Booked & Busy
Dr. Sankofa Waters has been invited as a keynote speaker and presenter at several institutions around the country including Chicago State, Wake Forest, Northeastern and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM.) Regardless if the audience is 200+ or 15, she always speaks candidly and intimately. The heart of her talks and workshops rests in her ability to create "call and response" exchanges that are textured with her lived experiences as a "college dropout", academic writing coach, family archivist, university professor, researcher, freedom dreamer, and co-conspirator of justice praxis. In this way, she invites audience members to dig into their own lived experiences and examine ways they can collectively build across communities and institutions.
Dr. M. Billye Sankofa Waters
Radical Identity Praxis [RIP] LLC, President
Sankofa Waters identifies as a Hip Hop generation Blackgirl from the South Side of Chicago, who writes. Developed through the richness of a dynamic Village – she was consistently nurtured with messages of "Black is Beautiful" and "Black on Black Love." Every Saturday morning, her father would blast the Rainbow PUSH radio program throughout the house, which always started with Lift Every Voice and Sing; while her mother cleaned singing Roberta Flack and Dinah Washington. Both parents worked in the Chicago Public School system: Beethoven, DuSable, and she attended Beasley – all along State Street facing the Robert Taylor Housing Projects. Summers began with 24+ hour road trips to family in Galveston, Texas and ended with the Bud Billiken "Back to School" Parade along King Drive. As a child of teachers, surely learning was important to her and she was further enriched by teachers who mirrored her lessons of home and affirmed her as a brilliant Black child.
During these early years, Billye journaled and archived. Her first collection? It's a 50-page homage to JODECI – full of Right On!, Word Up!, magazine (and any other) photos and interview clips she could cut out and glue in. And yes, she still has it. Since then, she has written two books (Penetrated Soul, 2002; We Can Speak for Ourselves, 2016,) is the coeditor of two books (The Lauryn Hill Reader with Bettina Love and Venus Evans-Winters, 2019; How We Got Here with Marta Sanchez, 2020), and has completed several Journey Books Collections to chronicle various Rites of Passages for her family. While she has earned degrees in Fiction Writing, Black World Studies, and Education, (Columbia College and The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) she is a self-proclaimed archivist and historian.
Her maternal family has intermittently held family reunions in Texas (across 5+ generations) for several years. In 2015, she traveled to Cameroon – where her mitochondrial DNA connects her/them to the Tikar tribes – to deepen her learning and experiences with family in West Africa. Upon her return, she completed her fifth installation of B.FAR Journey Books: Tell the Story of Home, to share with the family and began lecturing on the importance of "finding home." While tracing her African roots, one of her paternal cousins was in the thick of documenting their family history as early as 1804. In fact, it was through his research they identified a sister she never new existed! (They met for the first time in Virginia, October 2017.)
To date, Dr. Sankofa Waters (translated to go back and get it through the heavens and earth,) has presented several workshops and keynotes to address the critical significance of intergenerational Black family histories, creative writing, researcher positionality, educational equity, critical race theory and Black feminism. She is the Founding Executive Director of Blackgirl Gold Unapologetic, Inc. and Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Washington Tacoma. Her experiences and discoveries of home and heart are both her foundation and privilege. She feeds her obligation to expand roots and consistently makes the claim that #blackfolxarerich.