The International Association of Blacks in Dance: 2021 National Medal of Arts Recipient

Enjoy this very BIG and MAJOR moment for our dance community – I mean – this is one for the history books. Talk about “Reframing The Narrative.” How about correcting it? Like for real…the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the president of the United States to individuals and groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States. 

This award is for all of US. It’s a true testament to the 32+ years of carrying the torch for Black people in Dance and their contributions that have gone unrecognized, unacknowledged and quite frankly, left out of history for far too long. Now it’s time to accept the truth and realize upon whose shoulders we truly stand. We are rooted in Black history.

The Association was founded in 1991, and was predated by our largest gathering in 1988 (then called the International Conference on Black Dance Companies), now known as the Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance. IABD came into existence to fulfill a need in the Black dance community. Joan Myers Brown had enough, pushed away from a table that wasn’t serving equitably and called upon some of her closest friends — **Jeraldyne, Ann, Cleo, Lula, Chuck, Carol, Eleo, Rod, Charmaine, Ron, Carmen, Donald, Patricia, Walter, Joan G., George, Sherrill, Bonnie and a host of so many others with deep and committed interests** (there were about 80 of them, and this is not the complete list) — to gather in their own way and include all who were able. ALL were welcome administrators, archivists, artists, choreographers, dance companies, dance-related personnel, directors, educators, scholars, students, teachers, and those interested in artistry, Black dance issues and performances.

Since its inception, IABD has served as the foundation and bedrock for critical voices and dances of African ancestry and origin. In IABD’s early days, the focus was on presenting Black dance companies, providing a networking space, formal newsletters, a choreographer’s directory, published papers, educational programming and the ultimate Black Dance family reunion, which Denise calls the “moveable feast” throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Among the highlights of IABD’s work (this list is not exhaustive):

IABD’s vision is for dance, by people of African ancestry or origin, to be revered, respected, and preserved in the consciousness and cultural institutions of all people. IABD values and validates the significant connections and influence that dance by people of African ancestry or origin have on the American and International cultural landscape. This is the historic moment where everyone now has the opportunity to learn and understand what that statement truly means.

IABD has always been the central gathering space and serviced thousands in the community, from our youth to our elders through dance programming. To accept the The National Medal of Arts award on behalf of IABD was truly an honor and reflects the significant and immeasurable impact the organization has made in the lives of so many people. This award sets the tone, raises the bar even higher for its next generation of leaders, and prepares the Association for there to be even more amazing opportunities for many years to come.