The Living Thinkers Project
Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower

Welcome to the The Living Thinkers Project, a dynamic multimedia project that focuses on the education narratives of contemporary Black women who are faculty, administrators, and staff in universities and colleges throughout the United States. The Living Thinkers Project provides 100 Black women an opportunity to look back over their lives and contemplate their journeys through the American education system from girlhood through college as a way to discuss the impact of race, class, and gender on their experiences working in the Ivory Tower.

I began developing the concept for this project while still in film school in the 1990's after having many discussions with fellow Black women graduate students about the low and disproportionate number of Black women graduate students, professors, administrators, and mentors compared to the higher number of Black women working in the Ivory Tower in the lowest paid staff positions such as those in housekeeping and food services; our discussions also focused on the lack of culturally inclusive curriculum. Since the Ivory Tower is recognized as the gatekeeper of knowledge and for the production of knowledge, I was concerned that the the low numbers of Black women in the Ivory Tower as students, professors, and higher ranking administrators creates and maintains a perception that Black women are incapable of producing knowledge and teaching on a college level. 

As a filmmaker, I am invested in creating, demystifying, and unmasking meaning in visual signs, representations, and imagery to examine their impact on our lived experiences. What does it mean, then, that the dominant physical presence of Black women on the majority of these campuses is contained in the lowest paid service positions? How does that visual representation of Black women affect the perception of our "place" in higher education and our role in the production of knowledge in the 21st century?   

Since the 1990's when I began thinking about this large scale project, the number of Black women students, faculty and administrators continues to increase, but at a very slow pace and many times at a dear cost. Since that time, I, too, have entered the Ivory Tower as a professor and have experienced this "life of the mind" at predominantly white colleges and universities. This autobiographical documentary represents a collective narrative of the experiences of Black women faculty and administrators to emphasize similar experiences across generations of black women in the Ivory Tower. This site is dedicated to making the experiences and the work of Black women academics, administrators, and support staff visible and documented. 

The Living Thinkers Project would not have been possible without the support of other independent filmmakers and artists who worked on the project for no money up front or at a discounted rate because of their belief in this project.  Many thanks to my sisters at Sisters' Eye On Media - Tina Morton and NaOme Richardson; and many thanks to Val Keller and Kevin Walker. My gratitude goes out to my husband David and my mother "Ms. Walker" who held everything down at home when I travelled while in production and who continued to engage me in discussions about the film. And of course to my children Imani, Kefentse, and Montsho who are the motivation for what I do and let me off mommy duties so I can continue to do the work my soul must have.