Weissman Professor Kyra Gaunt Lectures, Performs at TED Conference

Kyra Gaunt She cut a musical CD, wrote about the art of jumping rope, and taught a course on hip-hop, among her many achievements. Now, Professor Kyra Gaunt is challenging some of the conventional ways of thinking about racism, posing the question, "What if racism were a resource for being courageous?"

TED Said:
Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D. (aka "Professor G") is a new brand of scholar-teacher. She is an Associate Professor of music and anthropology at Baruch College-CUNY, a jazz/R&B recording artist working in New York City, a published author, a public speaker, a social entrepreneur and a transformation coach. She uses ethnomusicology to unravel the norms of race, gender and nation through the contexts of hip-hop music, African American popular culture, and African diasporic performance. One colleague dubs her playful and passionate interventions "new jack pedagogy."

Her workshop "Agree to be Offended: Curious Connections in Conversations of Race," has taken her beyond the classroom at Baruch College to Long Beach, California, where she was invited to take part in the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference.

Billed by some participants as "the ultimate brain spa," TED serves as a forum for "thinkers and doers" to share what they are passionate about, and to showcase ideas across a broad spectrum of subject matter.

Gaunt, whose workshop includes a talk titled, "Racism as a Resource," is one of 50 people chosen as a TED Fellow, a new international program aimed at attracting candidates mainly from the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, and the Middle East. According to TED officials, the Fellows program focuses primarily on innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film art, music, entrepreneurship and the Non-Government Organizations (NGO) community.

In addition to presenting her workshop, Gaunt was also asked to sing two new songs at the opening ceremony, which marks the 25th anniversary of the TED conference.

An expert in race, gender and the musical body in African American music, Gaunt has previously received a National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has also won the 2007 Alan Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Story by Barbara Lippman
News and Communications

Additions and Editing by J D Sallen

The City University of New York