When I was a child, negative talk about being black was so common in media and society that I eventually became desensitized to it — I figured, “It is what it is,” and doubted attempts to publicize black beauty and empowerment, thinking it was up to the individual to move past or get over these negative perceptions. Fortunate to no longer feel that way, I was excited to see Emory University offering a course in “The Power of Black Self-Love” as part of their Interdisciplinary Exploration and Scholarship (IDEAS) program.
The course was created by Dianne Stewart and Donna Troka, adjunct assistant professor in Emory’s Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA) and associate director for the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE), exploring topics such as the influence of “Black Twitter” over the past decade, the impact of social media on the Black Lives Matter movement, and phenomenon of “Black Girl Magic.” They decided to co-teach the course after hearing their students’ experiences in their courses — Stewart’s “Black Love” and Troka’s “Resisting Racism.”
Troka recalls the discussions in class:
“These are some amazingly sharp students who have engaged in difficult — and sometimes vulnerable — conversations,” says Troka. “Many have had to learn to negotiate environments that were sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly against them, and are now thinking about it theoretically, culturally and personally.”
McKayla Williams, a student in the course, considered the “policing of blackness and the black experience,” as one of the greatest obstacles of self-love from both within and outside of the black community, the took the opportunity to interview students about their experiences and thoughts on what it means to be black and what they loved about it.
In the age of social media I find this is to be extremely important, as it’s so easy to dismiss another or lack empathy for someone without the same experience or opinion as the popular masses. Groupthink is often the norm on these channels, and a differing perspective can get one easily “dragged.”
To share the information introduced in the class and their final projects, presentations have been posted to Emory’s scholarblog website, and include several interviewee galleries, a Black Girl Magic gallery, Music of the Black Lives Matter Movement (featuring Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé), and more.
Presentation highlights are also on display outside the CFDE office, located on the second floor of the Robert W. Woodruff Library — the same floor as the library’s main entrance. I would have loved to observe some of these classes.
What do you think of the course, BGLH readers?