Faculty Spotlight

Lehman College has selected four faculty members from diverse fields to serve as the inaugural cohort of its Lehman Professors of Excellence (LPE) program, an initiative that recognizes exceptional faculty accomplishments and promotes innovative research, scholarship, and creativity. The faculty members will hold the Lehman Professor of Excellence title for three years and receive an annual award of $20,000, to support their work in that time.

Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum

Bertrade-BanoumMy scholarship, pedagogy, and philosophy of life are rooted in Ubuntu (oo-boon-too), an ethic and worldview that recognize our shared humanity and symbiosis with cosmos and wildlife.  In my work, African, Western, and other knowledge bases meet as many streams to become a powerful river, a comprehensive interdisciplinary, intersectional, and transnational exploration of the questions: “How do we make our academic agendas, discourses, and practices transformative, innovative, inclusive, relevant, and socially useful?  How do we validate our shared humanity, give voice to the voiceless, visibility to the invisible, and dignity to the dehumanized?”  These questions are critical when we conduct research in academic disciplines such as Africana Studies and Women’s Studies in general, and about Africa and African women most particularly.  How do we bring to bear at Lehman, CUNY, in the Humanities and the Academy, diverse epistemologies and pedagogies for transformative teaching and learning in this era of exacerbated racial and social precarity?

My Ubuntu pedagogical philosophy and practice center, empower, and engage students in teaching and learning processes.  This open pedagogy honors the cognitive capital students bring with them, their identity, dignity, and humanity as co-creators and co-presenters of knowledge enhanced through our digitized media and open educational resources (OER) .  The collaborative model of discovery, critical analysis, and productive practice paves the way for understanding and redressing structural inequalities in the 21st century and beyond.

In my holistic approach, scholarship, teaching, and service form a seamless whole, building bridges across academe and activism, classroom/campus and community, elite and grassroots women, urban and rural communities, and development theorists and practitioners.  My agenda echoes Lehman’s Mission, Vision and Values Statement which advocates a “transformative educational experience that advances equity, inclusion, and justice.”

The award will afford me sorely needed time and means to work on my theorization of Ubuntu pedagogy and Africana women's movements for social justice, leading beyond conferences and symposia to a book manuscript. This global pandemic has made very clear that our old ways of thinking and behaving no longer will work for the planet and us. Ubuntu philosophy offers the world a way forward, and I hope to do my part in guiding the way.

I am honored and humbled to be selected as an inaugural Lehman Professor of Excellence by my peers.  Recognition of my contribution by my esteemed colleagues encourages me to scale up my student-centered work in our ever-globalizing academy and world.

Mary Phillips, University of Notre Dame Faculty Fellow

Mary-PhillipsMary Phillips is a proud native of Detroit, Michigan. She is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York. Her interdisciplinary research agenda focuses on race and gender in post-1945 social movements and the carceral state. Her research areas include the modern Black Freedom struggle, Black feminism, and Black Power studies.

Mary Frances Phillips forthcoming book, Black Panther Woman: The Political and Spiritual Life of Ericka Huggins will be released on January 7, 2025, with New York University Press. 

The first biography of Ericka Huggins, a queer Black woman who brought spiritual self-care practices to the Black Panther Party.

In this groundbreaking biography, Mary Frances Phillips immerses readers in the life and legacy of Ericka Huggins, a revered Black Panther Party member, as well as a mother, widow, educator, poet, and former political prisoner. In 1969, the police arrested Ericka Huggins along with Bobby Seale and fellow Black Panther Party members, who were accused of murdering Alex Rackley. This marked the beginning of her ordeal, as she became the subject of political persecution and a well-planned FBI COINTELPRO plot.

Drawing on never-before-seen archival sources, including prison records, unpublished letters, photographs, FBI records, and oral histories, Phillips foregrounds the paramount role of self-care and community care in Huggins’s political journey, shedding light on Ericka’s use of spiritual wellness practices she developed during her incarceration. In prison, Huggins was able to survive the repression and terror she faced while navigating motherhood through her unwavering commitment to spiritual practices. In showcasing this history, Phillips reveals the significance of spiritual wellness in the Black Panther Party and Black Power movement.

Transcending the traditional male-centric study of the Black Panther Party, Black Panther Woman offers an innovative analysis of Black political life at the intersections of gender, motherhood, and mass incarceration. This book serves as an invaluable toolkit for contemporary activists, underscoring the power of radical acts of care as well as vital strategies to thrive in the world.