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Lima-Neves challenges students to design course syllabus for Black women and hip-hop

Dr. Terza Lima-Neves, associate professor of Political Science Johnson C. Smith University

Charlotte, N.C. / November 22, 2019 - Dr. Terza Lima-Neves, associate professor of Political Science Johnson C. Smith University, took a different approach to teaching her hip-hop class, POL 491: Seminar on Black Women and Hip-Hop music. The course, intended to be a collaborative effort between students and the professor, is the first of its kind at JCSU.

“The students were grateful and humbled by how much they learned and it showed,” she said.

For the fall 2019 semester, students had just one assignment, to create the course syllabus. Paired in five groups, students explored the history, culture and significance of Black women in hip-hop and presented their research in front of an engaged audience of students, faculty and staff at James B. Duke Memorial Library November 21, 2019.

“I chose this pedagogical approach because of my philosophy as a student-centered professor,” she explained. 

While happy with the results of student presentations, this particular method of teaching was somewhat of a challenge for Lima-Neves.

“Sometimes I felt like I was in over my head,” she said. “It's important for the students to know that as a professor, I didn't have everything figured out and that I was also committed to being flexible and learning from them.”

The process allowed students to connect with hip-hop, learn about historical foundations of the culture and the significant contributions made by Black women in the US, Caribbean, Europe and Africa.

Lima-Neves, who is originally from Cabo Verde, used hip-hop as a way to connect to African American culture when she moved to the U.S. in 1989. She thought it was important for students to know the impact hip-hop has globally.

“As an African immigrant I didn’t know I was Black until I arrived in the U.S.,” she said. “It inspired me to always be connected to the people, to be proud of myself as a Black woman and now as a scholar activist.”

In addition, Dr. Lima-Neves connected students with North Carolina A&T State University Professor and hip hop expert, Dr. Antonia Randolph, who served as a powerful tool for research during the course.

Lima-Neves hopes that students take away a deeper appreciation for professors in the way they curate and design an entire semester of work, become more open to academic critique, as well as learning the complex and multilayered ways of conducting research beyond a simple Google search. 

“I wanted them to go through the journey of appreciating how much effort goes into designing and selecting the materials that go into a syllabus so that they could learn about the academic process from a different perspective.” 

Lima-Neves is committed to including non-traditional methods of teaching and learning in the classrooms, particularly through the work and words of hip-hop artists that initiated the conversation about race, gender, and feminism long before academia did.

Lima-Neves emphasized, “My favorite part of the presentations was watching my students bring all of the knowledge together and surrender themselves to this amazing culture that is called hip-hop, regardless of what they thought they knew about it.”

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