Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest

*Note: The syllabus below is from Fall 2015.

An updated syllabus, from Fall 2016, is available at this link.

Frank Leon Roberts

Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest
New York University
Fall 2015
Thursdays 6:20-9pm
527 1 Washington Place

Frank Leon Roberts
Fall 2015 Office Hours: (By Appointment Only)
Thursdays 1:00-3:00pm, 9:00pm-10:00pm
Contact: Frank.Roberts@Yale.Edu

#BlackLivesMatterSyllabus
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From the killings of teenagers Michael Brown and Vonderrick Myers in Ferguson, Missouri; to the suspicious death of activist Sandra Bland in Waller Texas; to the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York, to the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida and 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit, Michigan—-#blacklivesmatter has emerged in recent years as a movement committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against black and brown bodies.
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This interdisciplinary seminar links the #blacklivesmatter” movement to four broader phenomena: 1) the rise of the U.S. prison industrial complex and its relationship to the increasing militarization of inner city communities 2) the role of the media industry in influencing national conversations about race and racism and 3) the state of racial justice activism in the context of a neoliberal Obama Presidency and 4) the increasingly populist nature of decentralized protest movements in the contemporary United States.
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In this course we will be mindful of an important distinction between #blacklivesmatter (as an emergent movement that has come into existence within roughly the past two yeaars) vs. a much older and broader U.S. movement for black lives that has been in existence for several centuries (which can be traced back to at least the first slave uprisings in the antebellum south). Part of our goal then, we be to think about how the former has been influenced by the latter and to what ends.
Among the many topics of discussion that we will debate and engage this semester will include: the moral ethics of black rage and riotous forms of protest; violent vs. nonviolent civil disobedience; the hyberbolic media myth of “black on black” crime; coalitional politics and the black feminist and LGBTQ underpinnings of the #blacklivesmatter movement; the similarities and differences between the blacklivesmatter movement and the U.S. civil rights movement; and the dynamics of political protest among the millennial and post-millennial generations.
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Among the texts that we are likely to engage this semester include Cornel West’s Democracy Matters; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow; Angela Davis’s Are Prisons Obsolete? Osaygefo Sekou’s Gods, Gays, and Guns; and Assata Shakur’s autobiography Assata, among others. Our reading material will also be supplemented by a variety of guest speakers and media activists who have played important roles in the blacklivesmatter movement and in the movement for black lives.
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A Note on the Syllabus:
You should approach this syllabus as a jazz composition—meaning there must be a willingness and expectation of improvisation. Like a jazz musician, we will occasionally rift, edit, and “trouble” the composition as needed. Any changes to the syllabus will be announced in a timely fashion.
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Required Texts:
1. Cornel West, Democracy Matters: Winning the War Against Imperialism
2. Cornel West, Black Prophetic Fire
3. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness
4. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
5. Osagyefo Sekou, Gods, Gays, and Guns
6. Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?
7. Assata Shakur, Assata
8. Assorted Essays by Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Jayne Cortez, James Cone, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Op-Eds by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometti, Black Lives Matter, and more.

Required Viewing:
(All available at blacklivesmattersyllabus.com)

1. Alicia Garza. RadTalk.#LawForBlackLives Conference. August 1, 2015. Web.
2. Umi Selah. RadTalk. #LawForBlackLives Conference. August 1, 2015. Web.
3. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Rev. Sekou, et. al. “The State of Our Movements.” #LawForBlackLives Conference. August 1, 2015. Web.
4. Traci Blackmon, Rosa A. Clemente, Nyle Fort, Michael L. Pfleger, et.al. “Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks,” Riverside Church. February 20, 2015. Web.
5. Kiese Laymon, Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, Brittney Cooper, Nyle Fort, Imani Henry and Frank Leon Roberts. “The Fire This Time: Ferguson and the Future of Race in America.” New York University Center For Multicultural Education and Programming, December 10, 2015. Web
6. Ashley Yates, Dante Barry, Philip Agnew, Cherrell Brown and Mychael Smith. “American Policing: Lessons on Resistance.” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. February 18, 2015. Web.
7. Alicia Garza, “What Are Black Lives Matters Demands.” MSNBC Interview. August 2015. Web.
8. MSNBC Originals. “Queerness on the Frontlines of Black Lives Matter.” MSNBC Network. 2/19/15. Web.
9. Democracy Now. “Assata Shakur Speaks.” DemocracyNow. May 2, 2013. Web.
10. Women’s ENews, “#SayHerName Calls for Gender Inclusive Movement to End State Violence.” May 20, 2015. Web.

