Students at Emory University were more than intrigued when "The Power Of Black Self-Love" popped up in their schedule of classes this past semester. It's definitely eye catching and with all that's going on in the world, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, it was a necessity for many that enrolled. But what were they getting into? Was it going to be an easy credit to earn? Of course students wanted the grade, but what many of them found by the end was more important than many of their other classes could've given them.
Dianne Stewart and Donna Troka, adjunct assistant professor in Emory’s Institute for the Liberal Arts and associate director for the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, teamed up and and designed their class to touch on two key factors. Stewart would be taking on the "Black Love" portion, while Tonka would handle "Resisting Racism." Pulling from one another and finding support in each topic, they wanted their students to dive deeper into these ideas, and draw their own conclusions via conversation and research.
Of course those just hearing of the class who've never been in the classroom would wonder about the curriculum. It's all very modern. Instead of repeating the history lessons of third grade and spending a lengthy amount of time on the Bus Boycotts and Civil Rights Movement, they found themselves going over the influence Black Twitter has had on the world, social media in general and its effect on the Black Lives Matter movement and the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic.
Stewart noted to the University, “So many of these issues compel an exploration of black people’s history with love and lovelessness in North America. The challenges racial justice activists confront today mirror the obstacles activists faced during the U.S. civil rights movement and earlier periods. Across such movements, the emphasis on love, or the lack thereof, deserves interrogation and reflection," adding, "As I tell my students, a lot of people in my field who work on black religious thought don’t give a lot of attention to love. I thought that at a time when the humanities at many universities are being required to prove their worth, to return to an examination of love would be an important exercise — particularly love and the African American experience.”
One of the students taking the class did live off that religious thought Stewart mentioned. McKayla Williams grew up on the West Coast in a very white area, and her black identity mostly revolved around her family and church, but her beliefs weren't why she enrolled. She said, "Currently, my greatest obstacle to self-love is the ‘policing’ of blackness and the black experience." After the semester ended, Williams felt that her way of thinking was not only challenged, but had expanded as she interviewed peers about the idea of "policing" of blackness and "things that black people love about themselves."
Williams, along with the rest of her classmates, found a lot of personal growth when it came to their final projects - which were all about articulating Black Self-Love. The projects varied from the importance of hair care to social media's influence on black youths to the black feminist poet Audre Lorde.
There are a lot of colleges that offer PAN African Study classes, but in my personal experience that usually means a black professor. It was more about the perspective than the actual culture and that's why those differ greatly from the class presented by Emory University. Classes like this are important because in a world where assimilation is common, it can be easy to forget your culture and the importance of loving who you are.