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“Why is my curriculum white?” Towards imagining what our curriculum might look like were it researched, taught, and learned from Black Queer-Trans perspectives

The following post was written by Omari G. Hutchinson, a PhD student at Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Education, Birmingham, UK, who attended an event hosted by BILT and the Centre for Black Humanities as part of the ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ series. 

“Why is my curriculum white?” Towards imagining what our curriculum might look like were it researched, taught, and learned from Black Queer-Trans perspectives”. Here are my thoughts after attending the above. On boarding the train from Birmingham’s New Street station, I was already increasingly excited about Dorothea Smartt’s talk. The pre-talk literature really engaged and intrigued me. Dorothea’s metaphorical bridge invited participants to enter a crossing, somewhere between the personal self and the local context when considering the national diasporic picture. Dorothea’s poetic writings filled me with anticipation and joy. She took me on an imaginative journey to Barbados and straight into the living room of two Black women, passionately in love, but who also caused me to consider (imagine) the many mothers’ who have practiced, queer erotic love, self-love and love of the Divine. This left me musing over the untold woman-to-woman love stories of Black Caribbean women. Like others at the talk, I too want to know how we go about unmasking the rich heritage of same-gender love, which might have been colonised.

Like me, those in attendance were able to stretch their thinking by attempting to decolonise, for ourselves, the ‘whitewashing’ of a generation of diasporic lesbians and queers. I was personally touched by thoughts of the queer diasporic web.

Then we were encouraged to cross another bridge – connecting the rich history of Black, feminist, gay poets and activists here in Britain. For me, this is when it really got personal! I was suddenly transported back-in-time, to the feelings I had in that packed room, when Essex Hemphill read his own poetry on a visit to Britain. To say that the room was free from tension would be a miss representation. There was resistance expressed towards terms that might be deemed derogatory in one context, taken as a slur on efforts to queer the curriculum; but in this decolonizing learning space, it was liberating to suggest that we can reclaim terms that add meaning to the context in which we enter a given space.  This was an interactive conversation offering opportunities for self-conscious articulations of the hybrid identities of Black Queer-Trans perspectives.  Decolonising, queer love suggests Coleman, necessitates practice and commitment.

This was a really inspiring event. Thank you to Dorothea Smartt,
Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, and those staff and students involved in promoting such a stimulating exploration of the Black-Queer-Trans perspectives. I came away with a vision for how the curriculum might be reconfigured like were it researched, taught, and learned from Black Queer-Trans perspectives. The session marked an important milestone in my own development within this new and exciting field of inquiry.