Black Consciousness in Ithaca, New York
Updated: Nov 11
Community-based, art-centered, mental wellness expert and Ithaca College associate professor Dr. Nia Nunn introduces herself and her recently published work,
Deep Breath: Poetry Book & Curriculum
I wear multiple head-wraps as a mother, artist, educator, speaker, activist, and community leader. Born and raised in Ithaca, NY, I have the privilege and responsibility to serve and create in my community. After completing a B.A. in Early Childhood Education at Clark Atlanta University and a Ph.D. in School Psychology at Michigan State University, I returned home to work as a School Psychologist at my elementary school alma mata, Beverly J. Martin Elementary. Currently, an Ithaca College Associate Professor of education, psychology, women, gender, and sexuality studies, Board of Directors President of (historically & culturally Black) Southside Community Center, and Director and Writer for Community Unity Music Education Program (CUMEP), I create programing and research designed to empower and uplift the voices of youth, particularly Black youth, and especially young Black women and girls.
My new publication, Deep Breath: Poetry Book & Curriculum includes multimedia exercises, resources, discussion questions, and QR codes throughout the book that are designed to help individuals, groups, and organizations strengthen the culture of their community and social consciousness. A self-study within a collective, my methodology as a mother-scholar-educator-psychologist-community leader, and poet builds Black consciousness and serves as an invitation to critically reflect and uncover ourselves.
A reading of “Deep Breath” by author Dr. Nia Nunn, available on YouTube here.
“Yes, there are Black people in Ithaca, New York!”
I find myself telling the story of our existence as Black folx in Ithaca everywhere I travel, especially in the Southern Tier. People are often shocked to not only know that there are Black people in Ithaca, but the fact that there are Black people in Ithaca who LOVE being Black and teach this critical message regularly.
I love Ithaca and I want everyone to love Ithaca, but especially Black people, particularly Black children, and Black college students. This can be extremely challenging because anti-Black racism (specifically) is not only present in conservative spaces, but anti-Blackness is pervasive in some of the most liberal and progressive spaces around. In my practice, the primary antidote to anti-Blackness and interrupting internalization is building Black consciousness, loving Blackness, and loving Black people. My artivism (artistry and activism) demands that everyone reflect on their relationship with Blackness and unpack the sources of this relationship.
In my book, I explain that my parents are very pro-Black. In other words, I was raised in a household where Blackness and Black people are centered and a sacred people. Always learning and teaching the brilliance, beauty, and boldness of Black people, my parents decided that if they were going to raise me, a little Black girl in predominantly White Ithaca, they were determined to make sure I loved being Black.
Ithaca College graduates, originally from Buffalo and Brooklyn, NY, my father and mother completed their degrees in 1979 and 1980 got married, and then had me in 1981. They stuck around but insisted that they wouldn’t stay and become “townies” but, low and behold, that is exactly what they did! Committing their lives to Ithaca, NY, this is where they chose to raise my brothers and me.
As much as I am rolling my eyes, I really do absolutely love Ithaca. I’m so grateful for
the rich Black history that I get to teach, continue to learn, and create. I say all of that followed by acknowledging that Ithaca is a microcosm of the larger society and Black people face much of the oppression, discrepancies, explicit/implicit racism in the areas of housing, education, health, employment, mental health services, state-sanctioned violence and more, despite the largely progressive and liberal stances claimed by Ithaca’s Whiteness. There is still TONS of work to do here in Ithaca! As a community educator, I am committed to creating and holding sacred spaces for Black Joy and helping everyone build Black consciousness.
Poetry is the primary tool and thread linking my multiple headwraps and glorious responsibilities. My style of written poetry, spoken-word delivery, and Black consciousness curricular work in Ithaca is always joyful, youthful and rhythmic. This work has allowed me to lead transformational initiatives, creatively shift mindsets, and hold people accountable. In fact, I am writing a poem right now about how the compassion window from George Floyd’s horrific murder appears to be closing and, in some spaces, it is already sealed. I knew it all wouldn’t last long and the performative activism all over would be unveiled, but I am still calling on EVERYONE to pull out their anti-racist statements, commitments, and written promises to Black people. Pop-Quiz! Your mid-term evaluations are due!
Through my consultation business (DrNiaNunn.com), I work with schools and organizations to provide workshops, keynote addresses/performance lectures, and coaching services that I call Radical Vulnerability. Radical Vulnerability is a curriculum that creatively engages audiences in racial consciousness listening, healing, work, and practice to help foster a deeper dive into self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-transformation. The critical thinking that radical vulnerability sparks can help individuals modify past ways of thinking and look forward to what is possible within themselves, their community, and humanity. Radical Vulnerability invites everyone to experience a self-study within a collective. The organizations and communities that experience this intense, yet graceful level of radical vulnerability with me can expect to create a more authentic and honest relationship between its members, ultimately establishing a healthy and dynamic culture of confidence and growth in the established space, processes, and relationships.
I am committed to writing poetry, teaching, and engaging audiences creatively, intensely, and gracefully.