The BlackLight Project

BlackLight is a performance ethnography project. We utilize the creativity and critical insight of a multigenerational group of women to reimagine the possibilities for living in under-resourced urban environments.

People

Aimee Meredith Cox, Project Founder

Aimee has been dancing and recording people’s stories since a very young age. She began her dance training at 5 years old and started interviewing family members and neighbors as inspiration for oral history narratives, short stories and novellas in her early teens. From middle school through high school, she studied classical ballet on scholarship at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music’s (CCM) professional program affiliated with the Cincinnati Ballet. While an undergrad at Vassar College, she spent a year continuing her professional dance training in New York City: one semester studying on scholarship at the Dance Theater of Harlem and another as a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.

Upon graduating from Vassar College in three years with honors, Aimee was invited to join Ailey II/The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. During her two-year tenure at Ailey II Aimee toured nationally and internationally performing works by Alvin Ailey, Eleo Pomare, Kathy Posin, Nathan Trice and Ronald K. Brown, and taught master classes in community, university and dance school settings.

In 1998, Aimee began doctoral studies in cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan. It was here that she was able to cohesively integrate her engagements in dance, community organizing and anthropology in an arts activist curriculum that she shared with young people in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit. After completing her doctoral coursework, she moved to Detroit and became the director of a homeless shelter for young women. The shelter residents helped expand and deepen the curriculum through their own interests in art and social change.  The result was BlackLight.

While the director of the homeless shelter, Aimee additionally developed other innovative programs that challenged traditional social work models of youth education and self-care. In 2005, Aimee made three separate visits to Seoul, Korea to lecture and lead workshops on these groundbreaking programs for social service providers and feminist scholars.

The majority of BlackLight’s work in Detroit took place between 2006 and 2008 with support from the University of Michigan’s Arts on Earth program and collaboration with the downtown Detroit YMCA. A two-year postdoctoral fellowship with University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women during this same time enabled Aimee
to stay in Michigan and continue to work with BlackLight while revising her dissertation for publication.

Aimee is currently an assistant professor of performance and African American Studies at Fordham University. Her research, artistic and advocacy interests focus on youth culture, black girlhood, black feminism, social mobility in African American communities, and performance. She is in the final stages of revising her book project based on over four years of fieldwork with young black women in Detroit.

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