planetary wellness. 

The first workshop, The Ancestral Spaceship,  was as a homage to the African diaspora lineage, the impact of the absence of blackness in sci-fi, and intergenerational superpowers. More than 75 participants registered, including both Naropa students and members of the public. 

The second workshop, Afro-Futurism: Astro-Blackness, will be held February 26-28, 2021. In the true spirit of Naropa education, the course will offer theory, practice, small group conversation, and self-reflection and is available for both credit and non-credit students, including the public.  

Students from the first weekend revealed their own learning by writing a futuristic tale. They created characters who were genderless--divine inner beings here to salvage the climate crisis and challenge personal cultural conditioning and socialization, power dynamics equal access, and gentrification.

On Sunday, February 21, 2021, Regina Smith will share the lessons from Black Futures Month in a public webinar with the Contemplative Mind in Society entitled, “Satisfaction as Activism: A Virtual Rest-shop." In this experiential offering, Smith will explore satisfaction as a source of power and resistance through meditation, visualization, gentle movement, poetry, music, and more. Register for the webinar with CMIND here

In addition, Naropa faculty and staff are working to transform Naropa University to be a place where students not only feel a sense of belonging, but where each community member is asked to challenge their own role in cultural and social conditioning to grow our institutional capacity to do the work of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI). Naropa’s newly formed Division of Mission, Culture, and Inclusive Community hosted a self-paced JEDI 100 course that asks individuals to locate their social identities and to apply the principles of justice, equity, and inclusive community to their daily work lives. All Naropa faculty and staff have been enrolled in the course, and it will eventually be available to students as well. 

Elevating the vision of Naropa’s founder for a more just and enlightened society, several supplementary zoom sessions have been offered on topics ranging from Understanding Social Location, Working with Emotion, Power Differentials, Self-Compassion, Applying JEDI to Your Job, and Leading & Trailing Edges of JEDI Work. 

If you are feeling inspired to participate in these workshops or show your support for the Futures of Black and Indigenous Lives at Naropa, please consider giving to the JEDI Scholarship fund.  These scholarships will help bring more diversity to the Naropa campus and the City of Boulder and will put more Naropa graduates out into the world who will work toward the dissolution of systemic oppression, the healing of intergenerational wounds, and creating a more just and beautiful world. Support that dream here.

Happy Black Futures Month from Naropa University. 

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About Naropa University (Naropa.edu): Located in Boulder, Colorado, Naropa University is a private liberal arts institution offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs. As the “birthplace of the modern mindfulness movement,” Naropa University is a leader in contemplative education, an approach to learning and teaching that integrates Eastern wisdom studies with traditional Western scholarship. Naropa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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Cassandra Smith
Naropa University
7205301370
csmith@naropa.edu