After a call from BME students and activists to ‘decolonise’ university curriculums, the University of Hertfordshire have introduced a Black Lives Matter module. The module, available to study as part of the university’s MA programme, will engage topics such as identity, violence, politics, love and queerness. ‘US Culture and #BlackLives Matter’ will also explore the impact of social media as a means to organise protest and raise awareness about racial and social issues.
Christopher Lloyd, Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Hertfordshire said: “This module is significant because learning about black culture, rights and social justice is vital to our understanding of the contemporary world. The University is committed to both international perspectives and addressing the BME attainment gap in higher education. We see this module as part of that larger project.”
Dr Lloyd further added, “We want to put blackness and racial identity at the forefront and we want to attract more BME students. We hope it will encourage some of our undergraduate students to come back as it speaks to their identity.”
The Black Lives Matter module will include the study of several influential African American artists, including Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’. Ground breaking films Get Out, 13th and award-winning Moonlight will also be studied in the course.
Iconic black authors like Colson Whitehead are on the reading list, with Pelitzer Prize winning book ‘The Underground Railroad’ named as a key text for the module. Furthermore, graphic novel Black Panther is also a core component of the module, with its adaptation into a record-breaking marvel blockbuster and the effects of its success being analysed for their significance to current black politics.
The module has been celebrated for encouraging Black students to remain in higher education by engaging with relevant political issues, as Black students are 50% more likely to drop out of university than White or Asian students.
Black Lives Matter began in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of 17-year-old Florida-born Traynon Martin. The social movement began as a hashtag on social media, quickly developing into an international cause pursuing racial justice for black citizens across the globe. Celebrities and politicians alike have come out in support of the cause, with key names including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, basketball player Carmelo Anthony, Drake, Lebron James and Serena Williams, just to name a few.
Methods of protest range from rallying supporters for street marches to educating the public on racial issues via art exhibitions, literature and keynote speeches. Students will be able to study the ‘US Culture and #BlackLivesMatter’ module at The University of Hertfordshire’s from September 2018 onwards.