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Posted under: News Race & Identity

Emory University is offering students a course in "The Power of Black Self-Love"

“Black people are more than the expectations that are put on them,” says first year student, McKayla Williams.

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Photo: Aiyanna Sanders

It's exhausting being black.

I'm sure it's tiring being a human in general, but the struggles we encounter on a daily basis (from both black and non-black communities) while being black is unmatched. Cultural expectations such as thinking and speaking and acting a certain way are required. Stereotypes like how athletic one should be or a requirement to prefer certain kinds of music become expectations we put on ourselves. By doing so, are we giving ourselves a chance to get to know and even love the real us, not the person society has told us to be? 

Emory University in Atlanta, GA is offering a new course the remind its students that self-love is key. "The Power of Black Self-Love" is taught by 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. 

The class was designed to explore overlapping areas of two courses: "Black Love" taught by Stewart, and "Resisting Racism: From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter," taught by Troka. The course drew students from both classes who studied theories of black love and the histories of black social movements. The class was an invitation for students of all cultures to dip deeper and investigate the topic through their own research while analyzing the world of public scholarship through a personal lens. Class discussions and delved into topics such as the influence of Black Twitter over the last decade, the impact of social media on the Black Lives Matter movement and the phenomenon of Black Girl Magic, one of my favorite hashtags used to celebrate the empowerment of black women.

For their final research projects, they were asked to showcase ways that black self-love can serve as an act of resistance, embodying transformative power. The final projects turned out to be personal yet necessary. A few of the stunning projects included the following:


Photo: Aiyanna Sanders

"Black Girl Magic" by Aiyanna Sanders, a sophomore in political science and African American studies. She wanted to explore what exactly #BlackGirlMagic looked like on Emory's campus. Check out the photo gallery here.


Photo: Gretel Nabeta

Gretel Nabeta, a junior in interdisciplinary studies and film who is from Uganda, was inspired to examine how African cultures influence and promote self-love and the empowerment of women. She interviewed Emory students with backgrounds from West and East Africa. Watch the full video here.

Photo: Billie Holiday-Strange Fruit (recorded in 1939) 2001 Proper Records Ltd.

Shameya Pennell, a senior majoring in religion and anthropology, examined the effect music had on three major sociopolitical movements in black American history: the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Power Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Check out the project here.

Photo: River Bunkey

River Bunkey's project, "Fades, Waves, and Do-rags: How WE Love," explored what self-love means for black men, and how hair care is an important part of that. It touches on self-expression, self-preservation and black masculinity. Check out the project here

Both Dr. Stewart and Dr. Troka admitted that co-teaching this particular course has been an enlightening and rewarding experience for them as well. According to Dr. Stewart, “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.”

To see the rest of the final projects, visit their scholar blog.

This is great work! Congrats to everyone involved and keep it up! 


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