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Womanism, Activism, Higher Education Research Network


This research network is an international proactive space for womanist conversations with black women in higher education.

The network draws heavily on the concept of womanism which acknowledges the need to tackle the under-representation of black women in British feminist research. Members of the network engage with womanist learning, a black feminist approach in education and learning which depicts the ways in which black women learn while at the same time locating their learning in the heart of their communities. In this way, womanist learning becomes synonymous with community activism as the women find ways to help build stronger, local communities and rise above past and current oppression.

This research network explores the role of the black woman in promoting learning development and political activism in the community. It seeks to bring together the work of researchers, academics, and activists in the field of gender, ‘race’, education, and community development to explore womanism and the influence of education for building stronger, local communities.


  • The Womanism, Activism, Higher Education Research Network brings black women academics and researchers together with education activists in the community. The research network exists to promote womanist research and the voice of the black woman across diverse areas such as:
    • community and political representation
    • pedagogies for change: teaching strategies for womanist learning
    • media representation, social technologies, art and music
    • mothers and sisters in the struggle: reclaiming black women's grass roots activism
    • sexuality, community and non-binary strategies for change
    • widening access and womanist participation in higher education
    • intersectionality and inequality
    • communities in crisis: black women, youth justice, criminality - institutions and challenge
    • womanism and faith-based strategies for promoting inclusion
    • disability, challenge and the health of black communities
    • dismantling structural racism in higher education.



  • Dr Jan Etienne, Chair of Womanism, Activism, Higher Education Research Network, Birkbeck
  • Higher education members:
    • Funmike Alonge, Birkbeck graduate, MSc Education, Power and Social Change
    • Dr Tanja Burkhard, Georgia State University, USA
    • Elizabeth Charles, Assistant Director of Library Services, Birkbeck
    • Ezimma Chigbo, youth practitioner and founder of the Luna Project
    • Professor Patricia Daley, University of Oxford
    • Jen Davis, law graduate, creator, and co-host of Consensus Podcast 
    • Fyna Dowe, teacher, vocalist, lyricist, and Director of Head Healers Theatre Company
    • Patricia Gilbert, Associate Lecturer, Birkbeck
    • Lurraine Jones, Senior Lecturer, University of East London
    • Dawn Joseph, Birkbeck graduate, postgraduate certificate in Criminology 
    • Carmelita Kadeena-Whyte, artist, pan-Africanist, and Black Art Trail Cultural activist
    • Iesha Ledeatte, poetic text artist and Peach Mango Maverick activist
    • Nombusi Mathibela, independent activist researcher and member of Pathways to Free Education, South Africa
    • Professor Uvanney Maylor, University of Bedfordshire
    • Dr Sibongile Mpofu, National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe
    • Matilda Okuyiga, Birkbeck graduate, MSc Education, Power and Social Change
    • Professor Phillis Shepperd, Vanderbilt University, USA
    • Professor Marcia Wilson, Open University
    • Palmela Witter, Birkbeck graduate, MSc Voluntary and Community Sector Studies 
    • Professor Cecile Wright, University of Nottingham

Community membership

  • Arts-based black women’s activist forum
  • Dub poets project
  • Web-based black sister’s group
  • Pod casting black feminist blog collectives
  • Online youth feminist groups
  • Anti-knife/gun crime womanist initiative
  • Community education projects


Ongoing research projects

  • Black women; youth crime and violence
  • Impacting black lives: womanist research methodology research project

Related publications