JCSU offers nationally recognized hip-hop course focused on Black feminism

Charlotte, N.C. / March 23, 2021 – A new course gaining national attention is now being taught at Johnson C. Smith University. Rapsody’s “Eve” and Hip-Hop Feminist Literature is taught by visiting professor Dr. Tyler Bunzey, a UNC-Chapel Hill African American literature and hip-hop teacher. 

The course is inspired by Grammy nominated rapper and North Carolina native, Rapsody, and her 2019 critically acclaimed album, “Eve.” The course looks at various themes of Black womanhood and hip-hop, and then uses those themes to understand various histories of Black women's articulation of self in the U.S. through movements like Black feminism, womanism and hip-hop feminism.

“There's a way in which we think, write and teach hip-hop culture. Gender is a unit that we often teach, but very rarely do we provide extended meditations for students to engage with gender and hip-hop,” Bunzey said. “Gender is so important to understanding hip-hop, it's a discourse and a gateway of power for a lot of MCs. It determines who gets on what list, who gets what awards. It has even determined who gets access to certain technologies and spaces.” 

The course, which Bunzey developed and launched at UNC-Chapel Hill fall 2020, is in its inaugural semester at JCSU, and students are excited. 

“I think the most exciting part is the guest speakers that we've been having,” said business administration student Demontre Moon ‘21. “I also like the music that we are listening to and the reading. It allows you to not only learn about the artists, but different movements within hip-hop culture.”  

Some of the most notable guest speakers have included rappers Rah Digga and Sa-Roc, and music and pop culture journalist Taylor Crumpton. “My favorite guest was Taylor Crumpton,” communication arts student Nadia Johnson ’22 added. “But the best part of the course is album review, which we’re doing now.”

Bunzey explained his course is unique because not only does it focus on hip-hop feminism, but also hip-hop feminist literature. “Students are engaging with a longer history of Black women's discourse throughout multiple centuries. I have assigned readings dating back to the 19th century.”

In addition, the course raises awareness about the current political climate in America. As a white male and professor of cultural studies, Bunzey recognizes the importance of addressing current issues as they relate to America today. 

“Because of my identity, I am very wary and very careful to try to avoid the traditions of white academics, when discussing and talking about Black culture and teaching Black culture. Primarily through colonial lenses, it is purported that Black culture is something to be examined from afar and that expertise can be garnered through book knowledge, which is simply not true. This reproduces the kind of systematic inequality that marks our whole national structure,” Bunzey explained.

His students have not only noticed his approach to teaching, but appreciate it. “Professor Bunzey opens the floor for us to respond the way we feel and he’s respectful of our feelings,” Johnson said. “I really respect him. He knows what to say and makes you feel comfortable while sharing how he feels,” Moon added.

Both students emphasized the need for more courses like this one, especially on HBCU campuses, and hope to see this course taught at JCSU next semester.

“I would take this course over 100 times,” Johnson said.

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