“African American Studies 100: Baltimore Up Rising” addresses the black urban crisis in Baltimore, brought to international attention by the death of Freddie Gray, student protests, and the riots of April 27, 2015. At Emory University, the fall 2015 Introduction to African American Studies course redirected itself to engage deeply the combined issues of Mass Incarceration, Educational Inequality, Residential Segregation, and Healthcare Disparity in Baltimore City, Maryland. The course was created to tackle the following questions: How does African American Studies as a discipline engage the protests and rioting in response to the death of African American men and women at the hands of police? What role do students play in leading the national discussions about race and discrimination? At the heart of the course is the problem of the material restriction of knowledge. What is the modern intellectual role played by American students at a premier research institution in knowledge formation and distribution? What is the relationship between academic research and active social movements, particularly one that has exploded into mass violence and civil unrest? What are the most suitable methods for exchanging and disseminating information between academic and non-academic communities?
“Introduction to African American Studies, Baltimore Riots” begins with a deep investigation of the black experience that sets the ground floor of much of contemporary black life, including enslavement, racial segregation, urban migration, deindustrialization, urban spatial restructuring, political representation, healthcare disparity, mass incarceration, urban violence, and grass roots political organization. Module One is the traditional classroom experience, with an emphasis on team teaching and collaborative presentations. Module Two is a series of collective forums with peers at Morehouse College, held at the A3C Hip Hop Festival in October and at the Auburn Avenue Research Library’s temporary site, the Hammonds House Museum, in November. Students will then develop projects in conjunction with groups active in reforming “inner city” education, housing, healthcare and incarceration patterns in West and East Baltimore. Module Three consists of research projects with grassroots organizations in Baltimore, including “Brother Charlie” Dugger, Stokey Cannady, Leaders for a Beautiful Struggle, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, and Jubilee Arts. The semester concludes with a 72-hour visit to Sandtown in West Baltimore in December that includes public forums, neighborhood meetings with community activists, and visits to schools and prisons.