Darrick Broudy, a humanities teacher at Bay, talks about his African American Spirituality and Philosophy class. Thanks, Darrick!
The African American Spirituality and Philosophy course examines the African American experience with a particular emphasis upon the following: African American perceptions of the world around them from their arrival to America as slaves to the modern day; the development of African American spiritual and philosophical traditions as they have sought to make meaning of their world. The course begins with a brief overview of African traditions prior to the advent of the slave trade, and we spend the remainder of the term primarily examining African American interpretations of Christianity and Islam.
The final assessment for the Islam Unit was a role-playing discussion debate in which the students discussed the best spiritual/philosophical path for African Americans to overcome the asperities of their existence in 1960s America. The following were in attendance: Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X (as Malcolm and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), Clarence 13X (Allah), Henry McNeal Turner, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Cone, and Cornel West. In terms of process, the students were not assigned roles until the day of the discussion. I was quite impressed by the students’ ability to accurately represent the voices of their respective individuals. For instance, in response to the notion of African Americans returning to Africa, the student representing Dr. King appropriately responded by saying, “I don’t think that we can just withdraw ourselves. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Though my initial plan was to have the students complete an exam for the Islam Unit, I am pleased that some of the students advocated for an alternate assessment. The role-playing debate/discussion was undoubtedly a more authentic and organic assessment. In addition to needing to be knowledgeable of their individual’s beliefs, as well as the philosophies of the others, the students had to appropriately respond to and interact with each other while staying in character. Such tasks require a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. The activity was definitely one of the highlights of the term.