If you have been Black all of your life, why would you ever need to take a college course in Black self-love? Considering the history of Black people in America, you must acknowledge the culture of hatred from the establishment used to oppress and control an entire race of people.
Black folk live in a country that bombards them daily with the notion that the darker their skin, the less accepted and valued they are. The problem is so deep-seeded that Blacks have themselves become color-struck and impose these hateful standards upon one another.
The good news is that Dr. Dianne M. Stewart (Associate Professor of Religion and African-American Studies) and Dr. Donna Troka (Associate Director at The Center for Faculty Development and Excellence) have joined forces at Atlanta's Emory University to teach a course called "The Power of Black Self-Love" and we are here for it.
"The Power of Black Self-Love" is born from two courses taught by the good doctors: "Black Love" by Stewart and "Resisting Racism: From Civil Rights to Back Lives Matter" by Troka. According to the website, the purpose of the course is "...to raise awareness and bring attention to the power of Black (Self) Love amidst continued efforts at Black destruction through individual and structural anti-Black racism." The class environment encouraged student participation of all cultures and viewpoints. And discuss they did.
Through their own exploration of the world of public scholarship, students were challenged to be introspective, inquisitive, and honest about their findings. Topics examined included the impact of social media on Black culture and Black activism (think: Black Twitter, Black Lives Matter, and Black Girl Magic).
The culmination of their discussions, interviews, and research was manifested in very personal projects which examined ways Black self-love has been and can be demonstrated through acceptance of physical beauty, African culture, music, Black resistance, and even hair care for Black males. View all of the class projects here.
River Bunkley opted to explore the latter subject and found, "...self-love to be a resistive and revolutionary act for Black people in all spaces we occupy. For my project, I sought to address what self-love looks like for young Black men. And through my preliminary thoughts on Black men and self love, I realized that our hair is a huge form of self love. No matter where you look in the U.S. and no matter what type of hair we have, for Black men, our hair is something we take seriously and take a lot of pride in."
Gretel Nabeta, a Ugandan native, is a junior majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and Film. Her project examined how African cultures influence, promote, and empower women to self-love by interviewing fellow Emory students from East and West Africa (primarily Christian and Muslim faiths):
Both Stewart and Troka have found the experience to be a positive one. “I don’t know if I would have ever had the chance to teach with Dianne otherwise,” Troka says. “At times, I feel I learned more than I taught.” Stewart chimed in that, “I’ve never done anything like this before,” she says. “It’s been so rewarding, such a powerful experience. Rich conversations have emerged, and I really learned a lot about where students are and how much critical, revolutionary conversation is happening within social media around the topic of Black self-love.”
Clearly there is a need for more partnerships like these. Teaching Black self-love is an idea whose time has come.