Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures

Griot tree

Griot: A central figure in many West African cultures. Historically, the griot held many functions, including community historian, cultural critic, indigenous artist and collective spokesperson.

The Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures provides faculty and student intellectual and creative engagement with the interdisciplinary investigation of the cultures, histories, narratives, peoples, geographies and arts of Africa and the African diaspora.

Our mission statement at the Bucknell Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures is a collaborative enterprise devoted primarily to the interdisciplinary exploration of the aesthetic, artistic, and scholarly cultural products and intellectual currents of historical and contemporary Africana communities. The Griot Institute embraces narrative as a thematic and theoretical framework for its projects and programming.

Explore the Griot Institute further in the Griot Booklet linked below. 

Griot Booklet (pdf)
Carmen Gillespie

Remembering Carmen Gillespie

Many of us in the Bucknell community have been deeply affected by the loss of Carmen Gillespie, professor of English and director of the Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures. The outpouring of emotion on campus and beyond is a direct reflection of Carmen’s impact on her colleagues and students. 

All Bucknellians are warmly invited to join a celebration of Carmen’s life on Saturday, Sept. 28. The schedule of events is as follows:

  • 3-3:45 p.m. — Campus walk to various locations special to Carmen, beginning at Bucknell Hall, followed by the Grove, Seventh Street House, Vaughan Literature Building and the Edward Brawley statue. The walk will end at the uphill side of the ELC.
  • 4-4:30 p.m. — Drum performance with Soul in Motion on the uphill side of the ELC.
  • 4:40-6:45 p.m. — Speeches, readings and performances in the Terrace Room, 2nd floor ELC. As a tribute to Carmen's love of reading and flowers, guests are welcome to bring a bouquet of flowers and a book to exchange.
  • 6:45 p.m. (sundown) — Candlelight walk from the ELC to the Humanities Center (Hildreth-Mirza Hall).
  • 7-9 p.m. — Reception at the Humanities Center (Hildreth-Mirza Great Room).

Transportation assistance will be available for anyone unable to participate in the opening and closing walks. Please contact Professor Meenakshi Ponnuswami at if you would like to speak or perform at the memorial.

Student Activities

Additionally, students are invited to participate in a month-long series of arts events to honor Carmen. They include:

  • The Beat of Carmen's Heart: Drum Lessons
    Tuesday, Sept. 17, 5-7 p.m.,
    Hildreth-Mirza Great Room
  • In the Words of Carmen: Poetry Reading
    Thursday, Sept. 19, 5-7 p.m.,
    Bucknell Hall
  • The Art of Carmen's Life
    Thursday, Sept. 26, Noon-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.,
    Griot Institute, Hildreth-Mirza Hall
African dancers

Events & Series

Every year, the Griot Institute offers the Bucknell Community a series that focuses on a question or issue of concern central to Africana Studies.

Explore Griot events 

Martin Luther King Jr. Week

A weeklong celebration featuring​ ​lectures, discussions, community dinners and a charitable gift drive.

Get involved in MLK Week 

Griot Project Book Series

Consists of scholarly monographs and creative works devoted to the interdisciplinary exploration of African America.

Learn more about the series

Bucknell in the Caribbean

Study abroad with the Griot. Through readings, lectures, field trips, volunteer projects, attendance and participation in cultural performances, ethnographic interviews, as well as analytical reflections on their experiences, ​Bucknell in the Caribbean ​provides first-hand information about the literatures, histories, and cultures of the Caribbean.

Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures


Hildreth-Mirza Hall, Second Floor