The center of my research lies within intersections of Black childhood, performance, agency, and liberation. Qualitative, decolonizing, and ontologically rooted research methodologies guide my critical role as ethnographic researcher, producing findings that are comprehensive and in service to those researched.
My research outcomes manifest in a variety of ways: academic publications (essays, articles, and book chapters), film documentary, interactive workshops, plays, and theatrical performance.
Over the past ten years, I have taught and mentored students from pre-kindergarten to the university graduate level. At the university level, I have designed and taught courses that span across multiple disciplines including Pan-African Studies, Theatre, Film, Performance Studies, and Communications. At the primary and secondary school level I have taught theatre classes, directed and produced school plays and cultural events, and lead after-school performing arts programming. In addition to engaging children and youth in the arts, I have served as a counselor and taught math, science and social studies at summer enrichment camps.
As a university professor, I offer and cultivate methods of engagement with concepts and material that facilitate further learning and thinking. I place emphasis on the most vital components of a university education, which include exposure to existent discourse, critical thinking, and reading/writing proficiency. I engage students and design course lessons with respect to the following intersecting tenets: 1) teaching is guiding; 2) course curriculum with social and cultural relevance provides spaces for student affirmation and cross cultural interaction and inquiry; 3) learning is a continual process rather than a destination; and 4) praxis, the merging of theory and practice is essential in learning processes.
A teacher as guide provides access to information rather than acts as the source of information. In engaging students, at any level, my goal is to welcome the spirit of inquiry, to promote analytical skills and accountability. Through self-assessment activities specifically related to learning, listening, and social styles students become present to their ways of knowing and educational needs. I challenge students to be cognizant of these findings as they engage course material as a way of actively participating in the construction of their own knowledge.
In my courses, students explore the power of research, theatre, and performance to examine and combat varying and interlocking systems of oppression. At the onset of the semester, students complete a hands-on identity activity through which they indicate their targeted and advantaged social group memberships. In examining their own social/cultural standpoints, students deepen their understanding of critical theories and social constructs related, but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, class, and performance and apply them to their own lived experiences. Through my evaluation of students’ written and creative work, as well as their self-evaluations of their performance in the course, I find that students are not only equipped with the theoretical and practical tools to critically understand and analyze social phenomena but also highly motivated to commit themselves to making significant contributions to the world community with the knowledge gained.
When learning is culturally centered, and conceptualized as an emergent process, rather than a destination, the journey of each individual student is honored and respected, fostering collective education and community building. While students submit evaluations at the end of the semester, this community-building model provides space for critical feedback throughout the semester, allowing me to make necessary modifications along the way and for future courses. This praxis-based and collaborative learning space calls for a teaching approach that is patient and flexible with respect to the ways in which course dynamics need to be in constant dialogic conversation with student needs, progression, and engagement with course material. While it is an complex space to cultivate and occupy, it offers my students and me the very thing we seek in collectively gathering in the classroom: opportunities for learning, inspiration, and growth.
Ph.D., Theatre for Youth, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, May 2014
Dissertation: Performing New Afrikan Childhood: Agency, Conformity and the Spaces in Between
M.A., African American Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, May 2010
Area of Concentration: Culture and Aesthetics, Thesis: Theatre as a Tool of Empowerment: Black Youth Describe their Experiences and Perceptions
B.A., Africana Studies, CUNY-Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York, May 2006
A.A.S., Theatre Management, CUNY-Borough of Manhattan Community College
Assistant Professor, Kent State University, Kent, OH, July 2016-Present
Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, August 2014-May 2016
Director/Instructor, Fulani Institute of Academics and Arts, Kent State University, 2017-Present
Director, Center of Pan-African Culture, Kent State University, Kent, OH, July 2016-Present
RESEARCH AND CREATIVE SCHOLARSHIP (Selected)
• Sunni-Ali, A. (accepted for publication, Summer 2017). Living Lumumba's legacy and manifesting the people’s platform: A conversation with Rukia and Chokwe Antar Lumumba. In A. Umoja (Ed.), Legacy of Chokwe Lumumba. The Black Scholar.
• Sunni-Ali, A. (accepted for publication, Spring 2017). To be young, performing, and Black: Situating youth in African American theatre and performance discourse. In K. Perkins & S. Richards (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance.
• Sunni-Ali, A. (accepted for publication, Fall 2016). Imari Obadele. In A. Umoja and J. Young (Eds.), Black Power Encyclopedia: From “Black is Beautiful” to Urban Uprisings.
• Sunni-Ali, A. (2015). Theatre (overview). In T. King-Meadows (Ed.), African American Leadership: A Concise Reference Guide. Mission Bell Media.
• Sunni-Ali, A. (2014). We are the scouts, the nation-building scouts: Performing New Afrika in northeast Georgia. In V. P. Lantz and A. Swigart-Gallagher (Eds.), Nationalism and Youth in Theatre and Performance. New York: Routledge.
• Performer, CPAC Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration, Kent State University, December 2016
• Performer, We Are the Children, Inaugural Crosby-Smith Lecture, Kent State University, October 2016
• Director, The Face of Emmett Till, Arizona State Black Theatre Festival, February 2013
• Author/Performer, A Political Prisoner in My Mother’s Womb, One-Woman Show, The Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, January 2013
CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS (Selected and Refereed)
• The Last Battle: Performances of Labor, Love, and Death on a Black Woman Body, Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference, Chicago, Illinois, August 2016
• Navigating Academia as New Faculty/Creatives of Color: Exercising Strategies for Wholeness and Success, Black Theater Network Conference, Roundtable Discussion, Chicago, Illinois, August 2016
• And We Carry It On: Second Generation New Afrikans Continuing the Legacies of Their Elders in Education and Africana Community Building, Association for the Study of African American Life and History Conference, Memphis, Tennessee, September 2014
• To Be Young, Afrikan and Black: Intersections of Childhood, Counter Performances and Resistance in the 21st Century, National Council for Black Studies Conference, Miami, Florida, March 2014
• Playing New Afrikan: Performance as Pedagogy at Camp Pumziko, Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference, Orlando, Florida, August 2013
• Black Power Babies: Performing New Afrikan Childhood across Time, Space, and Imagination, Central Penn. Consortium Africana Studies Conference, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, February 2012
AWARDS AND HONORS (Selected)
• Advisor of the Year, Black United Students, Kent State University, 2017
• Association for Theatre in Higher Education Emerging Scholar’s Award, 2013
• University Graduate Fellowship, Arizona State University, 2013
• Asa Hilliard Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Georgia State University, 2010
• Everyday Kwanzaa: A Self-Reflective Youth Workshop, Kent State University, September 2017
• Theatre Games for Community Building and Education, Kent State University, April 2017
• Oscar Ritchie Scholars Image Theatre Session, Kent State University, September 2017
• Ceremony of Eight Bowls: A New Afrikan Rites of Passage, Kent State University, August 2017
• Keynote Address: Self-Reflection, New Beginnings, and Achievement, from an African Center, Kent State University, April 2017
• Black Images, 2017-Present
• Performing Black Childhood (Developed Course Curriculum), 2017-Present
• Arts, Culture, and African American Experience, January-May 2016
• Introduction to African-American Theatre, January 2015-December 2015
• Theatre for Social Change, January-December 2013
• Center of Pan-African Culture Student Advisory Council Advisor, 2016-Present
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Social Cultural Programming Fund Advisor, 2016-Present
• Division of Student Affairs Dean of Students Search Committee, 2016-2017