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MAKERS Moment

I Was Gender Nonconforming

I Was Gender Nonconforming

More From Salamishah

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Salamishah Tillet talks about gender and how her view of it has changed over the course of her life.

Salamishah's Biography

Salamishah Tillet is a scholar, author, activist, and an Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University, and her M.A.T. from Brown University.

 

Tillet was born into a politically conscious household in Boston though she spent much of her childhood in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Her name 'Salam,' meaning peace in Arabic, and 'Shah,' meaning royalty or kingly in Farsi, was a direct inspiration from the "Black Power movement" during the '70s.

 

While attending college at the University of Pennsylvania, Tillet was a victim of sexual assault twice. She later opened up to her sister, Scheherazade Tillet, about the traumatic event. After learning about what happened, Tillet's sister turned to photography as a way to record the various stages of her sister's recovery in an effort to help her heal. With this project, Scheherazade photographed other victims, which turned into a multimedia performance on recovering from campus rape. Upon the completion of the project, the Tillet sisters then wrote and directed "Story of a Rape Survivor" (SOARS), which became their flagship program.

 

SOARS has been presented at more than 1,000 colleges across 40 states. In 2003, Salamishah and her sister, co-founded A Long Walk Home, Inc. — a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate and empower young people to end violence against girls and women.

 

In 2013-14, Tillet was a Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture located in Harlem, N.Y.

 

Tillet currently lives in New Jersey with her partner and two children.