A scholar, performer, and educator, Gianina K. Lockley joined MSU’s Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) on August 16, 2021, as a Research Associate whose work is situated at the intersection of critical race theory, ethnography, storytelling, theatre, dance, and performance studies with a focus on the study of race, class, gender, and sexuality within both staged performances and the performative practices of every day.
“As a native of Detroit and proud graduate of Cass Technical High School, this feels like a sacred homecoming. I am honored to join MSU’s Department of African American and African Studies at such a pivotal time in our country’s history,” Lockley said. “The boldness in which the department utilizes visioning as a methodological approach to create cultural shifts within, and outside of, the academy is refreshing and revolutionary. Being able to develop ‘new ways of knowing’ with such an exceptional cadre of scholars, practitioners, and cultural workers is truly inspiring.”
As a performance studies scholar, Lockley is interested in how forms of expressive cultures like Black social dance and theatre serve as acts of “cultural resistance” in the staged and everyday performance of life.
I am honored to join MSU’s Department of African American and African Studies at such a pivotal time in our country’s history…Being able to develop ‘new ways of knowing’ with such an exceptional cadre of scholars, practitioners, and cultural workers is truly inspiring.
“I explore how these forms of expression can be used to cultivate and challenge the performance and formation of cultural identities throughout the Black diaspora,” she said. “My research aligns with the mission of AAAS because it considers how Black women and girls create ‘technologies of living’ by engaging in acts of cultural resistance that disrupt power hierarchies that seek to exclude, dismiss, or prescribe expected social norms of Black woman/girlhood. I examine how these strategies of resistance are transmitted through direct teaching methods rooted in an epistemology of Black feminist thought, which allows Black women and girls to participate in the process of self-liberation.”
Lockley earned her first terminal degree in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media (M.F.A) from Columbia College Chicago and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from Howard University and holds professional certificates in Women’s Studies, Diversity and Inclusion, Nonprofit Executive Leadership, and Project Leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park; Cornell University; and Indiana University-Purdue University.
We are unified in our call and vision. That is our nucleus. That is what makes us bold, what allows us to unapologetically denounce white supremacy, patriarchy, and any other ideologies that seek to divide and oppress groups of people. The time is now, and our ‘Squad’ is ready.
Her research interests include Black Feminisms, Black Studies, Performance Studies, Dance Studies, and Contemporary African American Theatre. She has studied abroad at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, and has conducted autoethnographic research in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, India, Japan, and South Africa, including visits to the slave castles of Cape Coast, Ghana.
Lockley’s scholarly publications have appeared in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism and the Dance Research Journal, and she has made several professional presentations including with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education; Collegium for African Diaspora Dance in Durham, North Carolina; Dance Studies Association in Evanston, Illinois; and Pop Culture Association in Washington, D.C.
She is experienced in developing community and international partnerships and is a two-time grant recipient of the International Program for Creative Collaboration and Research. Lockley has led projects focused on social justice at the University of Ghana, Accra, and the University of Maryland, College Park. She has experience serving as an Educational Advisor for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in Leesburg, Virginia, and has worked as a Museum Educator and Docent at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.
Having served as a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and facilitator to schools and professional organizations, Lockley has won numerous awards for her work in promoting diversity in higher education including the Columbia College Chicago’s Graduate Opportunity Award (2008), Columbia College Chicago Diversity Award (2008), Getz Graduate Award (2007), and the Lya Dym Rosenblum travel grant (2007). She also is a 2019 recipient of the James F. Harris Arts & Humanities Visionary Scholarship and ARHU Graduate Student Travel Grant, and is a 2017-2019 UMD Deans Fellow.
As an artist, Lockley has experience working as a Dramaturg and Voice Actor. She has performed her one-woman play, Just how black? (2009), which is an ethnoautobiographical exploration into the performativity of Blackness throughout the African Diaspora, at The Kennedy Center’s 15th Annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and performed as a dancer with the Kankouran West African Dance Community class in Washington, D.C., and with the Coyaba Theatre Repertory also in Washington, D.C. Her work has been exhibited and performed at Chicago’s Raw Gallery and Links Hall in Chicago, Illinois.
Lockley had an opportunity to perform as an extra in one of her favorite television shows, The Handmaid’s Tale, which was shot at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2019. The 5 a.m. call time and 14-hour shoot required a lot of kneeling and bowing in the crisp hours of D.C.’s February weather, however, Lockley recalls the experience as one of her most “memorable.” You’re not likely to identify her due to the large wings that obscure the handmaid’s faces, but she’s there in the third row from the front of the Lincoln steps in Season 3, Episode 6.
Prior to coming to MSU, Lockley served as an Instructor in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland where she taught “Black Theatre & Performance,” “Theory and Performance: Black Women Playwrights,” and “Introduction to Dance: Dances of the African Diaspora.” In fall 2020, she founded Jasiri Consulting, which offers online tutoring, college planning, life coaching, and online courses focused on race and popular culture.
Lockley now looks forward to working collaboratively with the AAAS faculty and staff as the new department is being built.
“In addition to my work as a scholar, artist, and pedagogue, I believe my textured life and work experience as a visionary leader, skilled administrator, and collaborative ‘bridge-builder’ will prove to be a great asset to the new build,” she said. “Within the next few years, I hope to assist the department in developing formalized partnerships with local and international community organizations with the intent of creating global classrooms — and by classrooms, I mean any space where learning takes place. It is my desire that our department attracts the change-makers, the outliers, the insiders, the ones who have always colored outside of the lines and danced to the beat of their own drums.”
“Although I have only been a member of the department for a short time, it feels as though I’ve known my colleagues for quite some time. We are unified in our call and vision. That is our nucleus. That is what makes us bold, what allows us to unapologetically denounce white supremacy, patriarchy, and any other ideologies that seek to divide and oppress groups of people. The time is now, and our ‘Squad’ is ready.”