The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Panelists Selected for 2021 Signature Black Heritage Month Event 

Panelists Selected for 2021 Signature Black Heritage Month Event 
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The Honors College has selected UMass Amherst College of Education's Professor Jamila Lyiscott and Professor Juana Valdés (studio arts) as the panelists for its signature Black Heritage Month event, which will be moderated by Professor Judyie Al-Bilali of the Department of Theatre. The event follows an annual tradition of Black Heritage Month lectures that take place every February. This year’s lecture, “The Arts as a Praxis of Liberation: Embodying Change and Transformation in a Time of Racial Justice,” will be hosted on February 15, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

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Jamila LyiscottProfessor Jamila Lyiscott is an assistant professor of social justice education and is co-founder and co-director of the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research. She is nationally recognized for her spoken-word poetry and her Ted Talk, “3 Ways to Speak English,” which has over 4.8 million views. She is the author of Black Appetite. White Food.: Issues of Race, Voice, and Justice Within and Beyond the Classroom. She is co-editor of the highly acclaimed journal of Equity & Excellence in Education and holds faculty fellowships at the University of Notre Dame and Teachers College, Columbia University. Lyiscott’s current research focuses on the power of youth-led social research and activism to foster liberation and racial healing across schools and communities.


Juana Valdes Professor Juana Valdés is an associate professor in printmaking at the UMass Amherst Department of Art. Her work has been featured internationally, and she is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in sculpture, and the National Association of Latinos Arts and Culture Visual Artists Grant. She uses printmaking, photography, sculpture, ceramics, and site-specific installations to explore issues of race, transnationalism, gender, labor, and class. Functioning as an archive, Valdés's work analyzes and decodes experiences of migration as a person of Afro Caribbean heritage. She holds an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts, her B.F.A. in sculpture from Parsons School of Design, and she attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1995. 


Judyie Al-BilaliProfessor Judyie Al-Bilali is an associate professor of performance and theater for social change in the Department of Theater. She has worked as an actor, director, playwright, and producer for off-Broadway and in regional theaters nationwide. She taught for New York University's Educational Theater program, the master's in Applied Theatre program at City University New York, and at Amherst College and Hampshire College. She has also traveled around the world with Semester at Sea, a multi-country study abroad program. She authored two books: For the Feeling: Love & Transformation from New York to Cape Town, a memoir; and Halcyon Days, a poetry collection. Al-Bilali is the recipient of numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, and the prestigious MacDowell Colony. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at UMass Amherst, where she created her own undergraduate individual concentration major in African American Performing Arts before completing her graduate studies in theater with a concentration on directing.

“Professors Judyie Al-Bilali, Jamila Lyiscott, and Juana Valdés are award-winning UMass faculty who embody, and are at the forefront, of discussions surrounding racial justice, scholar-activism, and the arts as a praxis of liberation,” said Dean Mari Castañeda. “I am thrilled they’ll be sharing their work and engaging in a dialogue about these critical issues with the Commonwealth Honors College community and beyond.”