What Was A263?

A263 – Contemporary Social Issues in the African American Community is a Black Studies course. I have taught this class since 2014. Black Studies centers the needs and suggestions of Black people and the communities in which they live. With this basic tenet, I always invite students to contemplate their relationship to our topic, and where they enter the narratives about which they are learning. In some cases, these stories have been hidden, silenced, erased, denied. In other cases, as many would find out, they have been shared by families between generations. 

The purpose of A263 is to introduce students to contemporary social issues that impact Black people in the United States and in the African Diaspora. Because contemporary social issues are grounded in historical and political events, the class is a great way to connect 19th and 20thcentury history with 21st century experiences. 

I have taught this class through many formats and with various texts, each focusing on one or several social issues; and each time keeping in mind what is most urgent in the world for students and Black communities. For the fall 2022 semester, I wanted to teach with and through an element that everyone in the world needs for life and to live; something that could nourish and destroy us; something that no one “owned” but many commodified: Water. 

Some students were surprised that we were not focusing on topics such as police brutality or Black Lives Matter.  However, within the first few weeks, everyone realized that we would get to these issues and more through our focus on water. For example, we talked about the concept and practice of a Jim Crow swimming pool and beach to try to understand how the flow of water could be stopped and separated to keep Blacks and whites segregated.

Over a 16-week period, we worked together as a community to learn with and teach each other. You can access an excerpt of our syllabus here. Removed are the sections that would be specific to your university such as: mental health resources, attendance and grading policies, and campus research resources.

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