'Now Is the Time': With More Black Women Philosophers Now Than There Were in the 1980s, Another Attempt at Establishing a Professional Organization Becomes a Reality

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NASHVILLE, TENN.

It was part reunion and part research seminar, yet a gathering long overdue, according to several attendees.

The nation's Black women philosophers and philosophy graduate students met at the inaugural conference of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers (CBWP) at Vanderbilt University in mid-October.

Formed in the last academic year, the CBWP was designed to be a safe space for peers to assess and discuss philosophical issues as well as to encourage, recruit and retain Black women in philosophy, said Dr. Anita Allen, the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

About 100 Black philosophers belong to the American Philosophical Association (APA), which has more than 10,000 members. Although there aren't any official figures, the association's Committee of Blacks in Philosophy estimates that fewer than 30 Black women work in the discipline, said CBWP founding director Kathryn Gines, an assistant professor of philosophy and African-American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt.

Discussions with fellow theorists last year and earlier this year laid the foundation for the organization, which was established to support Black women in the field through mentoring, networking and financial support.

Gines tracked down prospective members from women who served in the APA and through word of mouth.

"It's amazing," Gines said. "I initially had a target number of 25, including professors and graduate students. Several inquiries came in after the Web site went up. I received several inquiries from people who discovered the organization through the Internet."

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Gines says a few women she spoke with felt discouraged and very alienated in their institutions or departments where they may be the only Black woman or Black person on the faculty. …