New York City has been my home for nearly two decades, but I'm originally from Fargo, North Dakota and a proud graduate of Fargo North High School, a public institution of the highest order. I fell in love with philosophy way back then — largely because of Umberto Eco’s acclaimed mystery novel The Name of the Rose — and in my senior year I successfully lobbied my principal for a philosophy course, which was, I believe, a first for the school.

Having decided to study philosophy and genetics, I began my undergraduate work at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Shortly thereafter, I realized that philosophy was my true passion, and that I should focus exclusively on “the love of wisdom.” But what would my focus be?

While the other majors focused on things like the ontological status of numbers and the various arguments for the existence of God — all rich topics, to be sure — my interests were far more existential and political in nature. I wanted to explore issues like racial and sexual oppression, to say nothing of the ongoing struggle for human liberation. Somewhat adrift, I began working with J. Herman Blake, who directed the small African-American Studies Program. This would be a major turning point for me.

I soon realized that there is a profound intersection between philosophy and African-American studies, an intersection featuring any number of brilliant thinkers. And the more I read — from Alain Locke and Cornel West to Anna Julia Cooper and Angela Y. Davis — the more I wanted to pursue Africana philosophy as a graduate student.

That desire ultimately brought me to New York City and to the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, where I did my M.A. under the careful guidance of Manning Marable and Jim Murray, both of whom, I'm sorry to say, have passed on. In addition to conducting research for the Malcolm X and Africana Criminal Justice Projects, I completed a thesis titled “C.L.R. James and Religion.”

After graduation, I began teaching as an adjunct lecturer all over New York City — from Touro College to Boricua College, from LaGuardia Community College to the College of New Rochelle. I also began my doctoral work in philosophy at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, this required lots of commuting.

Why Temple University? Quite simply, because I wanted to work with Lewis R. Gordon, a philosopher whose work I'd admired since randomly finding a copy of his groundbreaking book Existentia Africana in the summer of 2000 — yet another major turning point for me. Under his supervision, I completed a dissertation titled “Man Is a Yes: Fanon, Liberation, and the Playful Politics of Philosophical Archaeology.”

Having taught at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for ten years, I'm now Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of New Haven, which is located in West Haven, Connecticut. Once again, I’m doing lots of commuting, but it’s worth it. As the only full-time philosopher on campus, I’m teaching the traditional course, developing some new ones — such as Philosophy of Race, Modernity and Liberation, and even Philosophy of Humor — and basically promoting philosopy as much as I can.

I'm married to Rosario Torres-Guevara, Associate Professor of Academic Literacy and Linguistics at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and I’m also Vice President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, whose motto, “Shifting the Geography of Reason,” I enthusiastically endorse.

© Douglas Ficek