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Anthropology PhD alumnus Aminata Cairo wins LTJ award

Born and raised in the Netherlands to Surinamese immigrants, Aminata Cairo came to the United States to pursue a college education. She obtained a Bachelor's in Psychology and a Bachelor's in Physical Education from Berea College, a Master's in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University, and a Master's and Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the University of Kentucky. Her goal is to use her academic skills to positively impact communities.

Dr. Cairo has done extensive community work in the United States, the Netherlands, Suriname, and Ghana. She founded her own multi-cultural dance company called Sabi Diri in Kentucky and performed across the United States and Suriname. As a professor, she committed herself to uplifting students and promoting their sense of commitment to the broader community. While at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Cairo brought students to Suriname and Ghana. For this, she received the International Education Faculty Achievement Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. She is also the only scholar to have written about traditional Afro-Surinamese dance and even received a Fulbright Fellowship to pursue this research. In 2016, Dr. Cairo also received the Honorary Order of the Palm, a state decoration by the Government of Suriname for her contribution in culture. In 2017, she became the first and only lector of African descent in the applied university system in the Netherlands, focusing on inclusive education. 

She is also a sought-after speaker and consultant on diversity and inclusion issues in education and beyond. In July 2022, she will be featured as a speaker at the Kentucky Humanities’ 50th Anniversary in Louisville. She sustains that her work is always grounded in the spiritual and cultural traditions of her Native American godmother and her Surinamese heritage.