Episode 82: Melissa Parke: Black Teaching Artist Lab

Melissa Parke shared her journey in bringing an idea to life through Black Teaching Artist Lab where she conducts research, offers workshops and professional development, and so much more. She shared so vulnerably about mental health and struggles with feeling confident despite being certain of the importance and value of her work. She has created the Afrocentric Social-Emotional Learning Framework, which centers social-emotional learning (SEL) for the Black learner through arts education.

“There is an immediate need in the U.S. to facilitate equitable learning experiences for the Black learner in particular, as they have long-since been left out of Eurocentric curriculums and colonized ideologies of success.”

Melissa talked about developing this framework and using it within professional development for Black teaching artists.

Another major part of her work is the Pan-African cultural exchange, which provides opportunities for Black identifying teaching artists to travel to different parts of the African Diaspora, in order to better understand the Black experience globally. To support this project, donate here!

Melissa also talked about research and how she began this work. When she asked for data on Black teaching artists and was told it doesn’t exist, she decided to gather it. She is conducting this research and currently has a survey gathering information from Black identifying teaching artists. If that’s you, please respond here! It’s anonymous and gathers valuable data to demonstrate the impact of Black teaching artists’ work and to tell the stories of their work in different communities. You can also help by sharing the survey widely and getting the word out about this work.

Melissa Parke is a Brooklyn-based creative that is making waves in the arts-education world. Parke initially developed her concept for Black Teaching Artist Lab, LLC at the beginning of 2019, while working as a community manager at Brooklyn Creative League—a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York. Surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and immersed in the social changes that were underway in America, Parke was inspired to turn her big ideas into a tangible, new reality.

Black Teaching Artist Lab, LLC (BTAL) is a professional development and travel abroad organization that aims to connect Black teaching artists and learners from the African Diaspora through arts education, in order to unify and strengthen intercultural understanding between marginalized Pan-African populations. We believe that through the use of art—one of the most powerful tools we have for human expression—Pan-African teaching artists will be able to share their individual stories of the lived Black experience with Black youth, everywhere.