Ruth Nicole Brown
is at her best when disciplinary norms are disrupted in favor of creating ideas that swing.
Brown’s research documents and analyzes Black girls’ lived experiences and the practical ways they make Black girlhood with those who love them. Her previous work has explored how Black girl’s conceptualize freedom, creativity, and relationships in Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT). Brown founded SOLHOT in 2006 as a collective space to celebrate Black girlhood and to date it remains her most cherished and consistent practice of meeting Black girls face to face and heart to heart. SOLHOT has received support from The Novo Foundation (2018-2021), campus grants, Champaign-Urbana institutions, and those who actively participate. A Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellow (2019-2020), Brown’s Black Girl Genius Week (BGGW) exhausts the rituals of SOLHOT to widen the cipher and experience the imaginative capabilities and artistry that only occurs when Black girls and women are together as homegirls. BGGW has taken place in central Illinois (2014, 2016, & 2019), Columbia, SC (2019 & 2020), and Chicago, IL (2019 & 2020).
According to Brown, there is something about Black girlhood that is extremely experimental and that quality of innovation guides her art-making as scholarship. The desire to play with movement, sound, images, and words against the assumable or knowable figure of the Black girl is very much a part of her creative process. Aesthetic influences are many: the everydayness of survival, amateur impulses, Midwestern Blackness, do it yourself cultures, Baptist church tea parties, and hip hop. SOLHOT also functions as praxis, workshop, and studio and it is in the organizing and doing of Black girlhood celebration (again and again) whereby Brown’s sense of poetic timing and preference for what is good beautiful, and useful are cultivated into a collective politics, to be shared.
Brown has authored two books, Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood (University of Illinois Press, 2013) and Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward A Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy (Peter Lang, 2009) co-edited several anthologies, Disrupting Qualitative Inquiry: Possibilities and Tensions in Educational Research with R. Carducci and C. Kuby (Peter Lang, 2014) and Wish To Live: The Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader with C. Kwaye (Peter Lang, 2012) and wrote numerous journal articles. Brown is in a band called We Levitate with bandbaes Dr. Porshe Garner, Jessica Robinson, and Dr. Blair E. Smith and has devised and/or performed in several SOLHOT shows including "The Mixtape Remix" (2011), and "Check In!" (2010). Brown's performance work also includes, "The Rest is Work" (2018), and "Thank you, for the Blood" (2020).
Associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies (50%), Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (50%), The Center for African Studies (0%), The Department of Theatre (0%) and Art + Design (0%). She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in Political Science with graduate certificates in World Performance Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. Currently, a Conrad Humanities Scholar (2018-23) you will find Ruth Nicole Brown outside, happily at work on a multi-media project, Black Girl Nature which takes up womanist, Black feminist, and women of color feminist preoccupations with Black girl palimpsest presences in nature. This project builds on the aforementioned fields and leverages her Training in Digital Methods for Humanist Fellowship (2018-2019) to make a significant contribution the digital arts and humanities of Black Girlhood Studies.