Dr. Monique Guillory has been busy for the last few years. As deputy chief of staff for Jackson State University President Ronald Mason since 2000, the 34-year-old New Orleanian met myriad goals: the restoration of Gibbs-Green Week at Jackson State, commemorating two young men killed on campus by police in 1970; starting the President's Newsletter that keeps 35,000 alumni up-to-date; strategic planning for the university's Millennium Agenda; and writing a grant to fund a collaborative education project. And two years ago her son Julien was born. "The French spelling," she explained. "It's those Louisiana roots."
Now she's changed jobs. Guillory, who received her undergraduate degree from Tulane University in English and Rhetorical Communication and a doctorate from New York University in Comparative Literature Specializing in Literatures of the African Diaspora, is heading up the Mississippi Learning Institute. Funded through 2008, the Institute involves Jackson State, four Jackson Public schools (Isabelle and George Elementary Schools, Blackburn Middle School and Jim Hill High School) and the Mississippi Department of Education.
Right now, the institute is focusing on training teachers in the latest research on literacy and reading instruction, either in their own buildings or at the university's e-Center on Raymond Road. Over 60 percent of the district's teachers and administrators attended the university at some point. These efforts plus the creation of a K-16 lab school in the JSU community, will, Guillory said, create a seamless continuity in a child's education.
As we spoke in the kitchen of Jackson State's Guest House, Guillory explained her most recent project. Four years ago, when she became aware of the collection of photographs and postcards of lynchings across America that has become known as "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America," she approached Dr. Mason with the idea of Jackson State's bringing the exhibit to the capital city, its first appearance in the state.
"I was just sick," Guillory quietly said, staring straight ahead as she remembered first seeing the horror on her computer screen after following a link to WithoutSanctuary.com she got in a mass e-mail not too long after the vote on the Mississippi state flag. There's also a forum on the Web site where people can record their reactions to the collection. "I kept going back every few days to look at the forum … they're fascinating to read."
About the exhibit, Guillory said, "Ultimately I think it will be a beautiful tribute to these people, their very tragic and horrific deaths … hundreds of thousands have had an opportunity to grieve for them, to mourn for them."
— Lynette Hanson
"Without Sanctuary" opens Friday, Jan. 30.