Weekly Topics

9/10 Black Lives Matter and the Remaking of American Democracy
9/17 We The Protestors: The Demands
9/24 Freedom After Ferguson: The State of the Movement
10/1 Shut It Down: On The Ethics of Black Rage
10/8 Writing Contemporary Black Lives
10/15 The Prison Industrial Complex and the Movement for Black Lives
10/22 The Prison Industrial Complex and the Movement for Black Lives
10/29 Black Lives Matter’s Theology of Liberation
11/5 But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Lives Matter’s Queer Critiques
11/12 #SayHerName: Black Women, Intersectionality and Black Feminist Critique
11/19 #SayHerName: Black Women, Intersectionality and Black Feminist Critique
12/3 Towards an Ethics of Black Freedom, Joy, and Survival
12/10 It Is Our Duty To Fight for Freedom: Black Political Prisoners and the Legacies of Assata Shakur

Weekly Schedule:

  • 9/3 Overview
    Watch:
    o #LawForBlackLives Conference Footage Clips:
    o Umi Selah, 2015 RadTalk, #LawForBlackLives Conference at Riverside Church
    o Alicia Garza, 2015 RadTalk, #LawforBlackLives Conference at Riverside Church

Special Guest: Dr. Cornel West

  • 9/17 We The Protestors: The Demands
    Read:
  • Ferguson Action, “Our Vision for a New America.”
    http://fergusonaction.com/demands/
  • We The Protestors, “The Demands”
    http://www.wetheprotesters.org/demands/
  • Deray McKesson, Brittney Packnett, Johnetta Elzie and Samuel Sinyangwe, “The Problem” and “Policy Solutions,”
    http://www.joincampaignzero.org/
  • George Yancy and Judith Butler, “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter” (The New York Times)
  •  Watch:
    Alicia Garza, “What Are Black Lives Matters Demands?” (MSNBC Interview)

Special Guest: Deray McKesson


9/24 Freedom After Ferguson: The State of the Movement(s)

Read:
o Alicia Garza, “A Herstory of Black Lives Matter” (The Feminist Wire)
o Patrisse Cullors, “#BlackLivesMatter Will Continue to Disrupt the Political Process.” (Washington Post)
o Danielle C. Belton. “The 5 Biggest Challenges Facing #BlackLivesMatter.” (The Root)
o Frank Roberts, “UptownMagazine–A Vision for Black America” Uptown Magazine, Dec 2014.

Special Guest: Darnell Moore, Black Lives Matter New York City

 

 

  • Watch:
    “State of Our Movements” (with Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Rev. Sekou, et. al). Law for Black Lives Conference Panel, Friday, July 31, 2015. Riverside Church.

10/1 Shut It Down: Baltimore, Ferguson and The Ethics of Black Rage

 

  • Watch:
    o Lauryn Hill, “Black Rage”

10/8 Writing Contemporary Black Lives

  • Read:
    o Cornel West, Democracy Matters (finish text)
    o Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

10/15 The Prison Industrial Complex and the Movement for Black Lives

  • Read:
    Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

10/22 The Prison Industrial Complex and the Movement for Black Lives: Prison Reform or Prison Abolition?

  • Read:
    o Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?
    o “The Abolitionist Toolkit,” (CriticalResistance.com)
  •  Watch:
    American Policing: Lessons on Resistance, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Panel (Ashley Yates, Dante Barry, Philip Agnew and Cherrell Brown). February 18, 2015.

10/29 The Liberation Theologies of Black Lives Matter

  • Read:
    o Osagyefo Sekou, Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy
    o ————–, The Gospel Is Not A Neutral Term: An Interview With Rev. Sekou, Theology of Ferguson, 24 Oct, 2014.
  • Strongly Recommended:
    James Cone, Chapter 1, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree in Black Experience” in The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

o Recommended Viewing:
“Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks,” Riverside Church, February 20, 2015.

Special Guest: Osagyfeo Sekou

11/05 But Some of Us Are Brave: The Movement for Black Lives’s LGBTQ Politics

  • Read:
    o Emma Margolin, “Which #BlackLivesMatter? The killings no one’s talking about.” MSNBC.com. 07/21/15
    o Darnell Moore, “Black Freedom Fighters in Ferguson: Some of us are queer.” The Feminist Wire. October 17, 2014.
  • Watch:
    “Queerness on the Frontlines of Ferguson.” MSNBC Original.

Special Guest: Michael Roberson, Center for Religion and Economic Democracy

11/12 #SayHerName: Black Women, Intersectionality and Black Feminist Critique

Read: Short Readings (Less than 150 pages total)

  • o Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival,”(Poem) “Who Said It Was Simple” (Poem)
    o Audre Lorde, “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House,” “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” and “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action” in Sister Outsider
    o Jayne Cortex, “There It Is” (Poem)
    o Kimberle Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics”

11/19 #SayHerName: Black Women, Intersectionality and Black Feminist Critique
Read:

  • African American Policy Forum, “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.”

Watch:

  • Darnell L. Moore, “I don’t want to die.”(Shantel Davis). “Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks,” Riverside Church, February 20, 2015.
    Aja Monet, “Word Warriors”

12/3 Towards an Ethics of Black Freedom, Joy, and Survival

  • Read:
    o Robin Kelley, “Keeping It Surreal: Dreams of the Marvelous” in Freedom Dreams
    o Robin Kelley, “Foreword,” and Angela Davis, “The Meaning of Freedom” in  The Meaning of Freedom
    o Javon Johnson, “Black Joy in the Time of Ferguson,” QED, Volume 2, Number 2, Summer 2015, pp. 177-183
    o Gina Dent, “Introduction: Black Pleasure, Black Joy” in Black Popular Culture
    o Toni Morrison, Beloved (Short Excerpt: Baby Suggs’s sermon in the clearing)

12/10 It Is Our Duty To Fight for Freedom: Black Political Prisoners and the Legacies of Assata Shakur

  • Read:
    Assata Shakur, Assata
  • Watch:
    Democracy Now. “Assata Shakur Speaks.” DemocracyNow. May 2, 2013. Web.