Dr. Timothy Berry is Interim Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Equity Initiatives at Minnesota State University Mankato. Prior to his current role, he served as dean for the School of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN. In addition to his Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, he holds a Master of Music Education degree with an emphasis in multicultural music from The University of Minnesota. His publications and creative research accomplishments include interdisciplinary K-12 curriculum; a new article in the International Journal, Teacher Education; a book chapter on using critical race theory to undergird the preparation of new teachers; and, an original theatrical production on race trauma, Black males, and healing which has played to regional and national audiences. Frequently, he is invited to speak in schools, universities, conferences, businesses, and churches to share his insights and research surrounding race literacy, organizational transformation, and antiracism. Dr. Berry received several awards as a composer including: Live Music for Dance award from the American Composer’s Forum and the Cultural Community Partnership Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. He was also one of the winners in the Essentially Choral Competition for emerging American composers sponsored by VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum. Dr. Berry has performed nationally as a singer, actor, and percussionist; including August Wilson's Fences, and Black Nativity with Penumbra Theater, and La Boheme with the Minnesota Opera. He has also performed with Grammy Award winner, Larnelle Harris. He performs and records a variety of music genres (R&B, Gospel, Roots Rock) including his Soul Drums series, which stems from West African, Afro-Cuban, and African American music traditions.
In America, there is a need to understand precolonial Africa. However, due to systemic racism, Black bodies have been excluded from upward mobility, victimized by dehumanization, fallen prey to biased and racist policing practices, and plagued by disparities in health and education. Such conditions have led to internalizing toxic race-based stress, causing damage to the central nervous system. Yet, against all odds, Black bodies have creatively persisted and survived. Drawing upon a conceptual framework inspired by Tupac Shakur–imagery of roses growing through concrete–this story addresses historical trauma and creative resilience. Related to the oral tradition of African/Black Djalis, this spoken-word performance play focuses on five movements/historical periods that function as a chronology of Black bodies grappling with racialized trauma in America: (1) Chattel Hands and Feet; (2) Reconstruction: My Sin is My Skin; (3) The Great Migration: Running for Our Lives; (4) Civil Rights Without Democracy; and (5) Black Body Commodities and Wounded Healing. Combining multiple disciplines including, Africana Studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT), Black History, Music Composition, and Creative Writing, this work expresses the ways in which Black bodies have suffered, transcended their own pain, and fostered healing through creativity. A post-performance discussion is offered for audience members to engage in reflection and critical discourse with the writer, and performers. Drawing upon experiential education models for reflection, this discussion aims to inform audiences about the wounded healing process by better understanding the history and connection between structural racism, body trauma, and self healing. Ultimately, as a result of this performance, audience members can locate themselves within a structurally racist society; grapple with how complicit whiteness perpetuates suffering; and, contemplate how to engage in somatic body work by uprooting White supremacy in their own bodies, leading to personal transformation.
"I wanted to say thank you again for the performance yesterday. I have much to reflect on. I appreciate so many facets of the performance, many mentioned by the audience. I thought it important that you opened with portrayal of those to be enslaved as leaders of their communities, fathers, brave men. It is often something that gets neglected when launching the discussion of slavery. My hope is to evolve as a coconspirator. I believe it is incumbent on us as white people to be involved in antiracism work - dismantle the systems that promote racism, and work toward equity for all."
"Just a quick note to say, again, congratulations on your amazing work! So powerful, insightful, compelling, visceral, sad, scary, depressing, uplifting and hopeful at different turns. An incredible blend of music, spoken word, staging and scenery: a tour de force of theatrical elements skillfully brought together to produce a stunning emotional journey. Thank you for having the courage to share your mind and body so intelligently and intimately.
"I want to reiterate what I said on Thursday. Acts 1 and 5 were the most moving performances I have seen, in any context, in a long time. You have shared a lot with me over the years. I have always tried to understand conceptually...but during the performance it began to hit home viscerally. I was moved. I don’t think I can adequately verbalize how much I respect what you have created, both as an artist and as an individual in the struggle. Like I said...wow. Just, wow."
“I attended the just concluded performance; Overcoming by Word of Our Testimonies: Black Male, Wounded Healers by Timothy Berry. This piece was really captivating and spoke to my essence. Never have I felt deeply connected to the narrative of Slavery and the Translucent Reconstruction that followed as I did with this piece.” – Audience Member
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