WORD IS BOND:
AN INTRODUCTION TO AFRICAN AMERICAN RHETORIC
an undergraduate course at Texas Christian University
Theme I The Jump Off... "We Gon Do This Just Like Big Poppa Was Here"
Theme II “They Want EFX”: Centering the Roles of Black Language and Literacy
Theme III “How We Get Free”: Black Feminist Rhetorics as a Legacy of Abolitionism
Theme IV "All Tea, No Shade": Black Queer Rhetorics for a New Language of Humanness
Theme V “Unapologetic”: All Black (Digital) Lives in the 21st Century
This course is designed to explore the critical discourse practices of African American activist groups, communities, performers, artists, and general political leaders. We will examine persuasive strategies in multiple African American public texts (song, speech, tweet, meme, painting, letter, essay, etc.) that have channeled and challenged the most pressing social issues of their time. As a classroom community, we will identify prominent voices, past and present, who constitute the tradition of African American rhetoric (AAR) while also asking ourselves: how does AAR help us achieve more nuanced understandings of multiple Black experiences alongside alternative visions for racial-social justice? We will examine key themes in relation to the knowledges and communicative practices endemic to the freedom struggles of Black people in the Americas: Black gender/ sexuality/ intersectional justice, the sacred-secular continuum, political economies, digital Blackness, and the history of Black language and literacy.
About the soundtrack now playing:
"Underground Is My Home" frames this website's homepage. Considered an anthem for Gospel-House enthusiasts, "Underground is My Home" is featured prominently in Rennie Harris's "Home," a theatrical performance by the Alvin Ailey dancers to commemorate World AIDS Day and the brilliance of Alvin Ailey. Here are the lyrics that inspire us: "deep, deep where the sun don't shine is a place that I call home, where the planetary alignment is right and the deejay cuts out the lights, deeeeep is where I'm home."
This notion and naming of an underground--- a radical, unencumbered space where Black imagination and full embodiment can be free--- resonates through African American culture, so much so that we can consider it a central vernacular expression and part of African American language. Here are just a few instances with considerable hold on the black imagination: the Underground Railroad, the digital underground, the underground in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, underground Hip Hop... the list goes on. These lyrics--- this entire thumpin celebration--- seem appropriate for this college course that focuses on African American rhetoric: vernacular expressions, language, and performance.
There is often little support or encouragement for students to take such a class in college, to center African American vernacular in what we do and how we survive as an intellectual and radical endeavor, or to write about it with fervor and conviction in 21st century digital spaces like we will do in this course. But that's okay because... welcome to the Underground... where we will find HOME!