Notes from Natatorial Naptown: A Counter Story to Anti-Black Violence in Indianapolis Aquatics

Teigha Mae VanHester, an assistant professor at Butler University, will use radical feminist archival research (RFAR) and historiography to trace the legacy of systemic, anti-Black, “Jim Crow-adjacent” legislation and urban planning that has limited Black Hoosiers’ relationship with water. Indianapolis has historically weaponized leisure spaces and centers based on race, socioeconomic status and ability, to the detriment of its marginalized citizens. Aquatic-based leisure and literacies are essential for survival, healing and sovereignty. Through this work, VanHester will amplify the resilient legacy of Black Hoosier radical imagination that will engage with community-based intellectuals, places and spaces where Black aquatic access, leisure and literacies are being achieved through the use of emergent strategies. Community initiatives, activists and organizations are central to this work, and thus VanHester will spend extensive time documenting the unapologetic resistance efforts in Indy’s aquatic-leisure spaces [i.e., Indianapolis’s Belmont Beach; Indy Parks and Recreation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives; and the Central Indiana Community Foundation’s Summer Youth Program]. The project strives to cultivate an understanding of the transformative power of pleasure, rest, survival and resistance through aquatic-based leisure and literacy.

Teigha Mae VanHester is a fierce intellectual;, pleasure activist; joyful griot; SoCal native; proud Black, Polynesian femme; and assistant professor of race, gender and sexuality studies at Butler University. They hold a Ph.D. in English composition and rhetoric and a graduate certificate in women, gender and sexuality studies from Illinois State University. As a childfree millennial TiTi, with three amazing dogs, a hoard of house plants, a mushroom farm and a fabulous partner, VanHester works to situate joy, rest, creativity and pleasure as key strategies to liberation. VanHester has presented at several conferences, including the Cultural Rhetorics Conference, the Conference for College Composition and Communication, and the National Women’s Studies Association Conference. They have been a Coalition for Community Writing writer-in-residence and a recipient of the CCW’s Emerging Scholars Award, a recipient of the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Scholars for the Dream Travel Award and a NAFSA RISE (Representation, Inclusion, Support, and Empowerment) Fellow. Their research has been funded by grants from the Organization for Research on Women and Communication and from Butler University (a grant from the Equipment Fund as well as a Global Initiatives Grant). VanHester was the first Forum Editorial Fellow and has served as a peer reviewer for the journal Emerging Voices in Education. Their work has been featured in Race and Yoga; Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture; and Women’s Studies QuarterlyIn addition to scholastic work, VanHester loves Beyonce, springtime golfing, AEW wrestling, the Chicago Blackhawks, Texas BBQ, spades and visiting as many of the world’s 50 best restaurants as possible.