Maria Hamilton Abegunde

Maria Hamilton Abegunde

Post-Doctoral Fellow, University Graduate School

Founding Director, The Graduate Mentoring Center

Visiting Lecturer, African American and African Diaspora Studies

Affiliate, Gender Studies


  • Ph.D., Indiana University
  • M.A., Women’s and Gender Studies, DePaul University, 2009
  • B.A., English, Fiction Writing Concentration, Northwestern University, 1986


Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde is a Memory Keeper, poet, ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, healing facilitator, doula, and a Reiki Master. Her research and creative work are grounded in contemplative practices and respectfully approach the Earth and human bodies as sites of memory, and always with the understanding that memory never dies, is subversive, and can be recovered to transform transgenerational trauma and pain into peace and power.

She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including Wishful Thinking about the 2001 disappearance of Tionda and Diamond Bradley in Chicago. Anthologized poems are included in Gathering Ground, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century, and Catch the Fire. Her poetry has also been published in Tupelo Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, and Cogzine.

Excerpts of her memory work, The Ariran’s Last Life, have been published in Let Spirit Speak!, Warpland,  Best African American Fiction, and The Kenyon Review. Co-edited works include Jane’s Stories III with Glenda Bailey-Mershon with whom she and others co-founded Jane’s Stories Press.

Abegunde is a Cave Canem poetry fellow. She has also received writing fellowships from Sacatar, Ragdale, and Norcroft. Her awards for poetry include the New Discovery Award from the Poetry Center of Chicago and a COG poetry finalist award (Judge: Juan Felipe Herrera).

Her creative work and research was recognized through the NEH summer institute fellowship Black Aesthetics and African Centered Cultural Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion and Philosophy, under the directorship of Dr. Pellom McDaniels III and Paul Carter Harrison. Her book chapter “Seeing as a Ritual for a Good Death: The Spiritual Construction of Alain Gomis’ Film Tey” appears in Ashe: Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity (edited by Michael Harris, Paul Carter Harrison, and Pellom McDaniels III).

Because of her work on intergenerational/ancestral trauma, community healing, arts-based practices, she was invited to join faculty in the School of Education at the University of Juba, South Sudan to help create a two-year Master’s program in Teaching Emergencies.

In addition to teaching in AAADS, Abegunde is the founding director of The Graduate Mentoring Center in the University Graduate School.

Before coming to IU Abegunde worked in elementary school education for over 20 years and as an independent teaching artist. She was the lead team teacher for the Middle Passage Project and sailed from Puerto Rico to Brazil with Captain Bill Pinkney to retrace and teach about Middle Passage routes. She also served as poet and ritualist-in-residence for the UNESCO-Transatlantic Slave Trade Route-USA Project.

Selected Interviews

Selected Podcasts / Readings


Selected publications

  • Memory: Juba Four Years After Leaving (North Meridian Review, Winter 2020, pgs 147-166)
  • The Blackest, Most Fertile Midnight (Introduction)" in Too Much Midnight. Franklin, Krista. (Haymarket Press, 2020). 
  • Keeper of My Mothers’ Dreams: The Life Force of Healing. FIRE!!! Vol. 6, No. 2, September 2020 (Association for the Study of African American Life and History).
  • “Memory: Juba Four Years After Leaving.” (The North Meridian Review: A Journal of Culture and Scholarship, Vol. 1, Issue II. September 2020).
  • “If My Body Could Talk: Untitled”. Black Woman’s Body – Digital Puzzle Project (Fall 2020).
  • “Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba.” (The Massachusetts Review. Winter 2019. p706).
  • Untitled”: Out of Easy Reach – Ekphrastic Poems (Indiana Review, August 2018).

  • A Lectio Divina for Gwendolyn Brooks: Honoring the Ancestor, Contemplating Healing. Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. University of Illinois. (Winter 2018, Vol. 43, No 2.).
  • "‘We are Human’ ”: Using Contemplative Practice in a Black Studies Class after Philando Castile. Journal for Liberal Arts and Sciences. Oakland City University. (Fall 2017, Vol. 22, Issue 1). With Chare’A Smith, Ryan Lucas, and Moniel Sanders.
  • Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba, USA. (Excerpt). COG. Cogswell College. 2017.

  • "When the Past Becomes [the] Present: Remembering and Writing My Own Ancestral Past" (Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora, SUNY Press, 2012)

  • Bridges and Borders: Voices of Immigrant Women, Co-Editor (2011, Jane's Stories Press Foundation).

  • Black Diaspora Review, Guest Co-Editor (Spring 2011).

  • "Sankofa in Action: Creating a Plan That Works - Healing the Causes of Violence to Stop the Violence" (Black Diaspora Review, Spring 2011).

  • The Ariran's Last Life (excerpt, Best African American Fiction 2010).

  • The Ariran's Last Life (excerpt, 2008, The Kenyon Review).

  • Singleton, Giovanni, ed. Tell Them Arroyo Sent You. nocturnes 2: (re)view of the literary arts. Fall 2002. Oakland, CA: nocturnes. pgs. 58-64.

  • Wishful Thinking: Poetry Chapbook. (2003). Chicago, IL: Wild Dove Studio and Press.

  • Still Breathing: Poetry Chapbook. (1998). Louisville, KY: Chicago Spectrum Press.What is Now Unanswerable: Poetry Chapbook. (1994). Evanston, IL: Warrior Poets Press.

Selected commissioned poems and accompanying exhibitions

  • Ancestral Masquerades: Be/Coming. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Indianapolis, IN: Airport. Ancestral Masquerades Exhibit with LaShawnda Crowe Storm (ongoing).
  • Keeper of My Mothers’ Dreams. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. (November 2017-January 2018). Artist: Indianapolis, IN: Tube Factory/Big Car.
  • Ancestral Masquerades: Be/Coming. (Summer and Fall 2016). The Fabric of Emancipation. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Harlem Needle Arts. New York, NY: The Morris Jumel Mansion.
  • Collaborative Vision: The Poetic Dialogue Project: Be/Coming. (2009-2013). Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Curator: Beth Shadur. Chicago, IL: Chicago Cultural Center; Terra Haute, IN: Indiana State Museum; Muncie, IN: Ball State University; Chicago Heights, IL: Prairie State College.
  • “Creating Community, Movement, Foundations, Scholarship, Soul: 40 Years of Black Studies at Indiana University” (2010, Curator, Indiana University, Bloomington).

Selected awards and honors

  • 2017 COG Poetry Finalist Award - Invitational • Final Judge: Juan Felipe Herrera
  • 2017 Indiana Humanities/National Endowment for the Humanities – Humanities and the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity (2017)
  • 2016 Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar
  • 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities: Black Aesthetics and African Sacred Knowledge Systems Summer Institute

Professional Affiliations