March 1, 2021

In light of the recent protests and statements in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist organizing efforts, the College of Liberal Arts is highlighting how its courses incorporate issues related to Black Lives Matter. We will highlight one course each month.  You can view all of our courses here:

See the description below detailing how CLA faculty advance the anti-racist messaging of Black Lives Matter through assignments, readings, and pedagogical practices that affirm the lives, history, and culture of Black people across the globe. Descriptions fall into one of three categories—Long-Standing Practices, Recent Changes, and Future Plans—designed to demonstrate the ongoing nature of anti-racist efforts:

Instructor: Dr. Jeannette Acevedo Rivera  
Course: SPAN 310: Introduction to Literary Analysis 

In Spanish 310: Introduction to Literary Analysis I have always included a section on Afro-Caribbean poetry in which students have the opportunity to explore literary depictions of the experiences of Afro-descendants in Spanish-speaking islands. From Cuba, students read “Mujer negra” (“Black Woman”) by Nancy Morejón, a trans-historical account of a female-slave who narrates how after centuries she becomes part of the new country and participates in its national struggles (including the one for communism). The two examples from Puerto Rico that students analyze give them different perspectives of Afro-Caribbean lives that present the intersections of race and gender. In “Ay, ay, ay de la grifa negra” (“Cry of the Kinky Haired Girl”) Julia de Burgos celebrates the Black female body by exalting her hair, lips, and nose. The poet laments her grandfather’s fate of being a slave but confesses that she prefers that over the shame of him being the master. Meanwhile, Luis Palés Matos portrays in “Majestad negra” (“Black Majesty”) a celebration that evokes the Puerto Rican slave dance, the “bomba,” in which a Black queen is the center of attention. The gendered viewpoint of Palés Matos’s poetic voice allows for an interesting discussion about the fetishization of the Black female subject.   

To me, it is extremely important to expose students to these accounts of Black experiences in a course that gives them a panoramic view of the literature produced in Spanish-speaking countries. The majority of students in that class are Chicanxs/Latinxs who very rarely have learned about racial dynamics in the Caribbean or in the Spanish-speaking world as a whole. As they are now witnessing the appeals and struggles of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, it is essential that they have the tools to question colorism and racism in their own communities.