Contact The NJ State Council
on the Arts
Mailing Address:
NJ State Council on the Arts
P.O. Box 306
Trenton, NJ 08625-0306

Office Address:
33 West State Street, 4th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08608

Tel: (609) 292-6130
NJ Relay: 711

Looking Back to Move Forward
Folk Arts Celebrating 100 Years of Women's Empowerment
Since the pandemic hit our nation, New Jersey's Regional Folklife Centers have been among some of the most engaged arts and culture resources in the state, working through programmatic adaptations in order to stay true to their missions and connected to the communities that rely on them. The Perkins Folklife Center, one of New Jersey's five Folklife Centers, is supported in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has skillfully shifted gears, ramping up its online presence in the face of COVID-19. There, oral histories of folk traditions and community storytelling have taken a front seat with Folklife Center Director, Karen "Queen Nur" Abdul-Malik, at the wheel. Keeping community connections strong has been paramount in Queen Nur's vision for the Folklife Center, a challenge she has met with her own gift for sharing stories and her understanding of how powerful they can be. 

In honor of Women's History Month, we are highlighting a special project at The Perkins Folklife Center. Inspired by the centennial of the 19th Amendment, Perkins is centralizing women's voices and celebrating their stories through a project called, "Upon Our Authority: 100 Years of Women Empowerment in New Jersey through Oral Expression and Folk Tradition". The project is funded in part by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, Burlington County Historical Commission and Camden County History Partnership Programs, and it visits four distinct eras of American women's history, with the Women's Suffrage Movement as its gateway. It is inclusive of the lives, traditions, and histories of women who are "melanin-endowed" - a term that Queen Nur uses in lieu of "women of color" - who have often been left out of conventional stories about significant women in history. In this issue of Passing It On, Queen Nur tells us more about "Upon Our Authority" and how the Perkins Folklife Center is celebrating the inspirational accomplishments of women through new platforms for storytelling. 
Queen Nur is pictured here seated and smiling while podcasting in a home studio.
Q & A with Queen Nur

Passing It On: "Upon Our Authority" was already in progress before COVID. How did it pivot after the shutdown? 

Queen Nur: It was to be a multi-phase project with community-based work, education, field work, and ancillary activities. Before COVID, the project had begun with my teaching students at the Girls Leadership Academy of the Alice Paul Institute and the Universal Dance and Drum Ensemble how to collect oral histories of women they chose to learn more about from four eras: Women's Suffrage, Rosie the Riveter, The Second Wave & Civil Rights Movement, and the new Millennials. That process paused last March. We've kept the concept of going beyond the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and into a broader history of women's empowerment, but in response to COVID we created a Podcast Series
PIO: Tell us more about this new Podcast Series. How is it uplifting women's stories? 

QN: It's a series of interviews with various women scholars, storytellers, poets, historians, and public servants which span those four eras. It's been really interesting discovering women's empowerment in and around New Jersey. As I do these interviews, we include not only the stories of the women of that particular era, but also personal histories of the women being interviewed. We weave stories within stories and let the past intermingle with the present. The "Upon Our Authority" series is ramping up for Women's History Month and there's going to be a lot coming before we close the series at the end of March. One of the latest episodes explores bold stories of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and its legacy of social justice advocacy.

PIO: How has digital storytelling developed at Perkins since the start of the pandemic?

QN: We are developing listening platforms in which people can hear local voices of history and culture bearers across folklife forms who pass on the stories and traditions of the people of Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden Counties. "Historically Evident And
Relevant (HEAR) We Are", is the latest initiative with this intention. The "Upon Our Authority" podcast series is part of that effort. I also host The Butterfly, a free, monthly, community storytelling event which shifted from in-person to online during COVID. It's a mix of professional and community storytellers. Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with our humanity and to each other.
For more information about Upon Our Authority or any other projects at the Perkins Folklife Center, please contact the Perkins Folklife Center Director, Karen "Queen Nur" Abdul-Malik.
More Ways New Jersey is Uplifting Stories of Women's History! 

NJ Women Vote: The 19th Amendment at 100, New Jersey's suffrage centennial initiative, is pleased to share two commissioned digital projects created to inspire and provide historical context for voting. Funding for this project was provided by NJ Women Vote, a partnership led by the New Jersey Historical Commission and the Alice Paul Institute, with assistance from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Beginning in 1776 and concluding in the 1964, the NJ Women Vote video series demonstrates that the struggle for the right to vote is as relevant now as it was at the formal founding of the United States nearly 250 years ago. Over the course of five, 90-second installments, the series explores changes to voting rights in New Jersey over time.
Folk and Traditional Arts Programs at the New Jersey State Council on the Arts are generously supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The title for this publication is inspired by the book, Passing it On: Folk Artists and Education in Cumberland County, NJ, authored by Rita Moonsammy, 1992.
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the NJ Department of State. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey. The Council receives direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey through a dedicated, renewable Hotel/Motel Occupancy fee, as well as competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about the Council, please visit