African American Literature, I have found, encourages students to productively engage issues concerning race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and other socially constructed frameworks of difference, while learning critical thinking skills and honing their ability to write. Given the fragility of the contemporary moment in the United States and the polarity of these subject matters, I have developed an inclusive and collaborative teaching pedagogy, whereby we—as scholars, students, and citizens—can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for diversity of thought and experiences.
I view the classroom as a cooperative, discursive space, where I call upon students to examine not only the texts we read, but how they can use literature to make tangible contributions to society. When teaching African American literature and culture, I take advantage of the diverse sets of intersecting socio-cultural experiences my students bring to the classroom by asking them to consider how their background informs their access to and evaluation of literature. As an instructor, my goals are to teach my students critical thinking skills, literary analysis approaches, and research methodologies, while having them leave my class more aware of who they are and how they can make the world a better place by understanding and respecting others who may have different perspectives. As an instructor, I intentionally design courses with a variety of ways to meet students where they are, while challenging them to think more critically and encourage them to deal with delicate issues of structural difference.
HON 300: Watching the Wire: America’s Other Story
PAS 405/ENG 412: 20th & 21st Century Black Women Writers, Lincoln University
AAS 151: #BlackVoicesMatter: African American Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices, Continuing Education Online Course; University of Massachusetts
AAS 118: Survey of African American Literature II, Teaching Assistant; University of Massachusetts Amherst
AAS 117: Survey of African American Literature I, Teaching Assistant; University of Massachusetts Amherst
20th and 21st Century Black Women Writers
This course interrogates the thoughts, concerns, and words of Black women over the past century and a quarter. A variety of fiction and non-fiction readings by and about Black women will highlight the ways in which race, class, and gender combine intersect and complicate narratives of Blackness and femininity. Special attention will be paid to Black women as agents in their lives, Black women as thinkers and theorizers, and the various ways in which Black women in the US have reimagined our world.
#BlackVoicesMatter: African American Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Spring 2015)
In #blackvoicesmatter we will consider how the recent killings of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and other black and brown people fit into a larger social history and how African American writers have chosen to respond to enduring injustices. Using a course blog, social media and blackboard, we will critically engage fiction and nonfiction literature, paying close attention to how socio-economic and historical moments have impacted what African Americans write. Specifically, AFROAM 151 will trace how and why African American literature has responded culturally, politically and creatively using four snapshots in American history the late slave period, the New Negro renaissance, the civil rights movement, and the current urban & digital complex.
Black Romance in the Popular Imagination
Have you seen #BlackGirlsRock, #BlackBoyJoy, or #BlackGirlMagic floating around Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and pondered their significance? In this course we will use virtual and classroom space to critically engage how contemporary culture producers are re-imagining black love. Hashtags, memes, and GIFs are endemic of a wider effort to combat negativity being associated with people of color during this racially turbulent national moment. We will consider the utility of contemporary theoretical frameworks aimed at conceptualizing the present moment by applying them to novels, audiovisual albums, films, and poetry. This course specifically pulls from African American Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and English to glean a better cultural understanding on how African Americans are creatively envisioning love and romance in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Era. In addition to classroom lectures and discussions we will construct a shared blog, use specific twitter hashtags, and collect relevant real-time articles on Tumblr.
An optional, one credit, film course will accompany this course. We will view and discuss contemporary films concerning black romance, fictive kinship, familial dysfunction, and friendship.
Introduction to Africana Studies
This is an introductory course aimed at exploring the nuances and continuities of Africana Studies as an academic discipline; including, its genealogy, development, and future challenges. Introduction to Africana Studies uses history, literature, education, religion, and culture to consider to poly-vocal African Diasporic experiences. This course begins with the establishment of Black Studies as a discipline and ends with contemporary issues plaguing black people. The course surveys texts written by and about African-descended peoples in the Americas, particularly the United States, as well as the Caribbean, and Africa. We will also consider how members of the Diaspora remember and encounter Africa, and descendants of Africa have responded to enslavement, colonialism, apartheid, racism, and globalization.
Watching the Wire: America’s Other Story
HBO’s crime drama, The Wire (2002-2008) has been lauded as one of the most powerful television programs of all time for its ability to humanize the 1980s urban drug epidemic. Set in Baltimore “Murderland” and loosely based on real events, the show tackles the difficult subjects of urban blight, mass incarceration, the de-industrialization of America, the school to prison pipeline, and the corruption of state and local politics. The Wire blurs the line between history and fiction with stunningly impactful results.
While the show has often been considered for its merits as a sociological and anthropological masterpiece—this class will focus on the literary and cultural significance of this work in contemporary American storytelling. Specifically, students will study how the show employed historical events and real people to create iconic characters that would give voice to some of the biggest social issues in the contemporary moment. This class will approach social inequality through a lens of African American narrative depiction and students will learn how historical, economic, and political forces converge to tell powerful African American stories