On Black Joy

On Black Joy: An Unconference

On Black Joy is a two-day event presented by the Black Joy Collective that introduces attendees to intellectual discourses outlining the contours of the concept of joy and its utility for positively impacting mental and emotional well-being. As part of the Indiana Remixed festival, On Black Joy brings together students and faculty from IU Bloomington with prominent cultural figures from around Indiana to explore joy, activism, and art within the context of the Hoosier state.

All Black Joy events will be held in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Saturday, February 15th, will include open dialogue between artists on joy, being and mortality, a plenary conversation from our keynote speaker, creative performance space, and workshops to provide attendees with practical tools for cultivating gratitude and joyfulness in everyday life which, if implemented, can support profound contributions to overall life satisfaction.

Wednesday, February 19th, will be composed of a panel discussion between three artists, who use black history and culture as a source of inspiration for their art form and their community building efforts. The goal of this panel is to create a conversation about how art can be used in the political realm and what tools are needed for artists to navigate those spaces. We will also cover topics such as the power of storytelling and its connections to Black Joy.



Saturday, February 15th

  • 10:45-11:00am: Opening
  • 11:00am-12:00pm: Manifesting Black Joy
    • Blair Baker, Ph.D. candidate in School Psychology
    • Javon Gourd, Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education and Student Affairs
    • Donte Miller, Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education and Student Affairs
    • Andrea Sterling, Ph.D. candidate in African and African American Diaspora Studies
  • 12:00-1:30pm: Keynote & Lunch
    • Between Two Poets: A Conversation on Being Speakers
    • Maria Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D. and Ross Gay, Ph.D.
    • Moderated by Quinton Stroud, Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy Studies
  • 1:30-2:30pm: Experiential Joy Workshops
    • Poetry (Essence London, L. Renée, Elie Williams III)
    • Mindfulness (Maria Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D.)
    • Dance (African American Dance Company)
    • Gallery Walk
  • 2:45-3:45pm: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
    • Joel Wong, Ph.D.
    • Nelson Zounlome, Ph.D. Candidate in Counseling Psychology
  • 3:45-4:00pm: Closing

Wednesday, January 19th

  • 7:00pm:  Art, Activism, and Wellness
    • Stafford C. 'Baba' Berry
    • Lashawnda Crowe Storm
    • Mariah Ivey
    • Moderated by Javier Cardona Otero


Javon Goard is a Ph.D. student in Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington. Goard obtained a B.A. in Sociology with Honors from the University of Maryland, College Park and his Masters in Informatics from his current institution. Goard’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach in studying aspects of videogame culture by working in the domains of Sociology, Informatics, and Media Studies. His current work focuses on African American/Blacks within the fighting videogame community.

Andrea M. Sterling is a Black feminist, Pisces, and doctoral student in African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) at Indiana University-Bloomington. She hails from Providence, Rhode Island where she worked with the Providence Africana Reading Collective to spread political education, Black feminism, and Black studies throughout the Providence community. Her research interests focus on the power of critical pedagogy, oppressive ideologies (White Supremacy and Anti-blackness), Black Feminist theory, as well as radical politics of love.

Donté Miller is a third year PhD student in the Higher Education program. He is a proud Californian from Rialto, CA and alum of UCLA and USC. His research interests includes understanding sociopolitical contexts for Black students and analyzing how they enact activism and social movements to transform society. His passion for advocacy and engagement in organizations facilitates his desire for systemic transformation. Simultaneously, Donté's ball of energy and joy is rooted from his relationship with Jesus Christ. That joy combined with experiences raised by a single mother and navigating a relationship with an incarcerated father fuel his desire to create generational wealth and success for his family and Black people largely.

The author of three books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019. Ross is the also the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook "Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens," in addition to being co-author, with Richard Wehrenberg, Jr., of the chapbook, "River." He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin', in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press.

A Memory Keeper, poet, ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, doula, and a Reiki Master. Her work approaches the Earth and human bodies as sites of memory, with the understanding that memory never dies, is subversive, and can be recovered to transform transgenerational trauma and pain into peace and power. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including Wishful Thinking. Anthologized poems are included in Gathering Ground, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century and Catch the Fire. Excerpts of her work, The Ariran’s Last Life, were published in Best African American Fiction and The Kenyon Review.

