Bringing Black Joy and BIPOC History and Pop Culture into the Community College Classroom
Date & Time
Thursday, March 30, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

In this panel, Drs. RaShelle Peck and Jayashree Kamblé discuss ways to center Black and POC experiences in the classroom through the lens of wonder and positive emotions.

For Dr. Peck, one of our answers to Black precarity should be a commitment to abolitionist teaching that both upends power structures that disenfranchise students and grounds the classroom in the radical search for beauty, as such approaches create spaces of nurture that attend to Black suffering. When we intentionally build abolitionist classrooms that include notions of wonder, students can experience joy, freedom, and curiosity. Her presentation will cover how she incorporates wonder in the classroom through pedagogy, taking up Sylvia Wynter’s inquiry, but what does wonder do, to consider how classrooms can be abolitionist spaces. In assignments, she builds concepts of wonder into how students examine Black politics, Africana histories, and decolonizing philosophies. For example, she asks students to complete a project that centers imagination, creativity, and academic rigor, which accomplishes three things: pushes students to examine course readings thoroughly and comprehensively; has them produce reflections on readings that incorporate artistic elements; and has them envision themselves in conversation with the authors that students read and as a part of the historical events that are covered. Ultimately, she intends for such assignments to tap into the imaginative impulses that should be central to learning.

For Dr. Kamblé, while almost 90% of the students at LaGuardia Community College identify as BIPOC, they do not see their communities’ optimistic stories and histories in the curriculum. But teaching romance novels like Office Hours (2020) in the college’s English First Year Seminar has revealed that students perk up when they read about people falling in love—people they identify with and whose authors resemble them. With the support of a CUNY Black, Race, and Indigenous Studies Initiatives (BRESI) grant, she aims to infuse literature and writing courses with her research on the forgotten work(s) of BIPOC writers and editors in mass-market romance publishing. The classes can be further enlivened when she introduces LaGuardia students to obscured BIPOC contributions to popular American literary culture. She plans to design lessons and assignments that model how to counter such erasure. Sandra Kitt’s Color of Love (1995), for instance, pairs a Black heroine with a white NYPD officer; by reading it closely, students can examine themes of inter-racial love, policing, feminism, and New York in the 1980s, and also research Kitt’s road to publishing success. The goal is to keep LaGuardia’s English major and its Liberal Arts as well as Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offerings in step with our present moment, and prepare students for higher-level thinking on race and romance, whether in a Bachelor’s degree program after transfer or outside the academic classroom.

Location Name
C205 (C-Level)
Session Type