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Essence magazine honors Loyola faculty member on list of “Woke 100 Women”

Karsonya “Kaye” Whitehead, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and African American Studies

Karsonya “Kaye” Whitehead, Ph.D., professor of communication and African American Studies at Loyola University Maryland, has been included on Essence magazine’s selective list of “Woke 100 Women for 2019.”

The list honors Black women who are agents for change both in their communities and around the country. Whitehead was named alongside First Lady Michelle Obama, American filmmaker Ava Du Verynay, CBS news anchor Gayle King, Princeton scholar Imani Perry, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Whitehead, who lives with her family in Baltimore, was the only individual selected who works in Maryland and also the only individual from Baltimore.

“When I saw Essence magazine, I was overcome with emotion. Being included in a group of women of such courage, vision, and strength—many of whom have inspired and challenged me to use my voice to tell stories that matter, to build community, and to advocate for change—is an unbelievable honor,” Whitehead said. “Given that our nation and world does not always value the voices and distinctive leadership of Black women, I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to amplify the work that they are doing to bring about social justice, change, and equality. I certainly never thought that my research and writing and the work that I do in Baltimore, both in the community and on my radio show, would even be noticed at this level and in this way. I hope that my work is a powerful reminder to Black girls—and to anyone looking for encouragement—that even if the world does not see you or value you and your work; you must see yourself, you must value yourself, and you must use your voice, your talent, and your platform to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves. You must speak for the unforgotten because that is how we get better and that is how your work (and your life) can have a much greater impact than you could ever imagine.”

In addition to teaching at Loyola, Whitehead is the host of the award-winning radio show, Today with Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM, author of the bi-monthly column, “Dispatches from Baltimore” for the Afro newspaper, and the author of five books, including I Speak for the Unforgotten: Dispatches from Baltimore, due out in December 2019.

Whitehead is a sought-after expert and scholar on the ways race, class, and gender coalesce in American classrooms, as well as in political and social environments.

“We are excited that Dr. Whitehead's excellent work at Loyola and in the city of Baltimore is getting national attention,” said Amanda M. Thomas, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Dr. Whitehead is a person who puts our Jesuit mission at Loyola into action for the benefit of all people, working to advance the conversation—and inspire action with impact—around equity and inclusion.”

A separate, unrelated story on the arrival of the first Africans to America in the same November issue of Essence quotes Whitehead as saying, “We are the descendants of Black women, our foremothers, who chose to survive and go forward rather than go backward.”

Whitehead received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, her M.A. from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in International Peace Studies, her graduate degree in Advanced Documentary and Narrative Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy, and her B.A. from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.

Among her many other recognitions, Whitehead was also recently selected as one of the 2019 “25 Women to Watch” by the Baltimore Sun and the 2019 Collegium Visionary Award. “Today With Dr. Kaye” received the 2019 Associated Press Award for Outstanding Talk Show and the second place Award for Outstanding Editorial and Commentary.

Prior to her work in academia, Whitehead was a documentary filmmaker with MetroTV, a PBS-affiliate and a senior producer for Music Television Networks (MTV). She has been nominated three times for New York Emmy awards.

From 2013-2015, Whitehead was chosen as one of only four experts to participate in the White House's Black History Month Panel co-sponsored by President Obama and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History on topics ranging from the Emancipation Proclamation to the president’s policies on women and girls.

The Loyola community will celebrate this achievement with “Cupcakes with Kaye” from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in the center of the Loyola Quad. All are welcome.