Benign Neglect: African Dance and Music Placement in Academia.

Author:Heard, Marcia Ethel
 
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Marcia was born in Chicago, Illinois. She received the Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1974, a Master of Arts degree in 1987, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 2000 both from New York University. Since high school, Marcia has had a strong desire to serve the community in which she lives. This desire began in earnest when she co-organized a summer academic and arts program partnered by the South Side Community Arts Center on Chicago's South Side. Prior to that experience, Marcia served as a volunteer tutor as a part of her involvement in the high school club, Future Teachers of America. While a graduate student at New York University, she was recognized with a humanitarian award for her support of students seeking information about scholarships and the navigation of support systems with in the university.

Marcia moved to New Jersey in 1983. A dancer, teacher, choreographer, historian and writer, Dr. Heard has served on the Core Course Proficiencies Panel and the Standards and Test specification Panels for the Arts and physical education in New Jersey. Commissioned to choreograph and train parishioners by the Office of Black Ministry for the Archdiocese of New York, Marcia helped to introduce dance into the liturgy of the Catholic Church, culminating in the first liturgical dance performed at St. Patrick's Cathedral during the Pontifical Mass of February, 1996. She helped revive the Mead Street Association walking door-to-door inviting neighbors to meetings, informational gatherings offered by UVSO, and other community service institutions. She also helped organize and assisted in neighborhood cleanups of Smith and Mead Streets, obtained Block Watch cards, and street signs.

In 1998, Marcia embarked upon community service in Vailsburg, Newark, Arts in the Park, a program that provided free concerts to Newark and surrounding communities, Irvington and East Orange. Since that time, she has helped organize The Vailsburg Community Garden on Cliff Street, 2002. Marcia is an alumnus of the Neighborhood Leadership Initiative, Class of 2003. She has presented and written several articles on African dance and culture and the importance of outdoor spaces for physical education and recess.

Her thirst for knowledge, understanding and her willingness to share has resulted in the awarding of several grants, awards, certificates and fellowships. Retired, February 2017, Marcia formerly taught dance, health and physical education for the Montclair Public Schools. She is currently founding an emerging Arts Culture and Community Activism Center in Vailsburg, Newark, she resides in Vailsburg, Newark with her husband and two children.

In March 1970, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an adviser to President Richard Nixon, wrote a memo suggesting that the nation might benefit from a period of "benign neglect" on the subject of race, a brief respite during which "Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades." NYT Benign Neglect Francis Wilkinson. June 11, 2008 5:10 pm. (5)

The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of "benign neglect." The subject has been too much talked about. The forum has been too much taken over to hysterics, paranoids, and boodlers on all sides. We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades. Daniel P Moynihan. January 16, 1970. The White House. Washington. (6)

This article begins with the ideas of the separate words benign, and neglect giving consideration to their independent meanings as illustrated above with the several iterations of definitions. Further, this article seeks to observe the synergistic impact of these two individual words, benign and neglect, when they are brought together, "benign neglect", in a discussion of Africana Studies Departments et al and the dearth of African dance, music, and their validity as disciplines of academic rigor and tools of academic research.

We will observe that across the country, that Africana Studies Departments et al have little to no dance, music, indeed the arts of Africa and its diaspora. We will observe the obvious fact that when African dance is incorporated on college and university campuses, it is in the form of the itinerant African dance class taught in the format of a typical modern, or ballet class anywhere in the world, in a word the focus is singularly on technique.

What happens when the two words, benign, and neglect, are combined and how the term "benign neglect", their definitions and their usage in American society colloquially, via governmental policy, and in institutions of higher education, the public and private college and university systems, ultimately impact the inclusion of the rigor of African dance and music, as a discipline, that includes technique, aesthetics, the richness of the term, culture, and research tools associated with dance and music, i.e., notation, etc.

When the term benign neglect, came into being and was actively used as policy to withdraw from any national discussion that could have resulted in clearly discernable positive changes for African Americans specifically and all of the citizens of the United States of America in general, the overall effect was that of the withdrawal of any investment in African American communities which by and large continued to remain segregated up to and including the 1990s.

When we look at the word neglect, it becomes clear that the intent was/is to ignore, pay no attention, disregard or slight, to be remiss in the care of or treatment of African dance and music as a serious academic discipline from technique to the study of how dance impacts culture, informs culture, represents the culture of which it is a part. Ultimately to omit any aspect of dance and music through ignorance, or indifference, is ultimately to be indeed, negligent.

Further, when one observes the term benign neglect, a term brought...

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