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Salamishah Tillet

Scholar, Activist & Author

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Salamishah Tillet talks about her childhood growing up with her dad in Trinidad and Tobago, her experience with sexual assault in college, and how she founded A Long Walk Home, a program that uses art to help end violence against girls and women.
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.

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Salamishah Tillet talks about how Nina Simone gave America a blueprint for what American freedom could be.

Black Feminism
Salamishah Tillet talks about how she defines feminism.

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Salamishah Tillet talks about the world in which she wants her children to live.

Hollow Body Skin and Bone
Salamishah Tillet reads an excerpt from her story, "Hollow Body Skin and Bone" — the manifesto that would become the foundation of her life's work.

My Natural Talent
Salamishah Tillet talks about her passion for teaching literature.

Doing Something Taboo
Salamishah Tillet talks about the importance of having activists as role models.

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

The Importance of the Arts
Salamishah Tillet talks about growing up in a very musical, artistic household surrounded by a lot of cultural opportunities.

My Name Salamishah
Salamishah Tillet talks about the meaning behind her name.

The Practical Value of Literature
Salamishah Tillet talks about using art as a means for creating change.

On Gloria Steinem
Salamishah Tillet talks about how Gloria Steinem's influence has helped her grow as a writer and as an individual.