Profile Type: Artist
Jamila Jackson

Jamila is a storyteller, dancer, poet and facilitator. Through her organization, The Embodied Leadership Project, she approaches the work of social justice, leadership and decolonization from an embodied, trauma-informed and ceremonial perspective. She recognizes racial, economic, ecological and other social injustices to be rooted in the trauma that naturally results when the sacredness of our relationships to our bodies, to one other and to the earth is disrupted due to colonialism and domination-based paradigms. She works with African Indigenous spiritual and community practices that directly reconnect the body and the community to that sacredness through movement, rhythm and storytelling. These practices not only develop empathy, shared language and connection across racial and cultural differences and re-connection to indigeneity, but also provide an option for a social justice leadership approach that attends to the embodied and spiritual trauma from which injustice is perpetuated.

The core aspect of Jamila's work is the integration of African Indigenous wisdom with Horsemanship. She states "My work is rooted in invoking the ceremony of the community dance circle. This circle is an indigenous technology that engages rhythm, movement, storytelling and deep feeling to support a community to integrate, grieve, express and relate to trauma. This type of spiritual/emotional/physical work is critical in maintaining community wellbeing. The understanding of its depth of power is often lost in the violence of colonization. The uniqueness of my work of inviting people to learn the intracies of invoking the circle is that the horses have stepped in as the master percussionists - with four hooves on the ground, they are the holders of the ceremonial polyrhythms. The similarities between the way horses communicate with one another and the way we teach and learn African-rooted rhythm and movement are striking. Both engage polyrhythm, mirroring, witnessing, breath, listening and sharing deep feeling to cultivate a communal experience of presence in which the experiences of life can unfold and integrate in the body and community. Working with horses offers us the opportunity to deconstruct, understand and learn at subtle levels the incredible power of polyrhythmic rhythm and movement as a tool for relating to trauma, freedom, and reconnection to one another and the earth. They allow us to examine the unconscious impulses for domination and enlsavement within ourselves and engage in a practice of working with power in a way that is trauma-informed and non-predatory. I believe that this possibility for love, leadership and connection is what Primus and Dunham were illuminating through their work and their legacy. I believe that this is the wisdom their work continues to point us toward: the power contained within African-rooted music and dance as a resource for healing and freedom that can be shared by all beings no matter what race, gender or ability. Dance and music are not only our birthright, they are one of the most powerful tools a community has for generating social change."

Through The Embodied Leadership Project, Jamila develops innovative projects, centered on teaching about and invoking the circle, which focus primarily on uplifting the leadership of young women of color and educating the community on becoming allies and supporters to that leadership. She works in the mediums of performance, photography, film and writing.

Jamila has spent extensive time studying emotional and trauma-sensitive practices. She is deeply informed by Natural Horsemanship, Rhythms and Movements of the African Diaspora, Authentic Movement, Contact Improvisation, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, Active Listening, Poetry and Empathy-based storytelling. A few of the people she has studied with include: Lori Halliday, Farah DeJohnette, Aracelis Girmay, Marcel Allbritton, Daphne Lowell and Alton Wasson, Deborah Goffe, Sarah Crowell, Ronald K. Brown, Naomi Diof, Relational Uprising, Frey Faust/The Axis Syllabus and Patricia Wipfler. She has been performing, lecturing, teaching dance classes, leadership trainings and workshops at colleges, universities, schools, community centers and conferences for the past 10 years, some of which include: Mills College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, Amherst Regional High School, La Pena Cultural Center, American College Dance Association Festival, CLPP Conference, Claremont Middle School, Earthdance Center for Creative Living, The Cummington Church. Originally from the Bay Area, California, she attended Howard University for two years, received her B.A. from Hampshire College and her MFA from Wilson College.

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I Have Worked With

  • July 2020

    We are currently involved in a collaboration with the Five College Dance Department in Western Massachusetts to launch The Black Women’s Leadership Initiative at Five College Dance. We will be working both online, and socially distanced in person, in intimate, consistent solidarity groups while also offering community events designed to engage the larger community across all races, genders and cultural differences. We will focus on Black and Indigenous Women’s solidarity, uplifting these women’s leadership to shift the discourse around dance in higher education. We are shifting the discourse toward a Black and Indigenous led, decolonized, trauma-informed and spiritually-rooted approach to the body as a means of reconnecting to self, other and earth. 

  • March 2020

    The Embodied Leadership Project's "to be listened into speaking" exhibit is currently on display with Northampton Center for the Arts. The exhibit focuses on the Embodied Leadership Projects Community Dance Program Curriculum through story, video and photography. The first section examines the story behind the approach itself and features images from a film created by Jamila Jackson and cinematographer Amber Wilmore-Hurley as well as the approach’s curriculum. The second section features work by the Embodied Leadership Project’s Young Women’s Program engaging and assisting with the curriculum.

  • September 2019

    Social Justice Sunday in a collaboration with Roberta Wilmore and Earthdance Creative Living Project at the Cummington Church in Western, MA focused on deep listening, storytelling, connection across race, and tools for empathic response.


  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Dancer, Multi-Media Artist, Educator
Physical Address: 
Amherst , MA 01002
Last Name: 


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Additional Disciplines: 
Dance - General
Dance - Ethnic
Media - Film
Visual/Crafts - Photography
Year Founded: 
Populations Served: 
General Public
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Community Arts
Curriculum Development
Film Showings
Performance / Concert / Reading
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 
Multi-County Region

Affiliations and Accomplishments

MFA Interdisciplinary Arts, Wilson College, 2020
BA in Dance, Hampshire College, 2016
Two years toward a BA in dance, Howard University, 2007-2009
Contemplative Dance Year Long Training, 2018
Relational Uprising Storytelling Training, 2018

I am a Touring Artist

Technical Requirements: 
Projector/Film Screen Capacity
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: 
State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
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I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Private Studio
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Ages Served: 
Certifications / Training: 
MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Wilson College
Authentic Movement Training from Contemplative Dance Year Long Program
Storytelling Training from Relational Uprising
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: