Grad student Collette Murray earns two awards for work advancing diasporic dance styles

Toronto Botanical Garden – Edwards Music Series, Hit & Run Dance Productions (image courtesy Arthur Mola Photography)

A York University graduate program assistant and doctoral student was named among six recipients of the 2022 Women Who Rock Awards and one of six changemakers for racial equity as the recipient of the 2022 Award for Racial Justice in Creative Arts presented by Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

Collette Murray, a graduate program assistant in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Critical Disability Studies in the Faculty of Health, was recognized for her efforts in cultural education, and amplifying Black arts and diasporic styles of African dance vernacular.

Collette Murray
Collette Murray

Murray is an artist-scholar, dance educator and cultural arts programmer with a performance background range in Caribbean Folk, traditional West African, and other diasporic dance styles with past Toronto-based companies. She holds a master of education and a bachelor’s degree (specialized honours) in race, ethnicity and indigeneity from York University, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Toronto.

The Women Who Rock Awards program selects six recipients from within the GTHA who have made significant contributions to the community in their field of endeavour. Recipients must demonstrate one of the following criteria: attained a high level of achievement; advanced a cause that has broad impact on the community; achieved recognition as an expert or leader in a specific field; or contributed in a significant manner to their community.  The award was presented in October.

The board of Urban Alliance of Race Relations Canada selected Murray as a recipient of the 2022 Award for Racial Justice in Creative Arts for her multifaceted approach to anti-racism in dance. She was presented the award in December. This honor was a celebration of those who work towards racial equity, dismantling systemic barriers and increasing inclusion.

“2022 has been a transformative year for me, where I am responding with intention, responsibility, and accountability,” says Murray. “I am humbled and with gratitude as I continue to stand for the dance communities, I am a part of.”

Murray’s past graduate research centered on the perspectives of Black arts educators’ experiences using culturally responsive teaching in Ontario, Canada. She is currently pursuing a PhD in dance studies at York University with focus on dance education pedagogies and mentorship that impact the training of Afrodiasporic dance educators in Canada.

Her artistry includes teaching, arts education, mentoring, panel talks, community arts engagement and a recent article about upholding student cultural identities and the use of African, Caribbean and Black arts in classrooms in a new Canadian publication on culturally relevant pedagogy for educators. She has previously been recognized as one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women honorees in 2020, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Community Arts Award. She also earned the Canadian Dance Assembly’s “I love Community” Award in 2013.

Murray is the artistic director of Coco Collective, which offers culturally responsive projects that connects organizations and schools to African and Caribbean arts. She runs her own mobile dance education business, Miss Coco Murray, and is also a contributing writer in dance media.

Her advocacy includes serving on the National Council for Canadian Dance Assembly, the Board of Directors for Arts Etobicoke, and as the newly appointed board Chair of Dance Umbrella of Ontario (DUO) to bring an equity, education, and inclusion lens to their organizations.

Her research has also been featured in Revue YOUR Review, an academic journal at York University that highlights the work on undergraduate students.