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Autumn Griffin Builds Blackademia Community for Black Academics

October 31, 2019

Autumn Griffin, a doctoral candidate in Teaching, Learning, Policy, and Leadership in the College of Education, co-founded Blackademia-a digital network dedicated to sharing and celebrating the stories of people of color in academic spaces-with Tiffany Lee, now a higher education administrator. Griffin and Lee found they had similar challenges and experiences as Black academics throughout their early careers. 

"My friend and colleague, Tiffany, and I would have friend phone calls and talk about regular friend things, even though were working on very different levels of education—she was a researcher and I was a school teacher," Griffin said. "Later on, I moved back to go to grad school and she was an administrator, and the issues were the same."  

They created Blackademia in 2016 after a series of conversations with colleagues and the discovery of shared experiences at all levels of academia. Members began to contribute weekly blog posts to the website, as well as highlight a monthly feature called Blackademic. The network now includes a podcast and quarterly Twitter chats where Blackademics engage in discourse about books written by Black academics. Griffin and Lee hope to continue to grow the network so that Black academics across the country can find community and support. 

"We wanted a space online to have these conversations and celebrate the accomplishments, achievements and experiences that were going unrecognized in the general discourse about graduate school and the academic/professional experience," Griffin said.    

Allanté Whitmore, a Ph.D. student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, was an early contributor.

“I followed Blackademia on Twitter in 2017 when searching for digital communities for Black graduate students," said Whitmore, who is @blkingradschool on Twitter. "Since then, we've developed a relationship as fellow Black academic content creators and have collaborated, cross-promoted, and just overall supported one another."

Griffin said that the Blackademic community grows organically. 

"We pull in as many voices as we can," she said. "We have shared identity, but our experiences are nuanced," so they want contributor voices to reflect that. Contributors participate in the podcast and write blog posts. Griffin, Whitmore, and contributors Ravynn K. Stringfield of the College of William and Mary and Joy Melody of the University of Iowa will appear on a panel at SXSW Edu in March, 2020 focused on Black academic content creators. 
 
"I especially love the perspective and conversations provided through the podcast," Whitmore said. "With Autumn as a graduate student and Tiffany a university administrator, they peel back the layers and examine life as a Black academic, an experience often left ignored.  There are a lot of students, like me, who want to hear stories and experiences I can relate to and have done so with being a part of the Blackademia community.”
 
"We're all grad students speaking to very specific communities and subgroups within communities," said Griffin. "It's not just a singular effort. It's all of us." 

Read Blackademia and follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @ReadBlackademia. Download the Blackademia podcast on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Contact Information

The Graduate School
University of Maryland

2123 Lee Building
7809 Regents Drive
College Park, MD 20742

301-405-3644
gradschool@umd.edu