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.
In 2009, Aimee Cox and a group of graduate students from Rutgers University began working on the ‘body in the city project,’ a multi-generational, community arts activism, and performance ethnography project. This project was organized around questions about the relationship between bodies and urban space asking, in the most general sense: First, how do women of color engage with their city in meaningful ways to challenge and re-imagine its material limits and secondly, how can the arts be a vehicle for political change that channels both highly personal and shared ideas and creative work?
Various iterations of this project have taken shape in the loose form of a youth dance group called BlackLight, where questions about the intersection of social justice, identity, and the arts have taken center stage. Through workshops facilitated by community leaders as well as on their own, the young women and men who have come through the BlackLight program often share an affinity for using not only dance as a means of sharing ideas and concerns with one another, but creating an alternative kind of public space: One that holds together through informal networks that proliferate in dance studios, online, or through their conscious desire to find new ways of enriching themselves and their shared spaces. Thus, it is not surprising that what binds them together — what makes BlackLight — is the social and political space they share, and their mutual struggles to negotiate family, school, and the city, questioning and experimenting with how to make their lives and their city healthier and more vibrant places to live.