M. Billye Sankofa Waters, Ph.D.
[em / BILL-ee / san-KO-fuh-WAH-ters]
This Hip Hop generation Blackgirl from Chicago grounds her work in Black feminism, critical race theory, abolitionist teaching, Black women writers and qualitative inquiry. Sankofa Waters created the Radical Identity Praxis [RIP] curriculum and is the Founding Executive Director of the nonprofit charity, Blackgirl Gold Unapologetic, Inc.
Sankofa Waters' career in Education began in 1996 with the 10,000 Tutors program for the Chicago Public Schools and this deepened her interdisciplinary journey into Sociology of Education, Black Feminism, critical race theory, and qualitative inquiry. She is the author of Penetrated Soul: somethingsihadtorelease (2002), We Can Speak for Ourselves: Parent Involvement and Ideologies of Black Mothers in Chicago (2016), and co-editor of Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood: The Lauryn Hill Reader (with Bettina L. Love & Venus Evans-Winters, 2019) and How We Got Here: The Role of Critical Mentoring and Social Justice Praxis (with Marta Sanchez, 2020). She has contributed work to various publications such as Race Ethnicity and Education and PraxisCenter. Her current project, The Audre Lorde Dinners examines self care practices of Blackwomen that serve as community othermothers and activists.
She credits Blackgirl Gold Unapologetic, Inc. [www.blackgirlgold.org] as the blueprint for ‘the work her soul must have’ (Alice Walker, 1974). BGU builds opportunities for blackgirls to operate in their respective gifts through writing, funding, and connecting. This mission is manifested through the Radical Identity Praxis [RIP] curriculum; scholarships and awards for undergraduate and graduate blackgirls; and local environment partnerships.
A self-proclaimed archivist, Billye enjoys documenting family the most, which includes tracing her history through America and Africa. In 2010, she received results from African Ancestry that pinpointed her matriarchal lineage roughly in early 1700s to the Tikar people in present-day Cameroon. She pilgrimaged there in 2015 – to the Bamoun Kingdom in Foumban – and was given her ancestral name Mandou [MAHN-doo], which means Queen Mother. Also in 2015, she began working with her paternal cousin as he documents their lineage via Ancestry.com, presently through 1804.
Dr. B earned her B.A. in Fiction Writing and was the first graduate of the Black World Studies program at Columbia College Chicago. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Education (Culture, Curriculum, and Change program) at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has been teaching facluty in Schools of Education since 2012 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at The University of Washington Tacoma. "I teach teachers, administrators, nonprofit organizers, student organizers, career changers and all the grays between." She is a member of various academic and professional organizations including the American Educational Research Association (2018–2021 Hip Hop Theories, Praxis & Pedagogies SIG Executive Board member); National Women's Studies Association (2018–2020 Governing Council Member and 2015 Women of Color Leadership Project fellow); and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
She cites A Different World, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, gospel choirs, Audre Lorde, The Low End Theory, and growing up on the South Side of Chicago as a handful of critical influences.