Plenary Speakers 2021

The 2021 Desert Skies Symposium on Research in Music Learning and Teaching is open to all music and arts educators, artists, and community members, and focuses on persistent questions in education, the arts, and culture. The conference schedule and sessions are designed to be interactive, with opportunities to be in dialogue with one another about urgent matters in our field, particularly matters of justice, inclusion, and diversity. For the 2021 Symposium, the plenary speakers will be Bryan Brayboy, Natalie Diaz, and Django Paris. Each speaker will be featured in a plenary session, including a dialogue time with participants, and then all three speakers will be  together in a conversation session with each other and conference participants. We’ve asked these three distinguished guests to help us think about indigeneity, justice, and how our work can support transformative change in this moment. Their bios are below.


Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy (Lumbee) is President’s Professor of Indigenous education and justice in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. At ASU, he is senior advisor to the president, director of the Center for Indian Education, associate director of the School of Social Transformation, and co-editor of the Journal of American Indian Education. He is the author of more than 90 scholarly documents, including being the author/editor of eight volumes, dozens of articles and book chapters, multiple policy briefs for the U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on the role of race and diversity in higher education, and the experiences of Indigenous students, staff, and faculty in institutions of higher education.  He and his team have, over the past 17 years, prepared more than 155 Native teachers to work in American Indian communities and more than 15 American Indian PhDs. 


Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press, and her second book, Postcolonial Love Poem,  was published by Graywolf Press in March 2020. She is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow, as well as a Lannan Literary Fellow and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded the Princeton Holmes National Poetry Prize and a Hodder Fellowship. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the United States Artists, where she is an alumni of the Ford Fellowship. Diaz is Director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.


Django Paris is a Black educator and scholar born on Ohlone homelands in San Francisco, California to a White mother and a Black Jamaican father. Paris is honored to be the inaugural James A. and Cherry A. Banks Professor of Multicultural Education and director of the Banks Center for Educational Justice at the University of Washington. His teaching and research focus on sustaining languages, literacies, and lifeways among Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander students in the context of ongoing resurgence, decolonization, liberation, and justice movements in and beyond schools.  He is particularly concerned with educational and cultural justice as outcomes of inquiry and pedagogy. Paris is author of Language across Difference: Ethnicity, Communication, and Youth Identities in Changing Urban Schools (2011), and co-editor of Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities (2014), Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World (2017) and  Education in Movement Spaces: Standing Rock to Chicago Freedom Square