Distinguished Jazz Artist and Harvard Professor Hopes for More Enlightened Learning Spaces in the Future

Source: Harvard Crimson

“Prominent jazz musician Esperanza E. Spalding, a professor of the practice in Harvard’s Music Department, will depart the University, she announced in an email to department affiliates this week that was obtained by The Crimson.

Spalding wrote in the email that she has communicated with Harvard over “many months” about a proposal for a “decolonial education” curriculum she would like to implement as a course or initiative, but said what she aspires “to cultivate and activate in organized learning spaces is not (yet) aligned with Harvard’s priorities.”

Esperanza E. Spalding Performs at the 2022 Newport Jazz Festival. Image: Joe Allen

A five-time Grammy award winner, Spalding joined the Music Department as a part-time professor of the practice in 2017 and has taught courses on songwriting, performance, and musical activism. Harvard typically appoints professors of the practice on five-year renewable contracts.

In an attachment to her email, Spalding included a description of her proposal for an educational initiative called “Black Artist-Educators Decolonizing and Placemaking.” She wrote that she believes the program would help institutions and instructors “move beyond metaphorical commitments to decolonial education, Black and Native solidarity (respectively), and reparations.”

Under the BAEDAP model, the University would “rematriate” some of its land and properties, offering the spaces to Black and Native artists, scholars, students, and activists. In the proposal attached to her email, Spalding described Harvard’s history as “inextricably linked to Black and Native subjugation,” adding that in order to maintain her relationship with the University, she would need to be involved in redressing the school’s “historical and lingering colonial impacts.”

“I am no longer willing to endorse a cultural norm whereby artists & artist-educators passively participate-in, and benefit-from institutions born and bolstered through the justification, and/or ongoing practice of exploiting and destroying Black and Native life,” the BAEDAP proposal reads.”

Check out the Harvard Crimson at: https://www.thecrimson.com/…/spalding-email-music…/

Thanks to Brian Michel Bacchus / SoulFeast Arts Group for shining a light on this.