Dr. Robin J. Hayes

Black studies is for everybody. Storytelling can change communities: by opening our minds and uniting our hearts.

Filmmaker and Scholar speaking on media, race and education.

Because of her candor, breadth of expertise, and humorous delivery, Dr. Hayes is in-demand nationally and internationally for speaking engagements. Her lectures, trainings and filmmaker Q&As are valuable contributions for student/faculty orientations and workshops, diversity trainings as well as programming for Latinx Heritage Month and Black History Month. Dr. Hayes is an especially valuable resource for first generation college students and staff at progressive nonprofit organizations.


The Colors of Cuba

Screening of the award-winning documentary Black and Cuba followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Dr. Hayes.

Why Leadership Matters

A talk that shatters myths and encourages us to develop and embrace our innate leadership qualities.

Why Black Studies is for Everybody

An interactive lecture that reveals how expanding awareness of Black history and culture builds community and closes the empathy gap.

Media Making for Racial Justice

A fun empowering hands-on workshop that teaches the best practices for using everyday photography to create social change.


Cuba, "The Resistance" and Social Movements, African Americans in Film and Television, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, Race and Inequality


Dr. Robin J. Hayes is an award-winning filmmaker, scholar, interactive designer, and consultant. She is founder and Creative Director of Progressive Pupil, which "makes Black studies for everybody" by producing transformative learning experiences through a variety of media. Dr. Hayes also directed "Black and Cuba", the first documentary film to explore the relationship between African Americans and Cuba. The Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Independent Filmmaker Project have supported her work. Currently, she is directing and producing the documentary "Inside Exile," about Black Panther Party icon Kathleen Neal Cleaver; producing the play "9 GRAMS"; and developing the television series "Fortune Bay" based on the prize-winning novel "Land of Love and Drowning" by Caribbean author Tiphanie Yanique. A first generation college student, Dr. Hayes is an alum of St. George's School where she graduated at age 16 with help from the A Better Chance program. After studying at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she became the first person at Yale to earn a combined doctorate in African American Studies and Political Science. In between college and grad school, Dr. Hayes supervised a legal clinic for homeless families at the Urban Justice Center. She also travelled extensively throughout Central America and the Caribbean with the humanitarian organization (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace, which supports a "people's foreign policy" in the region. Dr. Hayes has held faculty positions at Yale, Williams, and Northwestern. Her hometowns are Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Awards and Honors

Best Film, Black International Cinema Festival Berlin

National Endowment for the Humanities and New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-In-Residence Fellowship

ADCO Foundation Grant

Ford Foundation Just Films Travel Fellowship
Ford Foundation Diversity Dissertation Fellowship


Recent Work

A Love for Liberation: African Independence and Black Power (2018)

9 GRAMS: the Play (2017)

Black and Cuba (documentary, 2015)

“Black and Cuba: Visualizing the Radical Caribbean”

in Migrating the Black Body  (with Julia Roth, 2017)

“‘We Must Discuss, We Must Invent’: Race, Filmmaking and Pedagogy ” in Black Camera (2015)

“The International Dimensions of Everyday Black Political Participation”

in Journal of African American Studies (with Christina Greer, 2013)


Dr. Hayes’ essays and commentary have appeared in the following outlets:

The AdvocateAllHipHop 

Amsterdam News • The Atlantic 

Booklist • Brooklyn Reader 

Colorlines  • Ebony 

Flavorwire Fox 5 News New York

Huffington Post • Hyperallergic  


NBCNews • Pix 11 News New York 

Shadow and Act Video Librarian

Village Voice • WBAI