M. Billye Sankofa Waters, Ph.D.

[em  /  BILL-ee  /  san-KO-fuh-WAH-ters]

Chicago native M. Billye Sankofa Waters, Ph.D. is a writer, mother, wife, daughter, teacher, investor, sister, artist, researcher and blackgirl in rotating, overlapping order.  


Her 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. Her work consistently examines and elevates the holistic well-being of blackgirls and Black families. 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). She has contributed work to various publications such as Race Ethnicity and Education and PraxisCenter.

Sankofa Waters credits Blackgirl Gold Unapologetic, Inc. [www.blackgirlgold.org] as the blueprint for ‘the work her soul must have’ (Alice Walker, 1974). BGU is a nonprofit public charity, where she currently serves as the Founding Executive Director. BGU builds opportunities for blackgirls to operate in their respective gifts through writing, funding, and connecting. This mission is manifested through the BGU “Writes of Passage” curriculum, which integrates the literacies of Hip-Hop Feminism (as well as earlier canons); scholarships and awards for undergraduate and graduate blackgirls; and intergenerational 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 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at The University of Washington Tacoma. 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, The Color PurpleThe Low End Theory, and growing up on the South Side of Chicago as a handful of critical influences.