Black Liberation Summer School 2021

The Black Midwest Initiative presents

Black Liberation Summer School 2021

June 1, 2021 – August 10, 2021

BMI’s inaugural Black Liberation Summer School (BLSS) will bring together faculty, students, artists and creatives, community organizers, and other community-involved people for a series of ongoing projects related to our educational platform, “Public Pedagogy and Black Study.” Central to our mission of advocating on behalf of black midwestern communities is the belief that education occurs as much outside of academic institutions as it does within them, and that art of varying disciplines and mediums can and does contribute meaningfully to our press toward liberation. To that end, the focus of our educational platform on “black study”—what we conceptualize as an ongoing process of deep coalitional thinking and struggle rather than a formalized academic field—is meant to privilege ways of knowing that are informed by people whose artistic practices and training beyond the university expand our capacity for freedom dreaming. The public-facing projects we have envisioned as part of our BLSS curriculum are thus intended (1) to diversify postsecondary institutions and curricula; (2) to provide students opportunities for substantive engagement with alternative modes of knowledge production; and (3) to both impact and learn from underresourced communities that have historically had limited access to higher education.

Students may apply to one of the two following opportunities to participate in this year’s Black Liberation Summer School. Selected students will also be expected to participate in two mandatory virtual workshops that will be held over the course of the summer term. The first will be held around the fourth week and will focus on social justice and arts activism and the second will be held around the eighth week and will focus on research and writing in the Black Midwest.

BMI Graduate Student Summer Fellowship:
Five graduate student summer fellowships will be awarded in 2021. In addition to providing content for their designated projects, fellows will also be responsible for helping to guide the work of the BMI summer interns as mentors in collaboration with their BMI advisors. Fellows will be expected to work for 10 hours per week during the 10-week term and will each receive a $3000 stipend.

BMI Summer Internship:
Ten undergraduate students will be chosen for this opportunity. Interns will be expected to work for 10 hours per week on their designated projects in collaboration with their designated mentors and BMI advisors during the 10-week term. Students must enroll in AFRO 3896 for between one and three (1-3) internship credits and will each receive a $2000 stipend.


Selected fellows and interns will be assigned to work on one or more of the following BMI projects (projects are subject to change):

  • Presence & Protest: A People’s Report on Black Life in the Greater Midwest: Will gather socioeconomic data underlying the conditions of black life in the Midwest. Data will be supplemented with oral histories, poetry, artwork, interviews, and short commentaries from community members as a way of providing a nuanced cultural context that emerges directly from the experiences of black midwesterners. Students working on this project will have and/or develop skills in some or all of the following: data collection, data visualization, interviewing, community engagement, creative writing, and archival research.

  • Disorientation Zine Series: A series of alternative guidebooks featuring significant midwestern locations formulated as zines. The first zine in the series, and the one that will be worked on during Summer 2021, features George Floyd Square in south Minneapolis. Students working on this project will have and/or develop skills in some or all of the following: drawing, graphic design, interviewing, community engagement, and public-facing writing.

  • BMI Podcast: A podcast series that features stories and conversations about important work and projects of relevance to the BMI mission. Students working on this project will have and/or develop skills in some or all of the following: interviewing, script writing, story development, public relations, and digital technologies.

  • Black Midwest Film/Video Project: This media project will help tell the history of black midwestern communities and will premiere at or in the lead up to the 2nd Biennial Black Midwest Symposium in Fall 2022. Students working on this project will have and/or develop skills in some or all of the following: archival work, interviewing, community engagement, film production, script writing, and historical research.

  • Digital Mapping Project:​Will plot significant moments of black protest and movement activity throughout the Midwest. The map, which will be featured on the BMI site, will also eventually allow interactive input from visitors to the site. Students working on this project will have and/or develop skills in some or all of the following: ArcGIS, digital technologies, archival work, public-facing writing, and community engagement.


TO APPLY: Submit a completed application by the deadline of Friday, May 7, 2021. A completed application will include (1) an application form; (2) a statement of no more than 500 words discussing your interest in the opportunity and any relevant experience you may have; and (3) an optional resume or cv (required for grad students). Access the application form here


  • Applicants must be students currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

  • Preference will be given to students majoring, minoring, or working toward the graduate certificate in African American & African Studies.

  • Students may participate in other fellowship or work opportunities while participating in BLSS as long as they meet the BLSS work requirements.

  • Applicants will be notified of the selection decision by Friday, May 14, 2021. Students will be selected based on the strength of their applications and with curricular diversity in mind—that is, we must ensure adequate student participation in each one of the outlined projects.


For more information about the Black Midwest Initiative, visit

Questions should be directed to or Prof. Terrion Williamson at 

BLSS 2021 is presented by the Black Midwest Initiative and sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, the Imagine Fund, and the Department of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota.

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