Aminata Cairo

Aminata Cairo is an anthropologist, psychologist, educator, storyteller, and ‘love-worker’. She is an independent consultant ‘who works with people’. She is the former lecturer of Inclusive Education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and the former lecturer of Social Justice and Diversity in the Arts at the Amsterdam University of the Arts.

Born and raised in the Netherlands to Surinamese parents, Aminata left for the United States to pursue her college education, obtaining a Master’s Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Medical Anthropology, as well as a Ph.D. in the latter. As an international woman of colour, she experienced firsthand the challenges of diversity and inclusion. In her applied anthropological work with students, education and community organizations she has continually strived to promote inclusion at both the academic and the community level. In 2013, she received the International Education Faculty Achievement Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for her efforts. In 2016 she received the Honorary Order of the Palm, a state decoration by the Government of Suriname for her contribution to culture. She is particularly interested in using her academic, artistic and community skills to support, honour and celebrate the voices and stories unheard, overlooked, silenced and marginalized.

Aminata’s work is exemplified in her book, Holding Space: A Storytelling Approach to Trampling Diversity and Inclusion (2021). In Holding Space, she presents her own, unique vision in the promotion of inclusion that far surpasses the standard diversity and inclusion approach. She grounds her work in indigenous knowledge, the blues aesthetics, holy hip hop, the Caribbean, and black feminist theories. By utilizing storytelling, she engages her audience with the goal of creating a new and collective story. Her book presentation utilises readings, song, and dance to challenge the audience to take a closer look at themselves and each other, raising the question of what it really takes to collectively create an environment of equality and validation. Her message is that “It is about us, all of us”, as she forces us to feel, hear, and own that.

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