A mother, community organizer, and dancer/choreographer, Dr. Shamell Bell received her PhD in Culture and Performance from UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures/Dance Department and is currently teaching at Dartmouth College in the Department of Theater and in the African and African American Studies program. Bell is an original member of the Black Lives Matter movement and was a core organizer with Justice for Trayvon Martin Los Angeles and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. While at UCLA, Bell was active in many social justice efforts, co-founding the Black Infinity Complex and The Undercommons and helped to create a scholar-in-residence position that promotes the safety and better retention of Black graduate students in UCLA Family Housing. Her doctoral work on street dance activism situates dance as grassroots political action, and her unique PhD project expands on this through a hybrid of written text and a feature-length documentary film. Her goal is to reveal a transformative process: how “choreographies of the oppressed” can change into “choreographies of the liberated.” She is an arts and culture liaison for several social justice organizations, such as the Black Lives Matter Network and Blackout For Human Rights. She also consults for social justice impact in the television, film, and music industries, with credits such as the 2018 film The Hate U Give. Bell continues to transform people and communities through street dance as radical joy, healing, and team building. She often teaches alongside her nine-year-old son, Seijani, who focuses on meditation and mindfulness.
“[Street Dance Activism] can be for any type of social justice issue. We want this beautiful dance piece of liberation.”