Some would say Morehouse College consists of a homogeneous demographic though it regularly boasts of having an aura of diversity that is often ignored from the outside looking in. This realization of diversity has taken new form as the gay/straight alliance and student advocacy group, SafeSpace, through the hard work of Dr. Michael Hodge of the sociology department, has officially received the green light to launch a special topics course on Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history and culture to be offered for credit Spring 2013.
The idea came to fruition when SafeSpace’s Special Project and Events Coordinator Marcus Lee partnered with Yale University professor Dr. Jafari S. Allen to pitch the project. Allen focuses on the intersections of queer sexuality, gender and blackness.
“He’s very interested in gender non-conformity among people of color, and I’m interested in that as well,” Lee said. “I told him that I don’t have much direction here at Morehouse because many of the professors whose focus is on sexuality often focus on diseases and not really cultural critique. So he recommended that he teach a class via Skype.”
Both well versed and experienced in the field of sexuality and gender expression, Dr. Allen currently teaches courses on the cultural politics of race, sexuality and gender within Black Diasporas and has authored various publications, including “Crucial Palimpsest: Re-Reading Brother to Brother” and currently “Black Queer Here and There: The Social Poesis of Diaspora” (tentatively titled).
Fixed to extend his expertise to the students of Morehouse College, Allen is sure to make a mark and set quite a high standard of excellence through his course.
“What you call ‘human rights advocacy’ is for me just trying to be a responsible person in the world to point out and perhaps, in some cases, also to attempt to help to fix injustices,” Allen said. “While this may be controversial in some academic settings where there is the pretension of a kind of non-political educational project, this has never been the case for Morehouse or for any historically Black institution. So, it is essential for Morehouse students, faculty, administrators and alumni to engage [in] this conversation.”
Having this course is due to Hodge, the Chair of the Morehouse College sociology department. Academic departments often offer special elective courses, such as this, to “allow the department to trial-run a course to strengthen the learning outcomes, judge student interest and clean up any loose ends before submitting it to the official committee for curriculum.” Based on Allen’s syllabus and learning outcomes, the course was approved by the division Dean Dr. Clarissa Myrick-Harris and faculty of the department.
The class has also been cross listed by the African American studies department.
The course is expected to outline various key concepts in Black feminism and critical cultural theory and methodology. Described as “an interdisciplinary survey of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) culture and politics” in the course’s syllabus, the class will serve as an in-depth look into critical, social and cultural theory that will vastly benefit the Morehouse community.
SafeSpace’s Public Relations Director Ja’Mal Lewis believes that this course will finally shine light on the LGBT figures that have been overlooked throughout history.
“Many influential LGBT leaders have gone unrecorded due to their sexuality, and they made many of the movements that changed and shaped our history,” Lewis said.
SafeSpace’s President,KennethPass, has one ultimate goal in mind for the course.
“We’re not here to make people feel comfortable, we’re here to make people think and this course will foster a much needed discussion about the Black experience through an LGBT lens here within Morehouse’s walls,” Pass commented.
Dr. Allen is working to make this not just a worthwhile educational experience, but also, more broadly, one that will allow growth and expressional, educated freedom.
“I want students to be open and engaged in reading closely, generously, and with what Gramsci called something like ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,’” Allen said. “That is, to relentlessly question and never settle for a just-so story or interpretation that suggests, for example, that any knowledge is innocent of the author’s own motives, background or the times in which s/he lived … This is my general commitment as a pedagogue.”
The course (History and Culture of Black LGBT, HSOC 300, CRN: 45022) is open for registration under the sociology department on Tigernet. It will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:50 P.M. to 5:05 P.M.