Yao Kahlil Newkirk holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Buffalo. He is a writer, director, speaker, performance artist, singer, song-writer, poet, filmmaker, actor, and designer. Using his current research in Africana & American Studies as supporting context for his art, his interdisciplinary work focuses on trauma-based performance. His current performance, Separation Anxiety, began on April 23, 2023 @12:05 pm, and will last for one year until April 23, 2024 @12:05 pm. During this time, Yao Kahlil will continuously wear a black hoodie in tribute to Trayvon Martin, and all those who are victims of lynching, both present and past. It is important to Yao Kahlil that trauma doesn't begin and end with itself, but rather out of the ashes of trauma, a redefining occurs; art is birthed, assigning new meaning and purpose to that which was once only a source of pain.
As an already working and involved artist, I wanted to provide more depth and context to my art, however, I wanted that depth to specifically come from the Black experience. After speaking with department leaders of the time, it became apparent to me that I would be a welcome addition to the Africana & American Studies Graduate School. I was thoroughly embraced, and felt that I'd finally found a place that would allow me the room I needed to grow as an artist and scholar. I have been consistently encouraged to continue my interdisciplinary approach to education. My advisor and professors have challenged me to incorporate various academic structures, and methodologies to my art. Where I otherwise might just be an "artist," these challenges are preparing me to be an educator, and a disruptor of norms.