A tenured Professor in the Counseling and Counseling Psychology Programs at IU. His research interests are in positive psychology and Asian/Asian American mental health, and the psychology of men and masculinities. He has co-edited two books on the psychology of men and masculinities: the APA Handbook of Men and Masculinities and the Psychology of Men and Masculinities. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Asian American Psychological Association.

A McNair Scholar, Ford Predoctoral Fellow, and Counseling Psychology doctoral candidate at IU. Nelson graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. H in Psychology & Sociology and a minor in Political Science as well as an M.S. Ed. in Educational Psychology. His program of research focuses on combating the impact of intersectional oppression on groups with marginalized identities. Within this framework, he studies sexual violence prevention, mental wellness, and academic persistence to promote holistic healing among People of Color & Indigenous Peoples.

A fourth year, doctoral student in the school psychology program. She is a McNair fellow who attained her Bachelor of Science in English, Spanish, and Psychology at Central Michigan University, and her Master of Education at Indiana University. Her program of research focuses on how racial bias influences Black students’ academic, emotional, and behavioral development. Blair defines Black joy as an indefatigable and impenetrable love of the self & for one's siblings.

A third-year doctoral candidate pursuing a degree in educational policy studies with a minor in philanthropic studies. He focuses on the of the role of the arts in education, philanthropy, and the policymaking process. He obtained his B.S. in Health Sciences at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and completed his M.S. Ed in Education, Culture, and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He recently published his first children's book, The Wonderful Thing About Yemaya and is a current commissioner on the Bloomington Arts Commission.

An artist, activist, community builder and occasionally an urban farmer. Whether she is making artwork or sowing seeds, Crowe Storm uses her creative power as a vehicle for dialogue, social change and healing. Her series, The Lynch Quilts Project, has won wide spread support. Crowe Storm desires to create community-based processes where the process of making art becomes the opportunity to create the necessary space and place for necessary conversations around a variety of topics ranging from racial justice, historical violence to gender empowerment.

An active teaching and performing Artist, Poet, MC, and Host/Coordinator of many local art and community events. Ivey founded That Peace to cater to under-21 spoken word performers who didn’t have many places to go in the Circle City. She is also program facilitator at the Peace Learning Center. She’s spent the last five years working in the non-profit sector as a youth program facilitator and project manager, aiming to create a more promising future for others.

Director of the African American Dance Company and a professor of practice in the Departments of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance at IU. Mr. Berry is an accomplished artist, educator, activist, and scholar of African-rooted dance, theater, and aesthetics. Prior to IU, Mr. Berry was an assistant professor of dance and black studies at Denison University. He toured 12 years with Chuck Davis’ African American Dance Ensemble for which he was associate artistic director. Mr. Berry is co-director of the Berry & Nance Dance Project, an all-male contemporary African dance company.

Javier Cardona Otero is a critical performing artist, educator, and facilitator of art experiences as education. His artistic scholarship, which has been presented throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States, seeks to critically investigate sociocultural capitals particularly regarded to issues of race, gender, and the environment. His research interest in the arts and in education is interdisciplinary and intersectional, focusing on art-making and embodiment as research and pedagogy. As a specialist in the use of the arts as an aesthetic form and as a dialogical medium, Javier crafts original arts performances for critical enjoyment, reflection, and social action. Graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and New York University, Javier is currently a Curriculum and Instruction PhD student in the Arts Education Program at Indiana University, Bloomington.

About the Black Joy Collective

The BJC leadership team is a small but mighty team working under the guidance of Dr. Maria Hamilton Abegunde, director of the Indiana University Graduate Mentoring Center and Associate faculty in the Department of African and African American Diaspora Studies. The executive board is composed of IU School of Education doctoral candidates, Blair Baker, Quinton Stroud, and Nelson Zounlome.

The Black Joy Collective has operated on the campus of IUB since fall 2017. The overall goal of the organization is to create a space on campus that intentionally focuses on the promotion of positive social, spiritual, and emotional well-being of Black graduate students, faculty, and staff. This has included the production of a variety of unique and innovative workshops, public conversations, and joyful placemaking activities.