GROUNDS is the story of 5 Black Professors at a 4 year PWI. A fictitious college and town in the rural south, which is the home of a predominately white 4 year college with students totaling 1700 with 15% of those self-identifying as students of color. 7% of those are Black. The story follows the lives of five Black professors. The only full time, tenure track Black lecturers who work at Morris & Wilkins University. It highlights the trials, obstacles, and joys of maintaining a Black existence within a white academic structure.

Elijah Augustus Wright (35 just recieved full tenure, Professor of Civil Engineering) Preacher’s kid, raised in the COGIC tradition. Elijah is a gay man, who has since turned his back on the religion he was raised in due to its beliefs about homosexuality. He attended Tuskegee for his undergrad and Georgia Tech for his Masters and PhD in Civil Engineering. He has a boyfriend, James, of 10 years who is a DJ and is mostly referred to as “Boyfriend”. He is a Kappa, pledged at Morehouse before finishing his undergrad at Tuskegee. He is not effeminate in his demeanor. Unless he told you, or you said something problematic and he had to correct you, you would never know he was gay. No one knows anything about his family and he never speaks of them in the present.

Parthenia Jacqueline Wiley-Reid (P.J.) (45 – Tenured Professor, Chair of African & African American Studies) Born and raised in Virginia in a middle class nuclear family. Her father was a mechanic who went back to school to become a professor, her mother a secretary. She became interested in Black history after a trip to Colonial Williamsburg with her fourth grade class. Undergrad at Clemson and received her Masters and PhD from Howard where she met her husband, Malcolm Reid, who also has a PhD in History. They have been happily married for 15 years and have two children together Amara, 13 and Omar, 8. He has a grown son, Marcus, from a previous relationship who has just found him after the untimely death of their mother. Malcolm took over his father’s construction business after his death ten years ago. PJ is a proud Delta, pledged at Howard, whose signature color is red.

Khai Muhammed Ali (30 Professor of Drug Design & Development) born and raised in California. His parents separated when he was young. His father is a Black Panther, who is still running community programs. He attended Cal Tech as pre-med, Loyola University for a graduate degree and finally PhD in Biochemistry at UC Irvine in order to be closer to his aging mother. After her passing he secured a job looking for a small, quiet community. He engineers his own strains of cannabis as part of his research into medical cannabis solutions for medical problems facing the Black community. Which also means he is the supplier for a select group of professors. He does not charge them but uses them as test subjects for the effects of the product he grows. His research is privately funded by a Black benefactor, who he cannot ever reveal. He was raised Muslim and continues that practice faithfully. He is never seen without a Kufi, a dashiki or some sort of kente cloth on. He knows that because of his father, his research, and his boldness he is probably being watched by the government.

Ivan Wilson (48 Professor 17th Century Russian Literature) Born and raised in Washington, D.C. Found a love for Russian poetry during an enrichment program at his middle school with a visiting Russian poet. He obtained his undergrad degree at Howard, on full scholarship, and went on to study at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow earning a Master’s and PhD of Russian and Comparative Literature. He also met and married his wife Elena Tikhanov there, who then immigrated back to the US with him. She is an elementary school art teacher. Ivan is an Alpha, pledged at Howard. They have no children. Ivan is afraid the government is watching him because of his “ties” to “mother Russia”.

Kwasi Adofo Sika (37 Professor of History of Jazz & History of Recorded Music) Born in Ghana. His parents immigrated to the UK when he was 4 yrs old. He has a predominantly British accent, but slips into Ghanaian when appropriate. He is a tenured professor with a PhD in Ethnomusicology. His research is based in the African influences within hip hop. He studied at Oxford and Berkley. Although he ingests hip hop for his work, his musical tastes include English punk bands and most notably The Beatles. His father is a doctor and his mother was a housewife to their five children. He has four younger sisters. He is a Master Mason.

“When you’re hired at one of these institutions, they want diversity, but not difference.”

T. J. Tallie, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of African History and Story Consultant
Author of Queering Colonial Natal: Indigeneity and the Violence of Belonging